Interesting Patron Questions

WebJunction /

Courtesy: Marc Dalmulder, Flickr | cc-by-2.0

The reference desk of a library is truly one of the most interesting of places. Through an initial poll in 2015, we asked WebJunction members to share the most interesting patron questions they had received, and the response was amazing. We recently revisited the topic in a fresh poll, and have updated this article with additional responses. While there are definitely many humorous submissions, we also know that every day, library staff answer important patron questions that help in so many ways. From completing homework to applications for college, to supporting job-seekers and those looking to better understand nutrition or a disease - libraries help people find the information that they need to live informed and productive lives. And some days, it's just really entertaining. Here are a few of our favorite submissions:

  • "Which county in New York State has the most cows per person?"
  • "Can you remove this curler from my hair? My hairdresser is closed today and it's really stuck."
  • "Can you help me get on a dating site?" After weeks of helping him learn how to use a computer, he revealed his true goal. I was a little wary but I helped him and he ended up marrying someone he met online. I attended the wedding!
  • "Does this look infected?"
  • "Where's the pool???"

We received hundreds of submissions, and couldn't include them all, but extend our thanks to all who shared their questions.

Jump to question categories: Reference | The Obvious | About the Librarian | Pickup Lines | 21st Century | Above and Beyond | The Mysterious | Classic Readers Advisory | Just Wow | Library of Things


  • "Can you give me a list of companies that freeze-dry pets?"
  • "What do elephants in the circus eat?" (A friend said I should have told them--clowns)
  • "What do the children of Ethiopia have for pets?" This was asked in 1993.
  • "I need a photograph of....a dinosaur, Jesus, the Man in the Moon."
  • "Do you know what chocolate-covered espresso beans are?"
  • Q: "Where are we?"
    A: "In the Library."
    Q: "No, like, WHERE are we?"
    A: "The city of Vancouver."
    Q: "No...uh..."
    A: "How about Clark County?"
    Q: "No..."
    A: "Washington State?"
    Q: "YES! WASHINGTON! Thank you!"

