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

Top 10 Patron Pet Peeves

   June 2nd, 2009

unshelved comicUsually I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, and I really do enjoy my job. But I thought I'd share a list of the top 10 things that patrons do that can really irk me.*

Not that I expect every patron interaction to be perfect and wonderful, of course; these are just a few things that make bad days worse. I tried to limit this list to things unique to libraries, and this list (which ended up being longer than I expected) is in no particular order:

  1. Patrons who don't wait in lines When I'm helping someone at the reference desk, common sense tells me that if another person walks up, they'd stand behind the person I'm helping to wait their turn. However in practice, instead of lines, people tend to form huddles. They will stand almost next to the person I'm helping, and if a third person walks up, they stand next to the first person on the other side. This bothers me because it eliminates all privacy for the first patron. I've also noticed that the longer people have to wait, the more they inch closer to the desk - to the point where they tap their keys on the desk, or volunteer answers to the first patron's question. I always try to make eye contact with people and tell them I'll be right with them, but they often take that as an invitation to ask their question - even if I'm on the phone.
  2. Patrons who don't end phone calls with "goodbye" I suppose this isn't necessarily limited to libraries, but I've never experienced it anywhere but while at work. I'll answer a patron's question, there will be a little awkward silence, and then I'll start saying something like, "is there anything else I can do..." and halfway through I just hear <click>
  3. Patrons who won't stop asking their question long enough for me to answer Maybe this one is due to patrons thinking their question is very complex, when in reality it's not. After the first sentence or two I'll have an answer or resource for them, but they keep elaborating and explaining and I can't get a word in edgewise. I don't like interrupting people, but sometimes there is no other option.
  4. Patrons who stand in front of the printer This only bothers me when someone comes to the desk and says the printer is broken. Fair enough, it happens. So they ask if I can fix it, and lead me over to the printer. But then they proceed to walk right up to the printer and stand in front of it, blocking me from getting to it. I can't fix it until I can touch it, and more often than not, I actually have to ask the patron to move. You'd think, you'd think, this would be common sense.
  5. Patrons with no cell phone etiquette Cell phones aren't banned from my library - we just ask people use them politely. Here's one cell phone conversation that I overhear repeatedly:

    [Patron is sitting at a computer, when suddenly some horrible digital song starts playing Very Loudly from their bag. After a minute of struggling, they finally get their cell phone out and answer it:]
    I can't talk right now, I'm in the library.
    No, I can't talk...
    ...I'm in the library.
    I don't know, later.
    No, I can't talk...
    I can't talk...
    I don't know, maybe Bob.
    I'm in the library, I can't talk.
    I'll call you back.
    Around 3, and Bob and Mary.
    How about Taco Bell?
    Look, I'm in the library, I'll call you back.
    I can't talk, I'm in the library.
    The library.
    I can't talk.
    I'll call you back.
    Okay, bye.
    I'll call you back.
    Okay, bye.

    So here's my question: if you can't talk because you're in the library, why do you even answer the phone? And of course, they never turn the ringer down, so a few minutes later their bag is blaring again. Sigh.

