Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment’

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…



I’m Your Librarian, Not Your #*$@%!

We chose two Stories of the Week this week because they were perfect examples of some of the ridiculous expectations patrons place on librarians. Sometimes, don’t you just want to scream, “I’m your librarian, not your $*@^#!”???

From “Alice” in Colorado Springs, CO:

We have a quirky printing machine that requires you to print two jobs to get change. We have a very clear sign posted where patrons deposit their money that says “exact change only.” Recently a patron put in a five dollar bill for a $1.90  print job. He then came storming up to the desk demanding that I refund his money. We keep a cup of spare change at the Information desk to give quick change back if the patron is insistent. I tried to pay the patron from the cup but was 10 cents short. I told the patron that I’m sorry he will have to wait or leave without his 10 cents. The patron proceeded to demand that I pay him out of my pocket! We eventually got his 10 cents, but I could not believe he would ask me to pull money out of my pocket to cover the fact that he can’t read the “exact change only” sign. To top it off, I was wearing a skirt and didn’t even have pocket to pull the magical dime from.”

From “Lucy” in Manitou Springs, CO:

“I work in a small, very acoustic library where  even the slightest whisper is heard from across the room. One day a man called while I was working the Reference Desk and asked me to tell him what books on his card were overdue. All of the books on his card were overdue, and all dealt with subject matter of a sexual nature–with fairly explicit titles. The man demanded that I tell him the individual titles when I tried to quietly tell him that all of the books he had checked out were overdue. I repeated the titles as quietly as I could, knowing that everyone around me heard every word. Then the man demanded to hear them again. When he asked me to list them all a third time, I became intensely uncomfortable and suspicious. I asked him to hold and had one of my male coworkers take over the call. Sure enough, when the man on the phone heard a male voice, he quickly said he didn’t need any more help and hung up.”

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