From the CJCLS Listserv: Library Humor


I have an unusual question for the group. I am giving a humorous speech in Toastmasters and I need your help. I am looking for funny reference questions or incidents and encounters with the usual unusual patrons. For example, one student asked for information on flying buttock instead of flying buttress. For the unusual patron, a man known as The Whisper laid between the stacks and looked at feet. When he got bold, he whispered to the female students that he wanted to suck their toes! I think my audience would be amazed at the goings on in a library.

A lot of humor resulted from reference questions:

Who wrote Dante’s Inferno?

Is it safe to mix bleach and ammonia in my backyard just to see what happens?

Can I change my house address?

I need a video on Julius Caesar, but it has to have been filmed in that time period. It has to be a primary source.

Response from an appreciative patron after getting help: “thank you for doing my Googling for me, seriously.”

What is the definition of PMS?  Is it a new academic degree?  I see it being frequently used.

How tall was Jesus Christ? The answer needs to be from a thesaurus.

I need driving directions to the Louvre Museum in Paris from my house (in South Carolina).

Sometimes generational differences were humorous:

A teen patron asked for information on John Lemon, the Beatle. I almost hit my head against the wall.

A Millenial student worker asked me, “what was it like to grow up in the 1980s and 1990s? They had some fun music and good movies back then!”

I had a college student request some books on the “olden days.” Based on my age, I assumed she was looking for books on the turn of the century, say around 1900. After further questioning, she gave me her definition and it was the 1960s! I told her my heart was wounded. Those years were not the olden days to me, but the wonderful years of my youth!

Misinformation or misunderstandings during the reference interview resulted in some some chuckles:

A student repeated what she thought she heard when her instructor assigned a research topic. In this case, the student was a bit indignant when I could not immediately find what she needed, while I was pretty proud of myself for figuring it out.  She asked for information about black partners and cuckoo clocks when she needed information about the Black Panthers and the Klu Klux Klan.

A student requested books on hamsters. At the time, I worked in a college with a veterinary technician program, so I assumed she was in it and wanted academic titles.  When I asked her, she gave a childlike, playful expression. She said she wanted a book about having hamsters as pets because she had recently adopted one.

The student provided the correct title to a book, but my co-worker was confused. The student asked for The Little Prince, but my co-worker was trying to search for “little prints.”  She had a heck of time searching before the actual title dawned on her.

I had a student ask for books by Mark Avelli. When I asked how to spell the last name, he said he did not know. After talking a little bit more, I realized he meant Machiavelli. The poor guy was just repeating what he heard in history class!

A student asked if we had anything on air ducts, or at least that is what I thought he said. I took him to the books on HVAC, but he kept saying, “no, air ducts, air ducts!” I finally had him write what he wanted down on paper. It read, “adults.”

Many odd things also occurred in the library that the general public would not expect:

During my first year as a librarian, I was going through my normal closing routine one Thursday night. I heard voices from a dark classroom. I turned on the light to see a male and female in various stages of undress. I think I was more embarrassed then they were. I quickly turned off the light and told them we were closing in 15 minutes!

A patron showed up with an antique short sword. It was nice, shiny, and sharp with no scabbard. I looked at it and pointed out the key markings to study, then suggested he return with photographs we could use for further research since large, edged weapons were not allowed on campus!

A campus police sub-station was located in my library near its entrance, and a policeman parked his bicycle next to it then worked in the office. A patron attempted to quietly remove the bicycle from the library. When I shouted at the patron (it was a knee jerk response), the cop noticed and jumped out of the office to go after him!

A computer tower disappeared from the reference area and was never found. Perhaps it was smuggled away in a backpack?

We had a student return a book with toilet paper (clean) in it that he had used for a bookmark.

A student entered our library, looked around the stacks with books, and asked with total seriousness, “do you have books here?”

What were some humorous questions asked or occurrences that took place in your library? Share yours in the comments!


About Kristy Padron, MLIS

Kristy Padron coordinates library instruction and provides information services for the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Libraries in Boca Raton, Florida. Prior to her work at FAU, Kristy served a broad range of communities. She held positions at Miami Dade College, The University of West Florida, and Wayne State University. When Kristy is not busy with being a librarian, she likes to travel, be outdoors, and hang out with her pet mini-dachshund.
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2 Responses to From the CJCLS Listserv: Library Humor

  1. Ken Simon says:

    One day at closing, we discovered that someone had left a full-size inkjet printer sitting in one of our comfy reading chairs. Nobody ever came back to claim it. It worked just fine!

    I spent a great deal of time one afternoon teaching a patron how to use our research databases. When we were wrapping up, she expressed her appreciation and casually mentioned that she’d once thought of going to library school. “Chose a different direction?” I asked. “Well,” she replied, “it’s kind of a dead-end job, isn’t it.”

    Liked by 1 person

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