  • "Where do I find Captain Underpants?"
  • "Are any of Lady Gaga's back-up dancers Scandinavian?"
  • "What day is it?"
  • "What is an appropriate birthday present for a 95 year old?"
  • "I need information for solar de-salinization."
  • "When is Yellowstone National Park due for an apocalyptic volcanic eruption? (Believe it or not I found an answer (Apocalypse Not Now: Yellowstone supervolcano eruption predictable up to 10 yrs in advance.)
  • "Who was King Rufus?" From a high-schooler, studying history, American History and the answer has to do with an American lawyer and politician, born in 1755:  Rufus King. So, I first had to figure that out before proceeding to provide the student with what he needed: biological information in Rufus King.
  • "Oh, when did you get those?" (referring to shelves of 20 year old print journals that had the requested article. Guess my wand of wizardry was working well that day - even though the internet was temporarily offline.)
  • "I'm doing a science fair project on eggs. Where are your books on eggshells?"
  • A person asked how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
  • "Is there a formal numeric scale that measures sweetness in candy the way Scovilles measure the heat of hot pepper sauce?"
  • A request for info on pickpockets in 15th century England.
  • "What's a million times a billion?"
  • My coworker was asked this question, "What's the "correct" way to purify urine?"
  • "I'm driving on I-95, how do I get to that gambling place?"
  • "I'm a carnival worker and need to find where the carnival went."
  • "Do you know what I'm looking for?"
  • "Can you give me some words like beautiful so that I can write a love letter to my girlfriend?"
  • "Do you have 'How to Kill a Mockingbird'?"
  • "Will you please show me what raccoon poop looks like?"
  • "Do you have a book that has real photographs of dinosaurs?"
  • "Do you have any books on helping a pregnant cat in labor?"
  • "Do you have a book about the life of Jesus Christ before he was born?"
  • "Do you have any books on tennis balls? No? Then do you have any books on inert gases?"
  • "Do you have a biography on Pope Malcolm the Tenth?" (The student really needed a biography on Malcolm X for Black History Month!)
  • "I'm writing an assignment on how the exaggerated drawings of men and women in superhero comics are encouraging girls to feel inferior-- do you have any resources on that?"
  • "Here are some photos of a bird that my cat killed. Can you identify it?" (It was a juvenile Black-Headed Grosbeak.)
  • "When bats are hanging upside down, do they poop on themselves?" The answer was, "Yes."
  • "What was Dudley Do-Right's horse's name?" This was in the 1980's and was answered using the International Television Almanac -- the answer was "Steed."
  • An interior designer who was working on a proposal for an adult novelty store remodel needed customer demographic data.
  • "Where is the book about all the scary things?"
    "What kind of scary things are you looking for: witches, monsters, dragons?"
    "Just all the scary things."
  • "Can you tell me what sex my parakeet is?"
  • "Can you help me find the lyrics to Bobby Shmurda - Hot Boy?"
  • "How do you make Jell-O shots?"
  • I was asked if I know what the hours are for the local dentist.
  • "What is the formula for "Milk Paint " for an old fashioned farm building?"
  • "Can you tell me the cost of living in France?"
  • "Where can I find a nudist resort in Minnesota?" (And yes, we were able to put together a list of them for the patron!)
  • "If Jesus is the cousin of John the baptist, would that make god John's uncle? Uncle God?"
  • "Why do painters wear white?"
  • A coroner needed help searching our microfilm for newspaper articles that would help confirm the identify of a John Doe.
  • "What is the best color for a plant?" The trick was - they were talking about painting the interior of a corporate facility (the plant) in order to reduce stress, increase productivity, and mask marks on the wall.
  • A patron wanted the name of Che Guevara's companion, but he only knew the man's nickname.
  • "How much does the moon weigh?"
  • "Who wrote the Agatha Christie mysteries?" We thought it was a secret shopper--especially when the customer didn't accept the answer Agatha Christie!
  • "Which Pope appointed the first Saint?"
  • "What is the rut?"
  • "What is the elevation of New Braunfels, TX on the square?"
  • "How can I find out someone's XREF number?"
  • "May please have a half a David?" "The clerk told me to come here to get a half a David." (He was asking for an affidavit)
  • "Do you have a book on teaching pedagogy and also a picture of a Unicorn?"
  • "Do you have any books that talk about...that? You know, books know...that?"
  • "Where are the romance novels?" (Asked by a first grader)
  • "Can you help me find an old grave? I have the township and range."
  • "I have spent an hour with your copies of National Geographic and it has none of the photos of covered bridges by the guy who was in the movie. It said his photos were there."
  • "Can you help me find an old grave? I have the township and range."
  • I helped an immigrant couple interpret a letter from the government relative to their green card status.
  • "Do you know how babies come out?" This was asked by a pregnant teen heading to Planned Parenthood for her first visit, although she looked to be about 6 months pregnant.
  • I work in an academic library, and had a student ask for "help with my citations." Turns out, they weren't asking for help with a paper, but rather needed directions on how to pay their parking fines.
  • "Can we tour the abandoned missile site?" (There is a former ICBM site located just outside of our town. People sometimes come in to learn about it. Fortunately, the federal government has made us a repository for missile site-related reports, so we can provide history and location information. But, no, there aren't tours of the site.)
  • My very first question as a librarian was: "How many legs can a starfish lose before it dies?" The answer is interesting since you can cut a starfish into a few pieces and it will grow into new starfishes. The answer was difficult because it was before the Internet and Googling.
  • A researcher wanted to know if cell phone antennas altered the migratory route of birds. When we got the answer (no), another question came: And does sonar change the whales' route?
  • "What kind of vine did Tarzan swing on, or what kind of vine would support human weight?" (The patron was researching for a book, and it wound up being a trick question, because Hollywood, not Burroughs, introduced the concept, and the vines are rooted to the ground thus cannot hold weight.)
  • "Do you have any bagpipe books? What about cruise ships? And frogs? And Christmas weddings?" (and yes, we had books on all of them -- even Christmas-themed weddings)
  • "What's the recipe for dirt?" Answer can be found from your local extension office :)
  • "How many passports are there in the world?"
  • "Can you help me find out if I had a biological sibling that was put up for adoption?"
  • "Can you give me information on cannibals?" (She really needed information for a debate paper on the legalization of CANNABIS.)
  • "Can you help me find my husband?" (He was in a federal prison but she didn't know which one. I learned that having the prisoner number helps best when searching the Inmate Locator.)
  • "What was the exact year Noah built his Ark?"
  • "Can you tell me where to find replacement hinges for my oak toilet seat?"
  • "How do you cook beaver tail?"
  • A patron asked if he could copy/print life-sized clothing patterns for free so he could tailor a suit.
  • "I was told my house used to be where the library is now. Is that true?" In fact it was true! I was able to show them some documentation but suggested they check in with the folks who keep the town records for more information. They were so thrilled.
  • They needed the temperature and relative humidity for a city from 1906 to 2006. They were studying the effects of these factors on buildings. It is available through NOAA.
  • "I would like the personal e-mails and telephone numbers of the top 10 CEOs in New York City."
  • An Amish gentleman was hoping we could help him find images or drawings of a specific type of 1800s side-saddle that he was rebuilding for someone. And we did!
  • We were asked for resources for an Arabic speaking woman who was going through a contentious divorce with an extremely abusive husband.   She really needed legal services through an Arabic social service provider. We were able to refer her to two social service agencies that served the Arabic/Muslim community.
  • "What can I do with used tea bags? Can I feed them to the birds?"
  • "What is twerking and how do you do it?"
  • "How much did cocaine cost in the 80s? How much does it cost now?"

