I Work at a Public Library

Gina Sheridan is a librarian in St. Louis. Over the course of her career, she’s collected stories of the weird things, people, and situations that arise at the library from her personal experiences. The result is the book I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks. Neatorama is happy to bring you a sampling of the stories from this funny book.  

Reference Work

You don’t know if you don’t ask. What better place to bring your inquiring minds than the place with the most massive wealth of knowledge in town? It’s like the internet, only the information isn’t 90 percent false. Anyone can walk into the library and ask anything they please. And we will provide an answer. But when I think about my master of library and information science degree in relation to my average day at work, I have to laugh. Information science. I think about those two words when people approach the desk with questions like, “Where is the bathroom?” or “Can you open this tin of oysters?” or “Where can I copy my face in private?” Information. Science. Peruse the following stories as a frame of reference, and keep in mind, common sense is often past due.

Questions, Fielding

While standing at the desk, you never know what crazy questions will come out of left field.

Patron 1: Can you tell me what babies were born in Cleveland in June 1965? I think I am one of them!  I just found out stuff about my family.

Patron 2: Where is the nearest waterfall? I want to dunk my head in it.

Patron 3: Do you have a knife so I can cut this onion?

Patron 4: What is the best way to cure hiccups, 'cause this kid is driving me nuts!

Patron 5: What is the standard length of eyebrow hair?

Patron 6: Has my wife seen this movie?

At, Where I’m

Web chat exchange:

Patron: I’m having trouble finding information through the library’s website. Can you help me?

Me: Sure. Are you at the library’s homepage now?

Patron: No, I’m at my apartment.

Dislikes, Likes and

Man: Can you give me a list of fun things to do in Seattle?

Me: I’m sure we could find you a travel book and get some ideas from the Chamber of Commerce!

Man: That sounds good!

Me: Okay, what are some things you like to do?

Man: Let me ask you this: What are some things you like to do?

Me: No, seriously- pick one: hiking, fishing, museums…

Man: But I really want to know what interests you. Come on, don’t be shy!

Me: Are you going to Seattle, sir?

Man: If I were, would you go with me?

Me: That is inappropriate.

Man: I really can’t afford it anyhow. Can you help me find a job?

Biographies, Dragon

I was helping a mother and her teenage son.

Mom: We need a book on dragons.

Me: I think most of those will be in the children’s room, but let me check.

Mom: We want a biography of a dragon. No, an autobiography!

Eunuchs, The Everything Guide To

Patron: I am looking for a book on eunuchs, and it has to have lots of pictures, because that’s the way I learn best.

Me: So, you need a book with illustrations. Should this book explain the history or culture of eunuchs?

Patron: Um, no. I need it to take me step by step through the process. And I need lots of pictures so I can follow along.

Me: So you need a manual? On eunuchs? Is there any particular stage of the process you are concentrating on?

Patron: Well, I’m just starting out, just the basics of how it works. How to write the code, you know?

Me: Oh! You’re looking for an illustrated manual for Unix!

Databases, Internet Versus

As a librarian, I help a lot of students with research. Often that means educating them on the difference between Internet resources and electronic databases. One day, I was showing a young man how to find good, quality articles using the library’s online databases.

Student: Oh, my teacher says I can’t use the Internet.

Me: I’m sure he or she just meant you can’t use Internet sources, but databases are different. You need the Internet to access them, but they are made up of encyclopedia articles and scholarly journals-

Student: Yeah, I don’t think that will work. Do you carry any books here?

Meteorologist, Librarian as

It’s been raining like crazy and a man just walked up to the desk to ask about the forecast.

Me: It looks like a flash flood warning is in effect for the metropolitan area until 9PM tonight.

Man: Do you think it will stop raining anytime soon?

Me: Well, this report shows it will likely rain until midnight.

Man: No, do you think it will stop raining soon?

Me: Me? I don’t have any expertise with meteorology. We can only go by the weather report.

Man: I’m asking for your opinion.

Me: ——

Man: [staring at me] ——

Me: Um. Yes, I think it will stop raining soon.

Man: Thank! [Walks away.]

Geography, United States

At my library in California, this surprising exchange occurred.

Woman: Do you have books on different countries?

Me: Yes! What country are you looking for?

Woman: Hawaii.


I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan is available at Amazon and at your local bookstore -and possibly the local public library! The book has its own blog, where librarians share even more funny stories from the stacks.

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This is very true and an important point. The internet offers great opportunities for fact-checking.

My guess is that the majority of information is online now. I would even say that the majority of correct information is online now, in so far as someone tweeting "I love my cat" is correct information.
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Misinformation exists in print as well as online. I'd be interested to know whether the sum of (mostly correct) information is greater online or in print. I suppose it's biased in the timescale: online would have more information (based on current events) and books would probably have much more knowledge.
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