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


Swear Like A Librarian

   August 9th, 2011 Brian Herzog

No Swearing signI hope this post doesn't get blocked by your filtering software.

When not at work, some librarians I know have the filthiest mouths of anyone I've encountered. But at the desk they obviously can't use bad words, so I got curious about the public-safe language librarians use to replace swear words. That's the catch-22 of libraries: serving the public can be stressful, but working at a public service desk means being limited in how we can respond when something goes wrong.

I asked around a bit and here's a list of some choice "safe" words library staff use:

  • some old standards: Shoot, Fudge, Bologny
  • Jeepers Crow
  • Flip
  • Fly me (to the moon)
  • Mother of pearl
  • What the what?
  • For the love of Pete
  • For cripe's sake
  • Frick
  • Shut the front door
  • Sugar Honey Iced Tea

The last one is my favorite - read it again, but just the first letter of each word.

I'm sure everyone has their favorites - what are your patron-safe swear words? Please share them in the comments or make #swearlikealibrarian a trending topic.

P.S.
When I was originally working on this post, I thought some gansta rap-style image would make an appropriate illustration. I couldn't find one exactly right, but I did think this was funny:

I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie sign

Good job Hillsdale Free Public Library - Sir Mix-A-Lot would be proud.



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Library of Profanity

   January 8th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Bad WordsI'll warn you right up front: this post contains bad words.

While looking for a book on Amazon, I accidentally (really) found a book with the title Fuck this Book. Of course this caught my eye, so I read the description and found it actually sounded interesting (a la Postsecret, Found and Church Signs Across America).

I used the handy greasemonkey script to search my library's catalog directly from Amazon. I was surprised to see that my library had a record for the book, but it was In Cataloging - and has been for three years (there's got to be a story here, and I'm still trying to track it down [update: I asked around and learned the story, and the book has since, sadly, been deleted from our catalog]).

But this got me thinking: what other bad words are indexed in the library catalog? I ran some searches, and was surprised at the results. In my library's holdings alone, fuck has 12 matches and shit has 16 matches. I ran through a list of bad words, but most others also had non-bad meanings (pussy cat, Dick Cheney, etc).

I think it's important for libraries to provide unfiltered access to information, and not vilify a work or person because they violate a social taboos (besides, profanity is often in the eye of the beholder).



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