The Obvious

  • "Where do you keep the books?"
  • "Excuse you have any books?" My shocked expression helped her to realize that she had said "books" instead of "audiobooks!"
  • Patron holds up a book and asks, "Is there a way I can return this electronically?"
  • "Do you have audio books in large print?"
  • "How do I get to the upper floors?"
  • After walking around and scanning the shelves, "Is this the library?"
  • "Is this the Library?"
  • "Do you have books here?" (multiple people responded to the survey with this interesting patron question!)
  • "Do you have a bathroom?"
  • "Do I have to bring these books back?"
  • I work on the bookmobile with our outreach program and I am constantly asked, "Have you read all of these?" (We have over 3000 books on the bookmobile).
  • "Why don't you have any of the books I want?"
  • "Where are the good books?"
  • We were closed for a staff in service day; while emptying the outside drops, a staff member was asked by a patron if he could still print, even though the library was closed.
  • Someone called the reference desk and asked for the library's phone number
  • I answered the phone and the person asked "Do you have a phone there?" The real question was, "Can you tell me what letters are on each number of the dial?" (Yes, that long ago...He had a phone number that included letters, but the letters were long-gone from the dial)
  • "Is all of this really free??? You mean for real?" (Upon realizing they can check out headphones at the desk & realizing we had much more back here)
  • "Can birds fly?"
  • "Is it warm enough today to wear shorts?"

About the Librarian

  • "Where do you keep your bed?" (At an elementary school library)
  • "You look old enough to to have gone to Woodstock. Did you go? Did you do all kinds of drugs?"
  • "Which character from Harry Potter are you? (I wasn't dressed as a character.)
  • "Is Librarian your real name?" (Asked by a six year old).
  • "Is that where you sleep at night?" (Empty shelf on the bottom of the bookcase)
  • "Where do you sleep here?"
  • "What kind of bra are you wearing?"
  • During storytime, a little boy asked me, "What's your dad's name?" After I told him, he looked at me and said, "What kind of name is that?!"
  • "How many children do you have?" - as the first word when we have not met each other before
  • "Are you pregnant?" and "What are you having and when are you due?" (I was NOT pregnant)
  • A small boy and his mother were preparing to check out just before closing. To hurry the boy along the mother told him it was time for the staff to go home. The boy appeared stunned as he looked at the desk staff and asked: "You mean you don't live here?"
  • "How much do you make?"
  • I once asked a patron "Did you return from hell?" (I was inquiring about the graphic novel "From Hell" that was on his account.)

Pickup Lines

Courtesy: Kevin Dooley, Flickr | cc-by-2.0
  • "Outside of this library, would we be friends?"
  • "Will you pick me up for church tomorrow, then I can take you to lunch after?"
     (I politely declined).
  • "When are we getting married?"
  • "Do you have the book...'How do you ask a Librarian on a date'?"
  • What are some good pick-up lines to use with chicks?
  • A patron from Georgia came in to use one of our computers. He asked me out for dinner. I was confused by why he would do that since he did not know me and I did not know him. He called the next day and said he could tell I was uncomfortable. I replied by saying did he ask all women he did not know out for dinner. He apologized.
  • "Why is your hair always down?"
  • "Has anyone ever told you that you look like Clark Kent?" In response, I took off my glasses and said, "So does that mean...?" They shook their head "No" and walked off.
  • "Will you go on a date with me?"
  • "I need to know if I'm married."
  • "May I have a lock of your hair so I can wear it on a chain around my neck?"
  • "I found this dead you want to put it on display in your makerspace?"
  • "Do you want to have lunch, dinner, etc.?"