  6. Patrons who try to hide that they're using a cell phone Again, my library allows cell phone use. But some patrons come in and try to hide that they're on their cell phone by holding their whole hand open over the phone. Maybe we're just supposed to think they enjoy touching their cheek and ear simultaneously, and looking at desk staff out of their corner of their eye. The good thing is that these people are always speaking quietly, but it annoys me that they think they can get away with something by hiding it.
  7. Patrons with bad closing time etiquette I'm sure any public place that closes at a certain hour has people that come in a minute before closing time. We certainly do, and we also have patrons who stay on the computers right up to closing time. That's fine, I can deal with those patrons. But the patrons that really bug me are the people who get up off their computers a few minutes before closing time, and then while I'm trying to do all my closing time tasks, stand at the desk and talk to me about the other patrons who are still on the computers, and how they make it harder for us to close the library because they just refuse to leave. I guess they just miss the irony of the situation.
  8. Patrons who are passive-aggressive I work in a medium-size library, and while we have a good collection, we certainly don't have a book on everything. For instance, a patron will ask for a book on the megalodon shark. We won't have a book just about that, but after searching through indexes, I can find information about that shark in a more general dinosaur book. It's exactly what the patron needs, but their response is something like, "well, I guess it'll work, but too bad you don't have a book just about megalodon sharks." I also get the feeling sometimes that people blame me personally for not having written a book on their topic - the history of their house, how supportive families are when a child is born in Peru, etc.
  9. Patrons who have a book's call number or title written on a piece of paper, and ask if I can help them find it, but hold the paper so they can read it but I can't Eventually patrons graduate from this habit to setting the paper down on the desk. But invariably, they set the paper down facing them - which actually is fine, because I've gotten quite good at reading upside-down. But what I can't do is read in-motion, and this is a drawback because as soon as the patron realizes the paper is facing them, they start spinning it and moving it so that it faces me. While nice and considerate, it'd actually be quicker if they didn't.
  10. Patrons who say I should have been a teacher I usually hear this after I finish showing a patron how to do something on a computer. I know they mean this as a compliment, but it sort of implies that being a librarian is unfortunate somehow. I'm a librarian because I want to be a librarian; if I weren't, then I wouldn't have been here to show them all the stuff I just showed them.

Petty and nit-picky, I know, but there you go. I'm sure I missed a couple, so please feel free to vent your annoyances in the comments.


*Be sure to read David Lee King's post about being nice to patrons online. I completely agree with his point, but have a feeling he would not approve of this post.

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51 Responses to “Top 10 Patron Pet Peeves”

  1. Sarah Says:

    My pet peeves are
    1. People who don’t say thank you
    2. People who approach the desk and either shove a piece of paper at you and say nothing, or say just one word, eg. “computer” or “tax form”. Would it kill them to add a few words and make a polite request??

  2. Jesse Says:

    Awesome article.. Something we implemented, try turning the computers off half an hour before closing. This eliminates patrons who feel the need to sit at the computers right up until closing.

  3. Bookie Says:

    Regarding no. 6, I sometimes put my hand to ‘hide’ my cellphone in public places not to pretend as if I’m not talking, but to muffle the sound so that I don’t bother other people. Your patrons may not be doing the same thing, but maybe thinking of it that way will help you be less irritated at the habit. I will have to remember no. 3 though. I often preface my questions with very lengthy preludes that are probably interesting to no one but me.

  4. Liz Says:

    Fair enough. But having been to three separate libraries in the span of four days recently, please allow me to pose a few Librarian Pet Peeves:

    1. Treating patrons as inconveniences. I’m so sorry to tear you away from your hard work on eBay or that juicy phone call about your sister-in-law’s illegitimate child’s paternity suit, but may I please ask you a question without being sneered at? If it is something important and work-related, a simple “I’ll be with you in a moment” is greatly appreciated.

    2. Using nondescript or derogatory references to coworkers. For some reason, it bugs me when one librarian will say to his or her colleague, “Yeah, this girl / lady / woman has a question about WestLaw” – how about “This PATRON has a question”? My favorite was a reference helper who had to get the head reference librarian; when she came from her office and asked him who had the question, he responded “The chick in the blue shirt over there.” Nice and professional.

    3. Pointing. Me: “Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find the updated State Codes and Regulations, please?” Help Desk Librarian: (points to the… SSE’ern-ish corner?) “Over there.” I understand time is short and I don’t expect to be led there by the hand, but descriptive directions, such as “Just past the reference materials here on the last shelves on the left” is far more helpful than a finger.

    4. Disappearing. This happens more than I care to admit. Occasionally while answering my question or checking out materials, the librarian who has been assisting me will just get up and wander away. Usually it’s to get more information or to ask a colleague for help, but I would appreciate knowing that. This is another instance in which a few extra words, such as “This book isn’t scanning properly – I’ll be right back” are incredibly appreciated.

    I’m sure none of you wonderful and dedicated individuals reading this blog are guilty of any of the above, but maybe you have a colleague or two who has a habit of doing them. Of course I don’t wish to sound ungrateful – my school and county libraries are wonderful and the staff works hard to be helpful, but these little annoyances often keep me at home accessing materials electronically rather than in person.

