Archive for November, 2009

Straight Talk from the Reference Desk

We love getting emails about wild and wacky reference questions. Plenty of weird questions come up at the reference desk, but it seems like the most bizarre (and generally more personal) questions are asked over the phone. Perhaps patrons prefer the anonymity of a phone call. Or maybe they are just trying to harass us. Who knows. What we do know, however, is that outrageous reference questions are excellent fodder for Merry Librarian articles! So, thank you to our faithful readers who have sent in these stories. Keep ’em coming!

“A few years ago, when I was still fresh to the reference librarian position, I received a phone call from a man needing a quick definition to a word.  Thinking this was going to be an easy question, I picked up the phone line and asked for the word he needed defined.  He informed me that the word he needed was “gay”.  I read off the first few definitions that refer to happiness and merriment.  He quickly stated that those were not the definition he required.  I continued reading and read the definition referring to homosexuality.  He said that was the one he needed but since the definition was rather vague (“one who practices homosexuality”) I offered to read the definition to “homosexuality”.  After doing so, the man went on to explain that he had recently received a gift for his birthday of an “adult” nature (in the phone call he actually described the device) and then asked me if, since he enjoyed using the toy so much by himself, he was a homosexual.  Honestly, I was a little blown out of the water.  But I retained my composure and stated that I couldn’t answer, and that the decision, and how he interpreted the definition, ultimately lay in his hands.

~ “Rose”

This happened to an unflappable colleague working the reference desk.  I overheard the call, asked what it was about; and when she repeated it to me, I laughed so loud I drew stares.
Librarian (answering phone) : Reference and Information Services.
Male caller: Are you wearing a bra?
Librarian:  Yes.  Are you?
Male caller stammers and hangs up. 
If only he knew we have caller ID…



An Affair to Remember

This Story of the Week is officially one of our all-time favorites. When this one was submitted, Merry laughed out loud–and received a few glares from patrons. Stories like this one are the reason The Merry Librarian exists…and why she’s so merry! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as we did…

I sympathize with the librarian in “Lost in Translation” who was asked to translate Mayan hieroglyphics into Egyptian hieroglyphics and so forth. My previous organization produced a commemorative poster of Gerardus Mercator (1512 – 1594), the famous cartographer, and it included an old woodcut with a Latin inscription surrounding the image. A woman called up our public inquiries center and asked for a translation of the Latin. Her telephone call was referred to me in the library.

Since we had produced the poster, I went ahead and–after a great deal of difficulty, an old Latin dictionary and some schoolboy church Latin–I was able to call her back and say the inscription more or less said, “Here is the great Mercator, in his study, surrounded by all his instruments.”

The woman was obviously heart broken and began sobbing.

When I asked her why she was upset, she stated that she thought it was a coded message from Mercator to her, through all the centuries. She was so disappointed that it wasn’t a love note addressed specifically to her from the famous man. She knew he loved her.

Cue the theme from the old Twilight Zone TV series.

Well, I ruined her day. But she sure made mine!


Send us your stories at!

Attention! The Merry Librarian is looking for stories to feature in an upcoming theme-based series. If you have any true stories about weddings or wedding photography taking place in your library, send them in! Your story could be published on our site! Email us at!

What’s New With Merry?

Merry's Book Club has arrived!

The highly-anticipated debut of Merry's Book Club is finally here! Check out reviews of books by fellow librarians and book lovers, and even purchase the titles you love through Merry's Book Store!

NEW! Call In A Story Line

Now all US readers can call or text your stories into The Merry Librarian. Call us at
(216) 23M-ERRY today!

Very Merry Fan Pages

Visit our fan page on Facebook:

Follow us on Twitter, too!

Related Links
Merry’s Book Store