21st Century

  • "Can you print me out the Craig's List?"
  • "Is it alright if I fly my drone over the library?"
  • "What is a social security number and can you give it to me because I need to enter it into the computer?" (Asked by elementary student) 
  • "Where can I find a photograph of George Washington? What do you mean there are none? There are photographs of Abe Lincoln!"
  • "Can Google tell me the date I'm going to die?"
  • It's interesting to me that so many patrons do not know how to use a library catalog. I work in a law school library and it boggles my mind that many are clueless when it comes to searching for a title, author or subject. Either they are used to someone doing everything for them or they are so conditioned to "ask" their smartphones to find something. Is this a symptom of the Millennial generation or am I just old school?
  • "What is Google?"
  • "Who's in charge of space?"
  • "Is climate change real and is it caused by humans burning fossil fuels?"
  • "Can you buy dead body parts online?"
  • Using Facebook on a public computer: "Do you know why this girl won't message me back?"
  • "Can you give me a list of ingredients in my prescription drugs? I need you to tell me which ones the government is using to control me."
  • "Do I have to bring my router to the library in order to download eBooks?"
  • "What's my email password?"
  • "How do I get to Google?"
  • Patron had opened a document on the CD-Rom she had brought with her and wanted to know how to save edits.
  • Patron: Can you help me? I think something is wrong with your computers.
    Me: Oh no. What seems to be the problem?
    Patron: I changed my password on Facebook and now I can't log in to my email. I'm using the new password, so it must be your machines?
    Me: When you changed your Facebook password, did you also change the password for your email?
    Patron: They're not all connected?!
  • "Do you think the library is still useful now that everything can be done online?"

Above and Beyond

  • "Can you clean my earbuds for me?"
    "No, I can't do that."
    "I thought you helped people."
  • "Will you be a witness in our wedding ceremony?"
  • "Does this mean she's pregnant?" (As the student showed me the pregnancy kit stick.) Since that wasn't covered in library school, I took them to the counselor.
  • "I am related to King Arthur. How do I do my genealogy?"
  • "Have you seen my friend? She's blond."
  • "Have you seen my wife?" (from a tourist who had just arrived in town)
  • "Can you tell me where I put the DVD that I checked out?"
  • "How do I send this picture of a sexy firefighter to my girlfriend in jail?"
  • "Would you mind checking if I have nits?"
  • "Could I get someone to tie my shoe?"
  • "Do you do divorces here? Someone told me I could get a divorce at the library."
  • I actually had a patron call to get a phone number of a doctor across the country. What is so strange about that, you ask? I had left him a message with the information about a month earlier; but he didn't get the message because he said "My raccoon friends have stolen my phone."
  • "Do you have sex?" (turns out I couldn't understand his accent - he was asking for a SACK so that his books wouldn't get wet in the rain)
  • "What kind of pen do they use for the VW 'Sign and Drive' events?"
  • "Is this poison ivy?" It was.
  • "Can you change the prices on Amazon? The item I want is too expensive."
  • "Do you have a Q-tip? I need to do a DNA paternity test."
  • "May I look at your video surveillance tapes for every Thursday over the past 2 months? My Mom said I wore this shirt (points to her shirt) before and I say I didn't. She said I wore it to the Library and I want proof that I didn't." ~woman in her 50's
  • "My pig has vertigo. What do you think I should do for it?"
  • "I heard that you rake leaves. When would someone be available to rake my leaves?"
  • "Can I pay for prints with Food Stamps card?"
  • The lyrics to the old Crackerjacks commercial, which I then had to read to the person over the phone, loudly because the patron was hard of hearing. For the curious, they are:

What do you want when you gotta eat somethin',and it's gotta be sweet, and it's gotta be a lot,and you gotta have it now . . . . What do you want? Lip-smackin',Whip-crackin',Paddywhackin',Knickaknackin' Silabawhackin',Scalawhackin',Crackerjackin,Cracker Jack! What do you get when you open the top,and you look inside and smack your lips,and turn it over and spill it out? What do you get? Lip-smackin',Whip-Crackin',Paddywhackin',Olagazackin',Infolackin', Alliganackin',Crackerjackin',Cracker Jack! Candy-coated popcorn,peanuts and a prize . . . .That's what you get with Cracker Jack! "

Courtesy: Alexander Olm, Flickr | cc-by-nc-2.0
  • "Can I bring my Macaw bird into the library?"
  • "Where is your machine that sanitizes the library book pages?"
  • "Do have some lotion?"
  • "How do I find my lost hedgehog?"
  • "Can you reach into my pocket and get the change to pay for my copies?"
  • "How do you spell my cousin's name? (Asked by elementary student)
  • "Can you please hang fly strips by the computers? They are driving me nuts!"
  • "Do you eliminate papers here?" (After some questioning, I determined that she wanted us to laminate her papers.)
  • "My dinner guest has a handful of really old Tibetan gold coins. How much are they worth in Canadian dollars today? Could you please call me back by the time we finish dessert?"
  • "I want to find a new hobby that doesn't require a lot of manual dexterity, sharp eyesight, money or time. And I want to try it out before I buy any equipment- can you help?"
  • "Two of my three sons help me out a lot but the youngest doesn't do anything. Do you think I should cut him out of my will?"
  • "My dinner guest has a handful of really old Tibetan gold coins. How much are they worth in Canadian dollars today? Could you please call me back by the time we finish dessert?"
  • "I want to find a new hobby that doesn't require a lot of manual dexterity, sharp eyesight, money or time. And I want to try it out before I buy any equipment- can you help?"
  • One of the most touching questions I've been asked was from a patron who said he had a job interview and wanted to know if I could help him tie his tie. I hope he landed the job.
  • We had one patron come in before a job interview asking if we could help tie his tie. One of our circ ladies tied it for him and he got the job!
  • "That's my mother in that photo - one person in a crowd shown in a history book - how do I find the original?"
  • A patron asked about a rare book on court reporting, only found on Amazon for several hundred dollars. He then asked me to steal it for him.
  • "I need photographs of Native Americans from the 1700's. Do you have those?"
  • "How do I report my neighbors for not cleaning up after their dogs? I've already tried the police."
  • "Does your custodian do floors for private homes?" (She had the same kind of tile that we have in our hallway. Still weird.)
  • "There's a dead squirrel in my backyard. It was sick before it died, so I think it had some disease. Who can I report it to? I think someone should come take a look at it."
  • "Do you wear a two-piece swimsuit? And how do you keep the top from falling off in the pool?" (I gave them some waterproof cord to tie the straps together in the back.)
  • Male customer, mid 30's, had been trying to remember the name of an obscure Scandanavian crime author he had read over 5 years ago. The book had a black/grey cover, with a gun on it! He had been out of town for a few years, but I looked up his old Townsville library card, and previous borrowed items, with no luck. Then the customer said that he might have read it from the Cairns library, when he lived there. Rang Cairns library, confirmed patron's identity, and we started looking at titles - found a title that the patron thought was familiar, and then we had the author! Great inter-library collaboration and customer service! Then I placed reserves on the author's other titles in our catalogue, and the original title for him to enjoy re-reading. One of my my favourite library memories, because of how happy and appreciative the customer was, after two years of him trying to find out the author's name. The Cairns library staff member was just as intrigued!
  • "How much does Mt McKinley (Denali) weight? Is that with or without the snow?"
  • "I need a book about thinking about what you're thinking about." (With no further clarification)
  • A patron asked if I could help her get on so that they could trace their ancestry to Willie Nelson, Charles Manson, and Ted Bundy, who were apparently all their cousins.
  • "Can you remove this curler from my hair? My hairdresser is closed today and it's really stuck."
  • I was asked to find a dentist who did work on a sliding scale, whose office was easily accessible using public transit, in a town 2,000 miles away from my library.  To my surprise, I found one! I told the patron in triumph, only to be told: "Oh, I don't like that dentist.  Can you find me another one?"
  • I have been asked for the nutritional facts for Chicken McNuggets and Arby's sandwiches. AND I have been asked to print out a menu for red lobster and then save it at the desk for when the patron decided to pick it up.
  • "Can you help me get on a dating site?" After weeks of helping him learn how to use a computer, he revealed his true goal. I was a little wary but I helped him and he ended up marrying someone he met online. I attended the wedding!
  • "I had the greatest gynecologist back in the 1960s. I can't remember his name or where his practice was, and he was pretty old back then so he's probably dead now. Can you find his name for me?"
  • "Can you drive me home?"
  • A patron kept calling every couple of minutes asking me to look up a wide variety of topics - from actors in certain tv shows, to place names, to specific terminology. She wouldn't respond to any additional reference interview questions, just looking for specific answers. After about the 4th or 5th time I talked to her, I asked, "Are you writing a book?", she replied, "No, I'm doing the daily crossword."
  • "Could I please have a list of all the grocery stores in Beijing, China?"
  • "Who is my dentist?"
  • Man walked up to the desk one morning and said, "I think I have a hernia. Do you have a book with pictures of hernias that I can take to the bathroom?" "No." "I can photocopy a couple of pictures that you may keep."  This was pre-Internet.
  • "Can I use Interlibrary Loans to move my stuff?"

