Library Patrons, Ye Be Warned!

If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library? ~Lily Tomlin

No, she doesn't have kung-fu grip

Today’s post is different for several reasons. I hardly ever mix my work with my blogging…after all, the two are mutually exclusive…but for some reason I felt the need just now. For those who may not know, I work in a library. Yes, I’m over 30 and unmarried, but I don’t have a) a tight bun, b) horn-rimmed glasses, c) more than 3 cats, or d) a raging spinster inferiority complex. I’m just trying to make a living and avoid hackneyed stereotypes at the same time.

Library work is not, as some people seem to think, a cakewalk. In nearly five years I’ve dealt with everything from people getting mugged on the property, to violent drunks, to cleaning up projectile vomit just before closing (and believe me, I’ll take the drunks any day.) Yes, there’s a lot of down time, to be sure. But, for those of you unfamiliar with your local public library, it serves as a kind of bug zapper for all the weirdos of the world. You want ’em? We got ’em, in every variety imaginable.

Yes, I've had one of these too

I’m taking the opportunity today to run down a DJ-style countdown of all the behaviors and types of patrons that irk, vex, enrage, and befuddle the hell out of me. Normally here at P&Q, I’m genial to a fault. Today I’m dropping the gloves and letting the rants fly freely. There are a number of these floating around the ‘net (just google “annoying library patrons” and you’ll have your pick.) This one, however, is uniquely mine. If you recognize some of these freaks, more power to you. If you actually are one of these freaks, you can start by picking up an Emily Post etiquette book. Because I’m sick to death of dealing with your sorry ass. In no particular order of despicability:

Parents who mistake the public library for a child care facility. Maybe your brats do run around like Tasmanian devils when you’re at home, pulling books and toys from the shelves and creating a wave of destruction not seen since Hurricane Katrina. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to do it in the library. Stop checking your damn Facebook page and start being an attentive parent.

Stinkies. You know who you are. I realize some of you are homeless…but others aren’t. If I wanted to experience the wonderful aromas of cheap cigars, your last McRib sandwich, or Onion Surprise, I’d buy a scratch-and-sniff book. This also applies to women who feel the need to bathe in perfume. You stink too, even if you think you smell pretty.

Those of you who are know-it-alls. Do I go to your workplace and tell you how to do your job? If I’m smart, or polite, I don’t.

Shut up in the library, Potter
Foodies. There’s a time and a place for your 44-ounce Big Gulp and nacho cheese dog. The library, with its limited budget and irreplaceable equipment, is not it. Leave the crap in your car.
Loudmouth Larrys. Yes, I’m talking to you. The library is one of those blessed few places where people are still expected to be quiet. Your 70-decibel conversation on your cell phone (and I honestly don’t care how important it is) does nothing to further that tradition. If you were that important, you wouldn’t be at the library. And for the love of all that is holy, hang up BEFORE you get to the desk so I can help you properly.
Lost Souls. “Can I help you?” “Yeah, um, I’m looking for this book.” “Do you know the title?” “Um, no, but I think it’s, like, red.” Librarians are fountains of information, but we’ve gotta have some basis to start. I’ve even had patrons come in who don’t know the name of their own class…you know, the one which assigned them the book in the first place.
Columbo wannabes. “And just one more thing…” But you know, it’s never just one more thing. I’m not waiving fines for you again and again. You are not special and you WILL follow the rules like everyone else. If you can’t deal with it, stay at home.

This kinda says it all

Pervos. Thankfully there are few of you whom I’ve had to deal with (that porn firewall usually works), but calling the reference desk and asking for that one book about male sex organs was only funny once. It’s not funny anymore, so get a life.
Dawn of the Dead. If you’re shuffling around aimlessly in front of my desk, I’m going to assume you’re either completely clueless or a zombie. And I have a cricket bat, and I know how to use it, so either ask your question or consider yourself warned.
Amateur Slasher Movie Villains. We open at 10. Not 9, 10. Stalking me in the parking lot or at the bookdrop is not going to make me open that door a moment sooner. In fact, it makes me want to barricade myself in and eat some Beanie-Weenies.
Yes, there’s a lot more of you. The good thing is that you only represent a small minority of my patrons. But you know who you are, and I hope you know that you’re dealing with a maiden librarian who not only knows a fair amount of Jiu Jitsu, but the Vulcan sleeper hold. And one parting note to whomever clogged up the bookdrop today with the mildewed 1970s encyclopedias: I hope you die of syphillis and go straight to hell. Oh, and have a nice day, okily-dokily?
Got a funny library story? Send it to and I might use it in a future post. If you enjoyed this post, as always, click “Like” and subscribe to P&Q so you’ll never miss a future installment of geekery. 

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on September 27, 2011.

10 Responses to “Library Patrons, Ye Be Warned!”

  1. God bless librarians. You guys are the wizengamot, the last bastion of knowledge holding back the black tide of human folly. As a patron who knows and obeys the rules, one who prides herself on research skills and enjoys spending time surrounded by words and thoughts, I salute you. 🙂

    Hope you felt better after posting this. I used to do the same thing with my students’ emails that were grammatical nightmares, but after teachers started getting sued, I quit.

    • You get an extra Chocolate Frog just for alluding to the Wizengamot. Patrons like yourself are the ones who actually help me to enjoy my job. It’s the no-accounts who spoil it for everyone. I’m honestly worried I’m going to get dooced one of these days for all my library horror stories, but that day has not come yet. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. How about including a little letter informing patrons that “a library book is not one’s personal hanky” along with their book? You get a big salute from me because I’ve seen a lot of stuff going on in libraries during the few times I need to visit one, so I shudder to imagine what you’ve seen. You guys must be saints!

    • Absolutely! I’ve encountered lots of foul items and substances in library books. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I get a new one. We’re not saints, but we’re not sinners either. We just try hard. I’m glad you stopped by, and that you enjoyed the post.

  3. Of course I’m going to stop by, I followed you for a reason, I knew I’d love your blog. Someone who knows what a “Prawn” is and is a librarian to boot… Hah, just try to keep me away with that kind of bait!

    PS: I got a big crush on Wikus too. You are not alone in that. 😉

  4. Seriously girl, I enjoy every blog you write, but this is definitely one of my favorites! I’ve never officially worked in a library myself, but I am a total bookworm, and my best friend in college worked in the library, so I spent a lot of time hanging out with her and dealing with the crazies. After keeping her company during a few of the late shifts, I do believe the dimly lit stacks in the lower levels saw as much (if not more) action than most students’ dorm rooms. What is up with that???

    • I’m not sure exactly…at my previous library job, we had that unfortunate circumstance in the bathrooms too. They were also used as a crack house (stall?) at one point. All I’ve got to say is, get a room for that.

      I’m so glad you enjoy the posts as much as I enjoy writing them. 🙂

  5. Enjoyed this post because you described our library so well! We also have the patrons who attempt to consume alcoholic beverages while using the computers then after one too many fall off their chairs! Oh, so sad…

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abandonen toda esperanza aquellos que entren aqui


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