  5. peppernys Says:

    Point number 5 brings quotes from Black Books to mind:
    “Hi..I’m in a bookshop. No, no, Book shop. BOOK SHOP!” (episode2)

    Makes me glad I get to work behind the scenes rather than on the info desk 🙂

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Liz: I think your #4 shows the underlying issue with most things listed so far (mine and comments): thoughtfulness and communication. People (in general) seem willing to endure a lot more when they know why they’re being asked to endure it. But also thoughtfulness, and trying to see the situation from the other person’s point of view, would go a long way towards eliminating all of these. Once you’re in the other person’s shoes, the important things to communicate to them should be obvious.

  7. Auntie Nanuuq Says:

    Hi Brian:

    I hope you don’t mind I’m wanting to add these to my blog. I’ll give you full credit, of course…and I will even add a few things of my own!

  8. Mary Jo Says:

    When patrons ask questions to which I do not know the answer, I generally ask them to give me a couple of minutes to see what I can find out for them. Some patrons are in such a hurry that they cannot abide the delay. One time an annoyed patron actually responded, “I remember when librarians KNEW everything.” There are probably a hundred clever retorts for that, but I stuck with the ever-diplomatic broken record routine: “Well, if you can give me a couple of minutes, I will see what I can find out for you .”

  9. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Mary Jo: Well, in our defense, there is more to learn every day. But you’re right about sometimes needing a few minutes to find an answer – and often, I can find answers quicker if the patron isn’t standing there staring at me. One trick I use is to take them into the stacks to where the likely books will be to get them started browsing, and then go back to the desk to do a more thorough search on my own.

  10. Nathan Says:

    Like Bookie mentioned in a previous comment, I also use my hand to cover a cellphone… both for the reason that Bookie stated, and also sometimes to prevent background noise (such as wind) from interfering with what I am saying. I do not use a cell phone in a library, but I know of some libraries that are very noisy, so a patron might be doing that too.

  11. Karen Says:

    Great list!

    1. Expanding on #10 – patrons who express wonder & disbelief about the fact that being a Librarian is actually a career & requires an advanced degree. I know that everything we do doesn’t require that degree, but it pains me that I’ve worked so hard, just to have people assume I’m a student like them. Like you say, we sincerely want to help.

    2. Male students who are obviously checking out female patrons while I’m trying to answer their question.

    3. Annoying thing about other librarians – when they treat adult student-patrons like children, thus enforcing the mean/shusshing librarian stereotype.

  12. Ray Says:

    My personal favorite is when I ask if I can help a patron the respond by saying, “no I’ll wait for a real librarian.” I’m sorry I’m about as real as they get. I may not be an old man with a cane or an old lady with her hair in a bun, but I’ve been on the library scene for a few years and I know how to find what they are looking for.

  13. Nancy Says:

    Interesting that the pet peeves with the children in my K-5 library are the same as they are with adults! Number 1 really bugs me. I bought a rug runner and that is at least some reference for where the line should be. Doesn’t always work, though. I also like to be thanked, and I do remind my children to do so. And I am constantly telling them not to walk away from me before I finish answering their questions. Thanks for letting me know I am not the only one with these peeves and that the job is what it is! (BTW, I love it too!)

  14. Tessa Says:

    #7. I work at a college library and we start turning lights off at 5 mins to closing. Including the lights over the computers. Usually the students get the hint. It was my boss’ idea.

    @Karen, I also look young for my age and positively baby-like for a librarian. Most of the time they think I am a student and ask me if I have taken Mr. So-and-so’s class. I like to tell them that, no, I haven’t take Math classes since I was in undergrad.

  15. Anne Says:

    1. Argh! Shy of putting in one of those crowd control line barriers, I’m not sure how to stop this. Maybe a painted line like at the pharmacy, with a sign that reminds people to respect others privacy?

    3. Related – patrons who feel the need to provide 20 minutes of detail about the back story to their request. My branch is the consumer medical reference center for our system, and we have one patron in particular who thinks it is helpful to describe every detail about her medical condition and how often she takes her medicine, etc. The ability to cut her off politely (and other long-winded patrons) is definitely a learned skill. And some people never take a breath when they talk, which doesn’t allow for breaking in to change the rhythm of the conversation…

    5. Cell phone talkers are inevitably on the computer, too. It is rarely the people browsing the books. I love the ones that stand right in front of you at the desk and talk on the phone – yay.

