Good librarian, bad librarian


One of last week’s strips over at Unshelved/Overdue Media, a wonderful web comic about a public library, struck a particular chord with me, as it features the staff battening down the hatches in response to someone asking ‘What day of the week is the second Thursday of the month?’, unsafe in the knowledge that this query heralds one of those days.

Here at the Library of Doom, we certainly have those days, when an outbreak of ‘thick’ hits the student population.  Of course, as librarians we are immune to the horrible disease of thick, but we can certainly be badly affected when the symptoms manifest themselves in the student body.  Dealing with stupid queries is one of the times when I have to keep the greatest amount of control over myself, as an immense urge to be sarcastic, demeaning or just plain rude comes over me.  Thankfully, the good librarian in me tends to win, and the bad librarian has to be contented with repeating the story about the latest thick outbreak at every opportunity.  But what would happen if the bad librarian won?  I beg to put before you a few real examples from the Library of Doom, with what the bad librarian wanted to say, and what the good librarian chose to say instead.

Student: How long can you borrow a 7-day loan for?
Bad librarian: How long do you think you can borrow a 7-day loan for?  If you need to ask that question, then you’re in the wrong place.  You, personally, can’t borrow any 7-day loans at all.  Everyone else can borrow them for 7 days.
Good librarian: A week.

Student: Do you get fined if you bring a book back early?
Bad librarian: Yes, you do.  There’s also a charge for asking that question, which will be added to your library account immediately.
Good librarian: No.  We’re not that mean!

Student: Botany – that’s the study of humans, isn’t it?
Bad librarian: Yes.  Yes it is.  Particularly those with wood for brains.
Good librarian: No, botany is the study of plants.  If you’re looking for human biology, you need the books in the next room.

Student (at the issue desk, having reached the front of the queue): Are you open?
Bad librarian: No.  We’re not open again until next week.  The queue is part of a training exercise.  We just forgot to keep the door locked.
Good librarian: Yes.  We opened at half past eight.
Student: But you open at half past nine!
Good librarian: No, we opened at half past eight.
Student: No, you definitely open at half past nine.  It says so on your opening hours.
Bad librarian, reasserting himself: Look, do you want me to throw you out?  If you don’t believe what I’m saying, why are you even bothering to ask me the question in the first place?  Stop wasting my time, go home and eat a Pot Noodle or something.
Good librarian: I’ll check the poster, but we are definitely open at the moment.  Can I help you?

Student: Do you have that blue book my tutor recommended?
Bad librarian: Yes, we do.  It’s kept with all the other blue books in the blue room, between the green and purple rooms.  Once you get to the room, you’ll find them arranged in order by how much the tutors like them, with books written by members of staff at the very beginning.
Good librarian: I’m afraid I’ll need a bit more information than that.  Can you remember what it’s called?
Unfortunately, the student often fails to remember the author or title, sometimes forgets which course or tutor it was that suggested the book, but always knows that it’s very important that they read it. At this point, the bad librarian manifests himself in the form of steam coming out of the good librarian’s ears.

Student: Do you have any photos of the Great Fire of London?
Good and bad librarians: Photos?  Are you sure you mean photos?
Student: Yes.
Bad librarian:  Oh, I’m sorry, all our photos of the Great Fire are on loan at the moment.  Have you tried looking for Samuel Pepys’ video diary?
Good librarian: …
Well, actually the good librarian waited while a colleague took the student to the history resources to explain the sorry fact that cameras weren’t invented in 1666 and show her what resources we do have on the Great Fire. Once colleague and student were out of earshot, the good librarian simply had to laugh and laugh.

Sometimes even the good librarian can be mean.

  1. I laughed out loud! Very very very funny. Particularly loved the one about opening times.

    ( =

    • thegrammaticallyincorrectlibrarian
    • December 6th, 2006

    “Student: Do you have that blue book my tutor recommended?
    Bad librarian: Yes, we do. It’s kept with all the other blue books in the blue room, between the green and purple rooms. Once you get to the room, you’ll find them arranged in order by how much the tutors like them, with books written by members of staff at the very beginning.
    Good librarian: I’m afraid I’ll need a bit more information than that. Can you remember what it’s called?
    Unfortunately, the student often fails to remember the author or title, sometimes forgets which course or tutor it was that suggested the book, but always knows that it’s very important that they read it. At this point, the bad librarian manifests himself in the form of steam coming out of the good librarian’s ears.”

