Friday, February 05, 2010

Questions, Stupid

You are professionally obligated to tell your library's patrons that "There's no such thing as a stupid question," even though they will always try and succeed at proving you wrong.

Ask the readers: What is the stupidest question you've ever been asked?


MissLibrarian said...

"Where can I find the book 'The Joy Luck Breakfast Club?'"

"Is this library even worth coming to? I mean, how much do copies even cost?"

"Where is the library?"

"Where is the delete key?" (says the woman who complained that none of our webpages worked.)

I could go on and on and on...

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I can provide the dumbest answer.

PATRON: Where are the atlases?

MLIS LIBRARIAN: What's an atlas?

No joke.

Anonymous said...

Just today while sitting at the reference desk: "Do you work here?"

Jason V said...

"Are you a human or a robot?"

(asked via IM)

Lisa Quinn said...

Do you have any Shakespeare here? In English, not in that language he wrote in.

shushie said...

I probably get asked at least one a day, but try to make the best stupid questions into interesting blog entries. One of my favorites was "Where are the books?"

The usual stupid questions involve
"Why can't I have (insert book not yet published) today?!"

notseb said...

"Where are the GOOD books?"

TOWR said...

As an indexer, I highly approve of your post titles.

Post titles, approval of

Nugget said...

"This computer won't wake up, how do I get it to wake up?"

Me, leaning in to listen for noises: "Uh, did you turn it on?"

"Oh, no, I'll try that. Oh it works!"


Kricket said...

"How long do the three day movies go out for?"

Anonymous said...

I need a photograph of Jesus, I need to dress him for a play.

LJK said...

"Where are your books that have opinions?"

No joke.

Anonymous said...

Nametag on - check.
Sitting behind the information desk at a computer - check.
General lirarian demeanor - check.

"Do you work here?"

Anonymous said...

Patron: "Do you guys get paid?"
Me: "Yes..."
Patron: "Oh, I thought you were all volunteers"

Anonymous said...

"Do I need a library card to check out a book?"

Anonymous said...

"Can you help me find a book about the real meaning of Christmas? Nothing religious though." Uh....okay!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a more private bathroom?

...should probably go under the head of Questions, Creepy

Anonymous said...

"I'm doing mine on religion." (followed by blank stare)

also, different patron, different day:
(walking into my the library, pointing at a long series of bookshelves) "Is it in here?"
My response: "No."

Anonymous said...

Can you find me a list with the names of all the managers in the state of California?

Anonymous said...

Patron: "How much does it cost?"
Librarian: "Books are free to borrow"
Patron: "No, I want to buy a copy. I've looked everywhere"
Librarian:"Have you tried the book shop next door?"
Patron: "No"

Anonymous said...

Do you have any information on fornication in the church? (As a former Dominican novice, I could have given him lots more information than he wanted. I kept a straight face.)

JAG said...

Patron: Why didn't the change machine give me my change?
Me: um...we don't have a change machine.
Patron: *angrily* Then what's that over there.
Me: It's called a photocopier. If you want change, you need to make a copy.

Anonymous said...

"Do you have any books to tell me where I am?"

"Where are the genital(genealogy) books?"

"Won't my Blockbuster card work?"

Unknown said...

I've had "Do you work here?" (while sitting at the reference desk, wearing a library nametag) several times, and also the question about whether we were all volunteers (I love my job, but would I be there 40 hours per week if I were volunteering? Hell no).

"Can I ask you a question?" also strikes me as pretty stupid, and I get asked it several times per day. Let's see. I'm sitting withing a foot or two of signs that say "reference desk," "information," "help desk," and (I'm not kidding), "Ask me a question!" But no, you can't ask me a question.

But my favorite are all the "Do you know?" questions. Not like, "Do you know where I can find a book about the Russian Revolution?" No, that makes sense. What I mean is, "Do you know where the restrooms are?" "Do you know if there is a copy machine?" "Do you know if the library has any DVDs I can check out?" Those kinds of questions really make me want to laugh and say things like, "I've worked here for a while now, but no, I have no idea where the restrooms are." Sometimes sarcasm and the reference desk are not a good match.

Also, not too long ago, I had a girl ask me for books about "the Dominican Republic of Congo." But she was only 10 or so, so I guess it's not all that stupid. It was highly memorable, though.

Anonymous said...

"I'm looking for the autobiography of ____, but I'm not sure who wrote it."

Sheena said...

Aside from entirely too many people who think the rules don't apply to them (having library/id card, keeping food/drinks away from computers, etc), I've dealt with a few gems at my college library.

My favorite ever ever ever is (after walking into the library itself) "are you guys open today?"

Maybe, but only if you tell me the secret password. And bring me cookies.

Another that stands out, after someone has waited until a few days before an assignment is due (usually there are at least a few weeks/months to research) and the book they need is already checked out: "well, can't you call them and tell them to bring it back?"

Nope, sorry. Your lack of preparation =/= my problem.

Unknown said...

"How do I find my hold?"

I am standing next to a sign that explains how to find your hold. I tell them the same thing that the sign says.


