November 15, 2013

When Difficult Patrons Happen to Good Librarians


Roz Warren has worked as a librarian in a Philadelphia public library for more than 10 years. In a blog post for Metropolis called “The #@%& Joys of Library Work” she explains that most of the patrons she has encountered in her library are a delight to work with. But then, there are the more obnoxious people that librarians have to deal with everyday. She made a list of the types she’s talking about. Here are a few of my favorites:

The mother who admonishes her kids, at the top of her lungs, “Be quiet, you little turds. This is a library!”

The dude we catch trying to steal a Bible. (God doesn’t want you to steal a Bible from your local public library. He wants you to check it out properly and return it on time.)

The man who hollers, “Stop pressuring me!” when we announce that the library will be closing in half an hour.

The woman who tells us that her car—out in the parking lot—won’t start and when we offer to call a mechanic, says, “Can’t somebody here fix it for me?”

The guy who refuses to pay to replace a missing book because he claims that aliens stole it from the book drop after he returned it there. (You think I’m kidding. Unless you work in a public library.)

The woman who returns a chewed-up copy of “The Dog Training System That Never Fails” and insists it was in that condition when she checked it out. When we suggest that maybe her dog did the damage, she says, “I don’t have a dog.”

In the long list of comments from other librarians on the post who recognized those same character types, some new examples are offered:

After 31 years on the desk I can handle all that with and still smile—just please don’t expose your private parts, bang the keyboard on the desk or masturbate.

“Can you tell me where the self-help books are?”
“I’m sorry, but that would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?” [walk away]
One time, a patron used that set-up line on me, and I was able to give them that zinger.

You left out the devout Muslim patrons who keep moving the Koran to the top shelf because it must be placed above “commonplace things.” (We finally put all “holy scriptures” on the top shelf.)

“Can I jump on a computer”
“No, you might break it”
Luckily the customer laughed. I just couldnt help myself, the line was to good to resist.

What about the woman who claims that I kept breaking into her house, and hiding library books there so she would have to pay the late fines.



Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.