The Mysterious

  • A patron called requesting to see one of our collections because her medium had told her that her deceased grandfather had included a will in that collection.
  • "Are you a Pleiadian?""
    "You know, a star person."
  • Patron approached Reference Desk and asked for a picture of his father.
    "Who is your father?" I asked. "God." 
    "OK, well God doesn't like to be photographed but we have some artists' paintings of God in books. Would that do?"
    Exit happy patron.
  • "Who's car is that out there in the parking lot with all that stuff in it?" (We have a patron that his a hoarder.)
  • I had a patron at the reference desk who was insistent that he needed to find [a] source to purchase dragon blood. I thought perhaps he was referring to another substance that he knew as "dragon blood" but no, he actually wanted real dragon blood.
  • "How do I find out whose ghost is haunting my house?"
  • "I think my house is haunted. How can I tell if it really is and what should I do about it?"
  • "What really happens after you die?" (talk about an open ended question)
  • "How do I find scholarly articles on the zombie apocalypse?"
  • "Where's the best place to see UFOs in the state?"
  • "Can I get a photograph of a dinosaur?"
  • A patron needed a referral to someone who could take out the implanted device placed in his brain by the government.
  • "Do you have any books on selenophobia...a fear of the moon?" (Patron said he only recently developed this fear.)
  • "I need all the news stories about the incident that was in the documentary The Blair Witch Project." (When I gently told the patron that the story was fictional, she angrily told me I was wrong and that she would find another librarian willing to provide the news clippings.)
  • "I had a dream that I saw a newspaper article from the early 1900s with a picture of a man in some kind of uniform. Can you help me find the newspaper article?  I think the man's name was Richard, or Richie."
  • "When will COVID be over?"
  • Over the phone: "My cat has something weird going on with her eyes, like flecks but they're the same color as her eyes, I can't decribe it but can you google it?...No, I want you to google the problem in humans but it's my cat's eyes...No, I can't really describe what it looks like."
  • Once a person called asking about Revolutionary War battles that occurred in our area (we're located in South Jersey). I found out that there weren't any battles in our town, but there were soldier encampments. They thanked me for the information and then confessed that they were asking because, while on vacation in our area, they saw the ghost of a Revolutionary War ghost walking down the road. I love a good ghost story! We had a great time swapping paranormal tales for a few more minutes.
  • "How long will my house stay warm after the power goes off?"
  • I remember a woman asking about the temperature at which plastic melts. Turns out she was thinking of turning up the heat in her house high enough to kill the fleas (though she didn't ask what temperature that was) but was concerned about her plastic items melting!
  • "Do you have any information about a family that was killed in the seventies near here?"
  • "Do you have any books on removing a lizard from a sump pump?"
  • "Is there a hotline to report a UFO sighting?" Answer: Yes there is.
  • "Do you have books about how to hunt Bigfoot in Minnesota?"
  • "Can you make soup in the oven?"
  • "Please find me information about McDonalds' employees being microchipped."
  • "Sometime in the past 25-50 years there was a death in my house. Supposedly a wife pushed her husband down a flight of stairs and broke his neck. It may not have been reported as a crime. I don't have a name, and that is what I am looking for. A local ghost hunter was here and this story has merit based on their findings." (Turns out, based on local news stories, there was domestic violence and an accidental death in that house.)
  • After the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, a class of 7th or 8th graders came to the library and wanted "to see everything you've got about it." These were the days of the vertical file for newspaper clippings, so they pored over those for an hour or so. Then their teacher came to the Reference desk and asked, "Are you sure that's EVERYTHING?" Yes, we replied, could you be more specific about what you need? "Well, said she, what we really need to know is...did those people go to heaven?"
  • "What kind of fly is in this picture? It lives in our drain and my wife and I think of it as a pet."
  • "Can you help me write me write a letter to this werewolf coven?"
  • "Do you know if the campus goose is still alive? I haven't seen him in 10 days."
  • "If a person wanted to sell their soul to the devil how would they do it and what is the going rate?" This was not a joke.
  • "What are the physical symptoms of demonic possession?"
  • "Do you have any non-fiction books about Unicorns? I want to know what year they went extinct."
  • The patron wanted books that spoke about the world being flat.