Anonymous said...

"How much is a library card?"

Anonymous said...

A girl in high school asked a coworker of mine for a biography on Rocky Balboa. No, not Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa- you know, the boxing guy

She would not believe that those were just movies and that he was not a real person.

A runner up was a complaint I had to field about how our staff couldn't help a patron upload a picture to Facebook the way he wanted. I was a complete condescending asshole when I explained that the staff could in no way be trained on how each and every site on the internet works. (I had navigated to the place on FB where he could learn to do it himself, but no, he was upset that WE didn't know how to do it for him).

Anonymous said...

Oh, I almost forgot!

Patron- Do you have anymore movies like these? (She holds up a BBC version of Oliver Twist from Masterpiece Theatre).

Me- Yes, here are a few. They're all BBC productions of other works by the author who wrote the book this was based on. You should enjoy them.

Patron- What's the BBC?

Me- It's the British Broadcasting Corporation from Great Britain.

Patron- Well I don't want no subtitles or foreign languages or anything...

This continued as I patiently explained that they speak English in England...

Anonymous said...

"How do I get downstairs?" While the patron is standing on the stair landing.

Patron: "When does the library close?"
Me: "The library is 24 hours."
Patron: "Just answer my question, ma'am."

Anonymous said...

This is a question I overheard one patron say to another:
"Excuse me sir, could you please put your dick back in your pants?"
I had to intervene...

Anonymous said...

hmmm. So many, but here are my two favorite ref desk exchanges:

Patron:Who is the Dewey C. Elmore Library named after?
Me: Dewey C. Elmore.
P: Are you sure?
M: Yes, do you want an information sheet about him?
(patron wanders to a group of fellow COLLEGE students to continue working on what appears to be a library scavenger hunt)

Another Patron: How do I get a Phd at Elmore U?
Me: Well, the application process and requirements are different for each program. You should check their websites. What program are you thinking of joining?
AP: Oh, no specific program-I've got the MLS already, so now I just want a general PhD...


Occy said...

Where's the third floor?

Anonymous said...

Letter sent to a medical library from a 7th grader: Please send me all the information you have on disease.

Anonymous said...

Is the lower level downstairs?

Lib. Tech. up North said...

Happened to me while working in a bookstore: "do you sell can openers?"

Anonymous said...

I had a patron ask me yesterday what a paperback was.

Anonymous said...

We're located next to a courthouse and the buildings are a similar style - old fashioned white pillars out front, etc.- so we have a lot of people come in, pass the circulation desk, past all the shelves marked "NEW BOOKS" and up to the Information Desk to ask us "is this the courthouse?" I always feel bad for them, but it makes me laugh too, because what are they thinking?!

Anonymous said...

After walking down a hall full of new books and while standing at the desk which is between the fiction and non-fiction stacks:
"Do you have any books?"

and most recently:
"My teacher said to come get one book on unbleached flour and another one of self rising flour. Where are they?"

finally_a_librarian said...

teen patron: I need info on the holocauts.

librarian: We have a lot of information on the Holocaust available. What specifically do you need?

teen patron: Info. On. The. Holocauts.

Anonymous said...

do worms poop?

Anonymous said...

"I'm looking for a book I've had out from here before, it's a red one - do you know what it's called??"

Anonymous said...

Do you have any of those Richard Simmons "sweaty" videos?

The Comma Hander-Outer Lady said...

"Could you please write that down in English? I don't speak cursive."

Anonymous said...

"I can't find any books here to read."

Anonymous said...

Male Patron: I need a passenger list on the other boat that landed with the Mayflower in 1620.

Young Female Librarian (who also has degrees in history): Well, the Speedwell was the name of the ship that set sail with the Mayflower in 1620, but the Speedwell leaked and couldn't make the trip. It returned to England. I can get you a passenger list of the Mayflower.

MP: No! The SPEEDWELL LANDED! I know it!

YFL: Well, I know the pilgrims made other, later trips with the Mayflower and other boats - we can look for those passenger lists.

MP: (Pushes librarian into the bookshelves, knocking off several volumes, and starts screaming) NO! NO! YOUR HISTORY IS WRONG! I NEED THE LIST FROM THE SECRET BOAT! YOU ARE HIDING IT FROM ME!

(at this point, library director intervenes and escorts patron away from the reference desk. YFL reshelves volumes).

Andrea said...

Two different libraries:

1. "Is that all the books you have?" pointing to the reference room in a 4 story library.

2. Reference call: "Does spaghetti grow on tree?" I figure it was a prank call until it turned out that the woman's boss at shown her a video on the internet and convinced her that spaghetti does, in fact, grow on trees.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was a circ clerk, I worked at a library that had two bookdrops in the circ desk--one was labeled "books" and the other was labeled "A/V," which I would have thought was perfectly clear. But I could not believe the number of times people would hold up a DVD and ask "Which drop do I put this in?" I always wanted to say, "Well, is it a book?" Also, sometimes people would totally flip out when they realized they had put their DVD in the book return, or vice versa.

