or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 2/9/14

   February 15th, 2014

I would say right off the bat that this post is NSFW, but it happened to me at work so it must be okay. Just, be warned(ish).

One slow afternoon, after school, a girl who was probably about fourteen came up to the desk and asked for books on learning to draw. Specifically, she said, she wanted to draw people.

No problem - in fact, the 740s are right near the Reference Desk. I walked her over, skimmed the titles, and pulled one down called Step-by-step guide to drawing the figure. Sounds promising, right? The cover shows artistic-looking sketches, no problem there, and just what we're looking for.

No, the problem came when I flipped open the book to see if the inside was what she was looking for. Hover your mouse over the image below to see the first page I flipped to*.

The patron didn't seem phased, but it's not often I show naked pictures to fourteen year old girls. Not just an image, mind you, but an actual photograph of a naked woman. I know this is perfectly normal in the life of a librarian, but, I don't know, it just took me by surprise and felt weird.

But it did turn out to be what she wanted, so the patron took that book and another one we found, and she seemed happy.


*I have two theories on why I was able to flip right to this page:

  1. Either I have an uncanny ability to find naked women, or (and more likely),
  2. This is the most popular page in the book and the spine has been broken by previous readers (perhaps fourteen year old boys)

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6 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 2/9/14”

  1. Deborah Says:

    Our library recently underwent a renovations, and we found a similar book (listed as missing from the collection) had been hidden in the 3rd floor ceiling. That book was entirely on drawing nudes, and had photographs too. It was published in the 70′s, and we have no clue how long it was up there.

  2. Cataloging Goddess Says:

    Oh Brian. Wish I could have seen your face at that moment.

  3. Megan Roberts Says:

    Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it – we seem to have been lulled into the belief that nudity and sexuality are intertwined, when they are in actuality very different things. We all have basically the same bits (dependant on certain factors) and shouldn’t be ashamed or scared of that fact

  4. Chris Says:

    This would be my absolute nightmare. Seems to me like everyone is obsessed with trying to catch child predators in the act. I wouldn’t have taken that girl to the aisle without an escort to testify in court that I did nothing inappropriate. If I would have flipped that book open and saw that page I would have refused to give it to her. Not because I believe it is wrong; actually I agree with Megan, but moreso that someone ELSE would see that and accuse me of being a pedophile. My worst nightmare is ever having to be alone with a kid. That’s just asking for some over paranoid (I realize the irony of that statement) nosy to make a report to Catch a Predator or similar.

    That’s just the reality of the world we live in now. Keep your kids far away from me. I’m not going to be falsely labeled a pedophile.

  5. David Says:

    I’ve not had that one, but a similar one.

    I had this really sweet older lady come up to the desk. She was right out of central casting for someone’s grandmother. She was a native Spanish speaker and wanted a Spanish/English dictionary. I walk her over to the 400s. When we get there I see we had a pictorial one so I wanted to show her. I open it right to the entry for brassiere. I am momentarily speechless. She glances over at me, smiles and then starts laughing.

  6. Emma Says:

    Fifty dollars on the ‘fourteen year old boys’ theory of page determination.