    7. The worst offenders these days are the laptop/wi-fi people. I try to make a sweep of the library ten minutes before we close to let all those people know it’s time to pack up – but there are often one or two people that keep going up to the last second, then take their sweet time packing up their computer. We also have one repeat offender who always shows up just before we close and takes here time checking things out – she’ll be browsing in the stacks as the lights go down, and then have a huge stack of things to check out. Add to that her bratty children who are either running all over the library or on the preschool computers (which don’t shut down automatically at closing). This has been going on for years…

    9. I don’t like it when patrons come up with just a call number, and I ask them for a title or author and they don’t know. SIGH….

    One of my biggest peeves is the people that come to use the internet and have a child who a) runs unattended through the library or b) cries incessantly in a stroller or car seat while they do their online business. Add a black star if they yell at the kid to shut-up.

    Oh, thank you. I feel much better now!

  16. Trish Says:

    @ Karen: I’ve actually had university co-workers (not librarians, but still educated people) who express shock that my job requires an advanced degree. And many, many people who assume that all I do is sit around and read all day, so how stressful could my job possibly be? Oy.

    One of the bigger pet peeves for our circulation staff is when a student has a block on their account because they have a number of overdue books. They’ll come to the library, deposit the books in the book drop *right outside the door*, and then come in to say that they returned them and now want their account unblocked. So the circulation clerk has to grab her keys, walk out to the book drop to retrieve the books, and so on. Or the students who think that they’re tricking us by secretly bringing the books in to the library and trying (but usually failing) to reshelve them themselves to get out of a overdue fee.

  17. S Says:

    I love the people who come in and just point(sometimes accompanied by a grunt)to something. Yesterday a young man came to the Reference Desk and pointed to the computers.
    I guessed (correctly) that he wanted to use one. He didn’t utter one word during our entire transaction.

  18. closer Says:

    Consider the old retail concept of ‘closing’ which was customer-service oriented. You posted a closing time. At that time, the door was locked or controlled in some way so that customers could leave, but no new customers could enter. The customers on premises were allowed to complete their business, possibly with the lighting dimmed slightly to indicate it was time to finish up, while staff carried out the usual closing routines. Displaying impatience used to be considered RUDENESS to the customer. Where did we come up with the idea that at 9 pm everyone has to be out the door? A relaxed, civilized approach would reduce stress all around. Don’t whine about your hours being cut if you aren’t willing to go the extra service mile!

  19. Tracy Says:

    @ S- Are you sure that your pointing/grunting patron was not deaf? We have two deaf patrons who frequently communicate this way with us, unless they have a complex question that requires pen and paper.

  20. Rob Dumas Says:

    Whenever I get a passive-aggressive patron (#8), I usually respond by telling them, “Well, hey, here’s your chance, then; write a book on megalodon sharks and make a million dollars.” Since they’re just complaining to complain, this kind of defuses the situation.

  21. Krista Says:

    @ closer – I understand what you mean about rudeness, and we are not rude to our patrons who stay past closing, but for example, in my library we are expected by the City to be out of the building by 9:15. We are not allowed to do several of our closing procedures until all of the patrons are gone, so when we have some that linger past 9 p.m., it becomes harder for us to finish and lock up on time, and we end up scrambling. We have an announcement at 15 minutes and 5 minutes to close, so there’s really no excuse for patrons to not be packed up and moving toward the exit by 9 p.m. My worst experience was trying to explain to a patron that he could not print his 30 page document because we were closed (it was after 9) – that’s why we make the warning announcements in the first place.

  22. day Says:

    This is a combo of 3 and 8… Patrons who belabor the point of what we don’t have or don’t know.
    “What do you mean, you don’t have a recipe for a banana cake without bananas in it? Why don’t you have that? It’s too bad you don’t have that. Why don’t you have that? You don’t know why you don’t have that?”