And then we had a patron who refused to return her books in the bookdrop--because she had been taught to respect books, and so she couldn't just drop it into a bin like that. I told her the bin was quite well padded and that the books survived it just fine if they weren't damaged anyway, but she still insisted on handing them to a staff member like they were precious cargo. I'm glad she couldn't see into the work room--she would have been horrified by how we routinely handled the books.

Shawn said...

Maybe I ask the stupidest question myself: "Did you read the instructions?"

Stacey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stacey said...

I work reference at the Education branch library on campus. I helped a very confused undergraduate and after I handed her the title she was looking for, she gave me a blank stare complete with this gem:

"So... can you, like... rent these or something?"

Yes... $5 a day... payable to me ;)

Anonymous said...

Once a student told me "I'm doing a project on someone called--" (here she checked her teacher's handout) "Alberta Tar Sands." Which you must admit is an awesome name.

Also once I was asked for a newspaper from about a month ago. I asked what date, and he said it didn't matter. It was for a current affairs project. When I suggested today's paper, I was told no thanks, there wasn't enough going on in the world lately.

Ah, I said. A slow news month.

Anonymous said...

Patron: Do you have this book-"Dis' 'Em Ivy"
Me: 'Dis?'-like disrespect? the plant?
Patron: Yeah.
Me: umm. Can you write that down for me?
Patron: Sure(writes)DSM-IV

rice! said...

(i work reference in an archives)

patron: i want to look up my death certificate. can you help me find it?

Anonymous said...

Mother: My son has a report due tomorrow and he has to read a biography about a viking.

Me: Well, I know we have a good biography about Leif Ericson.

Mother: No, I mean old vikings, not the football players.

Anonymous said...

"What does nonfiction mean?"

I also worked at a bookstore, where I was asked:

"Where is the nonfiction?"
-Well, that's most of the store. What in particular are you looking for?

"I'd like to check this out please?" (Which isn't actually a question, but it was phrased as such.)

MLE said...

Puts me in mind of 'Find Me A Dodo' and Other Absurd Requests:

The Scrivener Collider said...

Grown woman asked me which is real and which is made up, fiction or nonfiction.

Anonymous said...

i used to work in a bookstore. one day a customer asked me where the humor section was. as i was walking her back there, i asked if there was a specific book that she was looking for. she said, "yes, the divine comedy".

AmyA said...

I had a woman ask if I could prove her friend used to work at a liquor store in the 70s because she refuses to admit she did, but this woman KNOWS she did. Um, no.

naina said...

Woman comes bustling in, carrying five books rubber-banded together. Stares at me for a moment, then says, "Where do I put these?"

I reply, "There's a book drop in the hallway, just outside the door. It'll be on your left."

She scowls, turns around, and disappears into the hallway for a few seconds.

Then she comes back and thrusts the still-banded books at me and spits, "They don't fit," before exiting the building.

Myself and the coworker at the greet desk were fighting giggles the rest of the evening.

Anonymous said...

Student (said while chewing gum and talking on a cell phone about a shopping trip and some cute shoes and a new boyfriend ...): I need some information about Shakespeare.

Librarian: Okay. What sort of information are you looking for? Do you need info about him, or his works?

Student: Huh?

Librarian: Well, there are lots of books and articles about Shakespeare and his life, and there are lots about his plays and poetry as well.

Student: Huh? I dunno. Just something.

Librarian: Okay. Well, maybe if you tell me what class this is for I can help. Is it for English? Or history? (Knowing there are papers about authors in some freshman history classes this year as well)

Student: I dunno.

Student has no idea what the class was, who the prof was, what discipline, what type of info, etc. Has never heard of Shakespeare. Sadly, I'm not kidding. Next she asked me if I couldn't just give her one website that would tell her everything she needed to know so she could copy it and get her professor off her back . At that point I admitted defeat, and told her that a) she'd be in big trouble if she just copied a website, and she could also expect to fail the assignment, and b) she needed to talk to her professor to get a better idea about a topic. There's only so long a librarian can suffer ...

Anonymous said...

"Do you have the movie Motley Crue and the Holy Grail?"

"What is the dating capitol of the galaxy?" No need to look that one up, I just told the patron "Earth" and he happily left.

Anonymous said...

A patron was attempting to scan a book by holding it right up against the scanner (it works only when you hold it a little further away). I told the patron, "a little further away". And as God is my witness the lady took a step back holding the book in exactly the same position.

What in the hell do you help idiots, it is so insulting to me.

Anonymous said...

Once, as a patron, I stood behind a man in line at the Circulation desk who was trying to pay his gas bill.

Anonymous said...

While standing near the top of the stairs that lead to the front door of our 2 story library: "How do I get out of here?"

Anonymous said...

College Librarian:
I kid you not, this has been asked over and over agian.

Patron on phone: I'm at the back of the library, how do I get to the front?

Explination -- There is only one enterence to the library and it is facing the academic buildings. The cafateria however, is behind the library. Students were leaving the cafateria and walking up to the building and see the emergency exit doors with a sign: Emergency Exit only, Use Front Enterence.