Date: Wed, 10 May 95 12:49:58 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Library Humor
[FWIW, one of the defining characteristics of an urban legend is that the
teller swears it actually happened, the usual proof is that it actually
happened to someone they know. An intro like: "This is normally urban
folklore, but..." is just icing on the cake... -psl]
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Lani Herrmann)
Sender: "Marjorie McPherson (503) 687-3186" <MCPHERSON@4j.lane.edu>
Forgive me if this is an old chestnut. I just heard it.
A librarian at a meeting swore it actually happened to him.
A librarian was at a reference desk and noticed a woman
standing at the online catalog terminal looking puzzled.
He went over to her and asked if she needed help. She
said, "I'ts about time you got over here. I've been
pressing this 'help' button for 5 minutes!"
One joke leads to another. This is normally urban folklore, but it
happened to our Archives Librarian 2 or 3 years ago.
A student was directed to the card catalog for a book in one of the old
collections not yet on the automated catalog. A few minutes later,
after looking in the catalog, he was seen standing by the front gate.
When the librarian asked if he needed help, he did indeed say "I was
looking for the main entry."
Even in reality, that one gets a groan.
Well, that's a relief. I thought only BECPL was the only library
that stamped cards "For holdings see main entry." Talk about
user-unfriendly! (We later changed it to "For holdings consult
librarian") (Still later we stopped stamping the cards altogether.
Not sure how helpful that is!)
Here's another one I'm sure everybody has witnessed: One of my
colleagues went to the catalog with a patron and located the card
for the item the patron was seeking. Holding the cards open so
the patron could see the card, he pointed to the call number and
said "Look for this number on the open shelves." "Okay, thanks,"
the patron said, pulling the card out of the drawer and walking
We had a student walk up to the reference desk and ask where the
library was. (We're still wondering about that one.)
My favorite tale came from a colleague:
A student walked up and asked if she needed the letters in front of
an LC call number. My friend explained that, yes, the letters had
meaning- they indicated the subject. The student pondered this
for a moment until a light came on...
"Ohhh! So books on Outer Space would be in the O's!!!"
Beam me up, Scotty!
Admittedly, this doesn't have much to do with cataloging, but I had
to share it:
My all-time favorite library patron was the man who came to me at the
Reference Desk one morning and said to me, "I need a book." Pause.
My response, delivered as deadpan as I could muster, was, "We need to
narrow this topic down a bit."
Now you all know why I decided to go into cataloging.
This is one of my faves, and it's true! The scene is a large Public
Library in London, England. Man approaches reference desk, and
explains that he wants this book, does not know author, or title, or
subject, but it is blue, and sits right here on the shelves of
Wandsworth Public Library [which is NOT this library]. Librarian
(having attempted to elicit details such as author, title, subject,
etc. and failed), politely, gently suggests that patron return to
Wandsworth Public Library and check the shelf in question. Exit patron.
Several days later, same librarian is on the Reference Desk again. Man
of blue book fame comes in, approaches librarian, and says, with great
"You were right, it WAS there!"
© 1995 Peter Langston