    And the “Other Librarian”/”Other Day” syndrome. “Oh, The Other Librarian told me you would do this thing for me that you don’t actually do/aren’t allowed to do.”
    “The Other Day, you didn’t ask me for my ID!”
    (This is because the “other day,” I didn’t realize you were a repeat offender who owed us several hundreds of dollars in lost items; also, you said the “Other Librarian” told you to get me to set you up online, and I (stupidly) didn’t question.)

  23. Liz Says:

    Brian: In response to your comment

    “@Liz: I think your #4 shows the underlying issue with most things listed so far (mine and comments): thoughtfulness and communication.”

    I couldn’t agree more, and I think really, on both sides of the help desk, most complaints boil down to bad manners or lack of thoughtfulness/communication on one or both parties’ part(s).

  24. Librarychic Says:

    My biggest pet peeve is patrons that don’t push in their chairs or leave trash lying around for us to pick up. I’m not your mom!!
    As for #7 – we use reservation software for our computers that automatically shuts them down at 15 minutes prior to closing.

  25. Peggy Says:

    @Trish: We actually had a patron bring back overdue books on a very cold winter day. He made sure we saw him coming from the stacks. He plopped them down on the counter and told us he had found them re-shelved without being checked in. When the clerk picked them up, they were, of course, ice cold! Amazing!

    My pet peeve is the parent who ignores the child who repeats the same phrase over and over and over. Our children’s librarian once counted the number of times: 48 times the child said the same thing to the parent who had totally tuned out the child.

    We have software on our computers set to turn them off (with plenty of warning, of course) 15 minutes before we close. When the patron can’t extend their time or get on at the last minute, we just blame it on the computers. That way they don’t take it out on the staff. It’s great.

    I do, however, agree with Closer about being nice to those who are finishing up after the magic “closing” hour. Now if the staff would just cooperate. They think they have to be out of here at the closing hour.

  26. Susa Says:

    Patrons who interrupt is my biggest pet peeve but, I have the others listed also.

  27. G Says:

    My tactic for people who bark “Internet” or “Computer” at me… is to conduct a reference interview… “What sort of information on the internet are you after?” …or to suggest many different resources: “we have books on computers, there are also journals, magazines, electronic resources.. and if you ask nicely we can even book you some free time using a computer!”

  28. shushie Says:

    @ Karen: not only does the disbelief over the advanced degree irk me, but more often the assumption that I am a volunteer and (shock!) that I am getting paid to be here.

    I also don’t like it when patrons get all huffy when I have to use the computer because I don’t know the exact title they’re talking about off the top of my head. This goes with the misconception that I’ve also read all the books in the library.

  29. Anne Says:

    @Closer and Peggy – I have to disagree about the closing issue. Libraries are not retail stores, even if it seems like they are trying to be so these days. If we allowed patrons to finish up their browsing after the actual time the library closed, we would never go home. There are some people that just need to be told “WE’RE CLOSED NOW.” I think library staff might be more willing to stay longer if they were paid for their time, but at least in our library we’re not. It may be poor customer service, but frankly I don’t think there are too many people out there that want to work for free. We all have lives outside of the library, and while I love my job I also love every minute I spend away from it.

    I’ve often thought that librarians are a little too much doormat-like when it comes to customer service. We work very hard to provide stellar service all day long – there’s nothing wrong with expecting something in return from the patrons.

    I would say that the majority of librarians “go the extra mile” more often than not, and at the end of a long day they are ready to go home – just like any other hardworking person.

  30. WhatEvs Says:

    I agree with Anne: closing time is the time we close. It is not the time we shut the door and wait until everyone chooses to leave. Some of our staff are hourly and staying late costs the library money. If just one hourly employee stayed more than 7 minutes after closing every day it would cost us $1300 per year. Multiply that by the number of people waiting around for patrons to finish their facebook updates and online shopping (oh, and we are an academic library, btw) and it can get expensive fast.

  31. Kate Says:

    @those of you irked by people who are surprised that we have advanced degrees, who think we read books all day, or who think that we are also students:

    1.Did you have any idea what a librarian did all day before you were one? I sure didn’t. And I worked in a public library in high school as a shelver. I still had no idea what the reference librarians did when they weren’t on desk answering questions, so I had no idea they’d need an advanced degree.