    Classic, and very true. But you forgot to include the part where the student mysteriously disappears, never to be found. 😛
    Hmmm… it seems that I’m not the only one with the bad librarian sitting on one shoulder and the good librarian sitting on the other one.

  2. I spent four years of college working part time at the Library. I wish I had your wit! Honestly, my FAVORITE bad librarian riposte was “Yes, particularly those with wood for brains.”

    Actually, the blue book the tutor recommended problem is more common than a person who does not work in a library might think. We had a Reserve Room, where books that were deemed particularly important for a class to access were available to check out for one hour at a time. Patrons were not allowed to remove the books from the reserve room. One time when I was working there the prof. had put several copies of the required book on reserve. Some of them were a different edition than the one he held up in class, and I had more than one student inform that that was NOT the book the professor had put on reserve because it didn’t have the right picture on the cover. Oy.

    • Aphra Behn
    • December 7th, 2006

    That’s why I had to get out of Retail. Mind you, if I’d stayed in and things had run their course, I’d be up for parole by now.

    🙂

    AB

  3. It seems I struck a chord, there, doesn’t it? I sometimes think that the ever-present (and thankfully ever-silent) bad librarian is what keeps me from physically assaulting some of our rudest patrons (generally academic staff). The frustration has an outlet, even if only I’m aware of it. I can understand the need for escape! I am often very tempted by the presence of the lovely deep pond outside the Library of Doom. No-one would miss a couple of students. Would they?

    healingmagichands, I have indeed encountered the students who can’t cope with different editions of books because they don’t look the same. Oy indeed.

    • Teuchter
    • December 8th, 2006

    I enjoyed that, David.

  4. VERY funny … and while I’d be tempted to be the Bad Librarian I know I’d have to opt for being nice and helpful (boring!).

  5. Apparently people are stupid everywhere. When J and I were on a cruise there was an extremely funny evening where our cruise director gave out a list of the top ten most ridiculous questions they get asked:
    1. Has this ship ever sunk?
    2. Do these stairs go down?
    3. Does the crew sleep on board?
    ad nauseum

  6. Thank you for this post, David, it was hugely enjoyable. Hugely. I laughed and laughed and read bits out to my colleagues at the Library of Glum, who also laughed heartily. Cheered as we were, we managed not to assault the woman who came in, borrowed three books, and then found she could not leave because she kept setting off the alarm at the exit gate (which, of course, then does not open). So I asked her to hand the books back so I could make sure I had desensitized them properly. She did so, with much huffing and tutting. They were fine. She tried to leave again, BEEP BEEP BEEP. ‘Do you have any books from Other Big Library on you? They always set our gate alarm off.’
    ‘No I haven’t!’
    I do my best eyebrow thing.
    ‘Have you got your mobile phone switched on? They sometimes trigger the gate.’
    ‘No!’
    ‘OK, have you got any new books on you? They often have security tags on them.’
    ‘I bought the book two weeks ago!’
    ‘Well, that must be it. If you pass me your bag, you can go out and I’ll go round to the other end of the desk and pass it back to you, so it won’t trigger the gate.’
    ‘I don’t have time for this!’
    Bad Reed: ‘Neither do I then. I shall watch your continued attempts to leave from over here.’
    Good Reed: ‘It really won’t take any longer than you leaving if your books weren’t setting off the gate.’

    *Happy sigh*

  7. Marvellous. Where do these people come from?

    • Zander
    • December 16th, 2006

    Stupid Question:

    Why are librarians so angry, is it because they are full of rage and hate at the world but cannot admit it? Do they think they are perfect, and thus insane? We pity you, we really do. Better find some hope fast. Or not. You can chose (left so the librarian could scorn–the 1st sin)

  8. Not rage and hate at the world, but like many people who work in retail as well, frustration at the rudeness and sometimes stupidity of the people we are trying to help. For stories of the retail kind (and one who often lets Bad Store Owner win), check out Acts of Gord at http://www.actsofgord.com/Annoy/

    • Cecily Greenaway
    • February 12th, 2009

    Patron: Can you tell me where the self-help section is?
    Bad Librarian: Well that would be defeating the purpose wouldn’t it?

    Good librarian: Sure there are several sections you can look in for sel-help material. Is there any more your can tell me? I am sure I can help.

  9. I don’t think I ever gave the college librarians a headache. I may have done. I’m very scatterbrained sometimes.

    You should submit some of these to NotAlwaysRight.com.

    TRiG.

  1. May 9th, 2007
  2. December 8th, 2009
  3. September 27th, 2010

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