Jaw-dropping Reference Desk Interactions

Sometimes the conversations we have or overhear are worthy of a good jaw-drop. These two stories are shocking examples of both a lack of decorum and (dare we say it?) appalling ignorance. Thank goodness the library is available for people to find answers to their questions about life and lifestyles (and avoid embarrassing displays of assumptions elsewhere) .

Having a courtesy phone is essential at our library. We want our young patrons to call and get a ride home every night. But by having a courtesy phone too close to the reference desk, we heard way more than we wanted to know. There was ‘Melinda’s Favorite Felon’ who was forever calling his mom and his parole officer. Every day. EVERY DAY. There are many other patrons who have a remarkably small and vulgar vocabulary. But the most bizarre phone call I ever overheard …

A young gal came in one day, asked to use the courtesy phone, which was then right on the reference desk. She grabbed it, dropped down onto the floor in front of the desk (privacy?) and dialed. She waited, and waited, then delivered this message, “Hi, Mom. Just want you to know Sonny and I got married today. Talk to you later. Bye.”

When we remodeled we moved the courtesy phone a good twenty feet away from the desk. There are many things we really do not want to know.

~“Melinda”

A few years after having transferred to the print library’s reference desk, I dealt with a lot of Nursing students.  One of the courses in the curriculum was on diversity, and one of the assignments was to investigate the food preferences and diet of a particular population.  Requests for information were wide-ranging, with students wanting material on some fairly common groups like Italians, Poles, or Mexicans to the more obscure, like Maltese, Laotian, or Albanians.  We were usually able to provide information from our extensive reference collection.

One night, however, I was stumped by a patron.  She explained that she was in the Cultural Diversity class and needed to find the diet and food preferences of a particular group and was having a difficult time.  I asked her which group she was investigating, mentally preparing myself for something exotic.

“Gay people,” she replied.

“Gay people?” I responded.

“Yes. Gay people. What kind of diet do they have?”

“Ummm…” I hesitated, not knowing how to proceed, “I don’t think there really is something as a ‘Gay Diet.’  I suspect they eat the same things as everybody else in their particular ethnic group.”

“Oh!” said the patron, as enlightenment danced among her brain cells, “Maybe you’re right.  I’d better choose another group.”

~“Bethany”

Send your stories to submit@merrylibrarian.com or call or text in your stories at (216) 23M-ERRY (216-236-3779)

Leave a Reply

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