    2. Not all people who make really great librarians have advanced degrees, especially in smaller public libraries.

    3. I work at an academic library, and I’m fairly young. Sure, students think I’m a student, but that actually works to my advantage – they are more likely to consult peers than elders. Plus, at 28, I don’t mind them thinking I’m 22 or thereabouts. 🙂 Not to mention, I’ve contemplated getting a second master’s here, so perhaps one day I’ll be both a librarian and a student.

    4. I’ve occasionally used comments about reading books all day to explain what it is we do. People are often fairly receptive to that.

    5. Kind of a flip of this situation – I know librarians who get annoyed that people don’t understand various library rules and policies. Do I understand what goes on in the business office and what all they handle there versus what goes on in student services? Or Academic Affairs? No. So why should people just understand all our policies, or what we do all day?

    Now, if patrons are being very rude about any of these things, clearly implying being a librarian is lesser than another job, etc, that’s a different story. But usually, in my experience, it’s just ignorance not rudeness. I’d rather use the opportunity to correct the misconception than to dwell on it.

  32. Lora Says:

    I have worked in business and in libraries. I find these comments almost petty. Why, your pet peeves should be the smell of the homeless who are at your library because they have no where else to go or bath, the sexual deviant that can’t stop looking for porn even though children can see the screen, parents leaving young children at the library while they go “grocery shopping” for hours or maybe the guy that flashes you in the stack. Think I am crazy all things that happened as a reference librarian. Librarians need to complain more, people think our jobs are so “easy”.

  33. Cari Says:

    Brian, this is a really thought-provoking post, as can be seen by all the comments. Not only does it bring up customer service issues on both sides of the desk, but also library-world-wide issues about stereotypes about our positions and what we do.

    My 2 cents – adding to #3 – people who begin asking a second, involved question after they’ve first asked me one involved question, and expect a quick answer to both. It’s going to take me a while to research some questions, even if I have ready answers to many. I try to explain to them exactly what I’m doing so they know how I’m helping. And adding to #8 – this is my biggest pet peeve in my personal life too (I have some relatives with passive-aggressiveness problems) so it makes it especially frustrating at work. What I really hate is when people say “It’s such a shame you couldn’t help me” because it makes me feel like it’s a personal attack. I want to be able to help everyone.

    I try to be easy on customer service people when I’m out in “the real world” because I know what they deal with!

  34. Denise Says:

    My pet peeve is patrons who ask me for a book that I have to search for in back, but when I return to my desk they’ve disappeared – never to return.

  35. Sandy Says:

    I totally agree with #3, only I admit that I do the same to other people (it’s a bad habit that I’m trying to break.) The worst is when the person gets a short way into the question when I realize that I’m going to have to answer “no,” or “you’ll have to ask so-and-so.” I feel bad, knowing they’ll end up going through the same spiel to another person.
    People who come in at the very end of the day are the worst, especially when they want you to take 30 minutes doing a search for them. Some of them will even say, “Oh, I know it’s the end of the day, but I just have a quick question…” Quick, sure.
    Another pet peeve of mine, since I work in a bookstore, is when people ask if we loan books out (they seem to have trouble understanding the difference between “store” and “library.”) Our local librarian told me that they sometimes have the opposite problem, when patrons want to know if the books on the shelves are for sale!

  36. Pooch McGinty Says:

    Stop complaining you jew.

  37. Tammy Paris Says:

    Patrons who think and comment about the books being free to the library so why should they have to pay a fine or replacement cost for a damaged book. Yes, they really did believe publishers and authors give the library books for free. Sigh! That and patrons who think the library should be open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to midnight, so we’ll always be open whenever they feel like stopping in.

  38. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Lora: I called these complaints “pet peeves” because that’s what they are – minor things that occasionally annoy me. Certainly there are bigger issues that require serious consideration – but these pet peeves, not so much.

    @Cari: you’re right, I think working in customer service has definitely made me more conscious of the kind of customer I am.

    @Sandy: I’ve been asked a few times if I would sell a book off the shelf to a patron – it always makes me nervous too, because when I say no, I fully expect that book to go missing soon afterwards.

  39. Kristen Says:

    I love reading these comments, but I think that my biggest pet peeve is parents who want everything. I always get, “don’t you provide supervision?” or “can you just watch my kids for a minute?” Does this look like a daycare? Then after we have a program for 300 kids, I always have the parent who asks, “aren’t you doing a craft today?” I just don’t have the resources to cut out 300 bunnies or whatever for every program. The kids are always happy, and so fun to work with, why can’t the parents be happy?

  40. Regina Says:

    My pet peeve has to do with telephone requests. When I first started as a reference librarian, I had a few patrons call the reference desk asking for driving directions–to a certain jewelry store, school, restaurant–while they were driving. They expected someone to MapQuest their directions and give them out over the phone. They often couldn’t explain exactly where they were to begin with, or what direction they were heading, and by the time a search could be done, they were someplace else entirely because they were…driving! My colleague told me to ask them to pull off the road before giving any directions. I had just moved from another state and didn’t know my own way around, much less be able to guide someone else. I don’t mind giving a patron directions to the library itself, but expecting the library to be a mobile GPS is ridiculous.

  41. Laura Says:

    1. Repeat porno offenders… and having to ban them from the computers.
    2. Parents who expect their preschooler/toddler to listen to a long picturebook without having to use the restroom or move around.
    3. Patrons who are looking for a book, without any identifying information other than, “I read it when I was a child,” go figure!
    4. Cleaning up bodily fluids of children from our carpets, etc.
    5. Patrons who expect us to babysit their children while they get on the computers. They do not provide any sort of entertainment or distractions for their children either… Luckily, we have an unattended child policy!
    6. The patrons who expect us to pay for their printouts because they are financially unprepared.
    7. Patrons who expect a million activities and programs for “their tax dollars,” not realizing that these are not often funded.
    8. Inactive Friends of the Library groups to help fund programs and events.
    9. People who refuse to pay fines for whatever excuse they can come up with for the day.
    10. Patrons who claim that not only did they “never check that book out,” and “would never have done so,” and then the item MAGICALLY appears in the bookdrop…

  42. zognog Says:

    I can’t tell you how many of these I run in to daily. By the number of responses, I see I’m not the only one. The cell phone is the worst for me.

  43. Victoria Says:

    @day, absolutely sucks re: “other day/other librarian”. I’m automatically suspicious of that sort of excuse for why this patron should be granted special exceptions and be given extra leeway, particularly when they claim that the “other librarian” told them they could do something that *no one* on staff would permit..!

    @Laura, agreed to #7 (extra entitlement re: tax dollars) and #9 (shouldn’t have to pay fines).

    I also get really angry about those patrons who steal from libraries – theft in general is awful, but these people are stealing from a community resource, stealing things that would be loaned to them freely. It’s just mean.

  44. James Says:

    Patrons who allow their kids to become disruptive. Then get an attitude when addressed as though “jimmy” is allowed to catapult that book/toy and yell his head off. It just shows lack of courtesy to others and rudeness on the parent’s part.

  45. Marje D Says:

    #9- expanding on, when the patron comes asking for the book by the call # but has no idea what the title of the book is or how they ever found it on the OPAC. Do they even know what they were looking for? So glad there is a look up by call # but it often happens that the book belongs to a member of our consortium so it wouldn’t be on our shelves but rather on our partner library’s shelves.

  46. Jen Says:

    I dislike the snifflers who have allergies or colds or whatever and just sniff their phlegm up again and again instead getting a tissue and blowing their nose. We have tissues to give to these people and I have gone to the offending patrons and said “It sounds like you need one of these” (most will take a few and be grateful) but some will turn it down and continue sniffling the day away. It gets annoying.

  47. Sally Says:

    @Jen: Personally, I find the sound of someone blowing their nose disgusting, much worse than sniffling. I guess it’s a matter of personal preference…Also, I wasn’t able to blow my nose at all until I was in my twenties, and many of my family members are the same. Sounds weird, but when I hear someone sniffling in public I always assume that’s why!

  48. Sharon Says:

    We’ve started making up “types” for our patrons. Our personal favorites are the “stop, drop and run” patrons who can be spotted in an instant. They come in quietly,put their materials on the desk as gently as they can and then take off at a fast trot before the materials can be checked in and the overdues can be flagged! Gotta love ’em!

  49. Jami Says:

    Well, even though this is from 2009 I can’t help but add a few of my own.

    1: Patrons who expect you to have their library card number memorized. I don’t even have my own memorized! Why would I memorize anyone else’s?

    2: Patrons who don’t pay attention to anything you say. Especially when it comes to computers. You asked for help and you’re going to completely ignore me? Why did you ask?

    3: Patrons who can’t accept that I’m a clerk NOT a librarian. I did not get a degree. I do not have all the librarian training. I’ve told you repeatedly that your complex question needs to be answered by a librarian.

    4: Patrons who return damaged books and scream at me like it’s my fault their book is sopping wet and smells like it was dropped in a toilet.

    5: Patrons who think I’m their psychic baby sitter. My name is not Professor Charles Xavier. How am I to know your child is here without you and that he’s autistic as well? (Long story that ended with the mother shouting at me that he was austistic and that *I* should’ve been keeping an eye on him while she stood outside and chatted on her cellphone.)

    6: Our public copy machine. It thinks for itself. Unless you watch every step on the screen it will mess things up.

    7: My coworkers making fun of my “sensitive nose.” I’m sorry I’m the only one who can smell the homeless man halfway across the library before I even know he’s there. It doesn’t mean you have a right to make fun of me just because I have a super sniffer.

    8: Patrons AND coworkers who pressure me to get married and/or have children. (Seriously!) I don’t want either. Please accept that. Besides, I’m infertile. No, I don’t want to get treatments. I’m 35, almost 36, and happy being single and childless. I plan on remaing that way forever. SO SHUT UP!

    9: Patrons who invite me to their churches. Yes, I do believe in God, however, my belief system is closer to Judaism than Christianity.(And I am Jewish by maternal descent.) Also patrons who work for spas or makeup places and pressure me about coming to them for a treatment. I already dye my eyebrows to match the color I dye my hair. Why would I want to dye them to look darker? My eyebrows, my choice. I don’t care what they say on What Not To Wear. Clinton & Stacy are morons anyway.

    10: This one needs an explaination more than any of the others. I was a page for years before I became a clerk. So I tend to be very organized even in the checking in process. I will take everything from the bookdrop waiting to be checked in and seperate it into piles according to which cart it goes on and where. Including a seperate pile for transfers. As I check them in I’ll pile them in front of me until a certain point then stop and put them on their carts. It’s faster that way, no doing one book at a time. Well, there I’ll be with my piles all neatly stacked, working away, and without fail some Special Snowflake will come up, reach OVER all my piles, and put their stuff right in front of me on my “already checked in pile” – then get mad at me when I move their stuff off and to the side. Even when I explain that the stuff in front of me is already checked in and I need to move it to a cart. Didn’t your mother teach you to wait your turn? Don’t think your stuff is more important then the stuff turned in before you swanned into the doors. And yes, I’m a bit anal about this – don’t mess with my nicely organized piles! ARG!

  50. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Jami: don’t worry, most of these are unfortunately fairly timeless. And holy smokes, I should have checked with you first. I absolutely agree with your #2 (that happens daily), and your #8 happened a lot when I first started, but I think people eventually gave up on me. Whew.

  51. Jami Says:

    Yes, #8 drives me absolutely bonkers. What business is it of anyone’s? The worse though was this male patron who saw how well I got along with his kids. (I like kids. I’d die to save a child, but I just don’t want kids of my own.) He started asking me if I had children. I told him no. He asked why. Because we’re across the street from two churches and they’re the people who use our library the most I gave my standard answer of “I’m not married.” Usually they drop it when I say that.

    His wife has approached by this time and he says in front of her and the kids, “Just hook up with some guy at a bar and get pregnant. Children don’t need a father.”

    The family was very quiet when they left. It was so surreal and shocking. If it hadn’t happened to me I would’ve thought it was something out of a movie.