Classic Readers Advisory

  • "I checked out a book from your library, a number of years ago, and I really liked the book. I don't remember the title or author, but it had a blue cover. Could you help me find it?"
  • "Do you know where that book is with the blue cover?"
  • "Can you help me find the book with the green cover?"
  • "Do you have the book by this guy Les Miserables?"
  • The person wanted assistance finding a title of a book they read in 1957. He remembered details about the characters and the plot, but little else. Title was found!
  • A young patron asked to see our Marvel Comics trade paperbacks, but complained that the comics were "too cartoon-ey"
  • "Do you have that book, 'How to kill a mockingbird?'"
  • "Do you have any murder mystery books but not ones where there is a lot of death and dying?"
  • "Do you have this book in regular print (because the large print will take too long to read)?"
  • One patron asked "Do you have sex?"  He meant the book "Sex: a man's guide." He was so embarrassed once he realized what he said and saw my stunned look.

Just Wow

  • "What is the phone number to an Italian meat market in New York?" The person needed the number because they were positive they are all run by the Mafia and needed their number.
  • "What smells like pork and beans?"
  • "How can I break up concrete without a jackhammer? There's a concrete block in my basement and I think someone hid a body in it."
  • "Why does your library have Danielle Steel? I thought this was an educated community."
  • "How did I get so smart?"
  • "How long does it take for a dead body to stop smelling?"
  • "Why doesn't the library have ONLY dinosaur books?"
  • "Where are your large print books? See? I'm visually impaired." Then proceeds to pop out her glass eye to show me.
  • "Why do you have public restrooms?"
  • "Can you ban all noisy children from the library?"
  • "Why do you have so many books in this building?"
  • "Do you know if [insert retail store name] is hiring for a morning only shift?"
  • "Are you a sister library of the New York Public Library?" (We are in Virginia!)
  • "Is Captain Crunch Charles Manson's father?"
  • "Can my dead grandma get a library card?"
  • "I had a Spanish family move in next door. How do I say their names in English?"
  • "How many languages are spoken on the moon?"
  • "Describe the taste of blood."
  • "How much does it cost to work at the library?"
  • "Do you think the reason California has so many earthquakes is because of all the illegal immigrants?" (from a Midwestern Great Lakes region library)
  • When our local fire department tested the tornado siren (which happens monthly) here in our small town, a patron called us to ask if there was a tornado. I must admit we told her to go to the basement just in case, which was probably not an appropriate response, since it was just a test.
  • "How do you change urine into drinking water?"
  • I once had someone ask if it is legal to bury someone in your yard in Alaska. (Turns out it is....go figure....)
  • Using the Chicago phone book, tell patron which people named Genovese were in the mob. I had to tell that person the phone book did not provide that type of information.
  • "I just bought a frozen turkey from the store. How long can I leave it in my car while I'm in the library without it going bad?"
  • The most interesting question was also the most awkward for me. I had a male patron approach the reference desk and politely ask: "Is it's true that there's a website you can check to see whether there are pedophiles living in your neighborhood?" "Yes, there is," I replied while bringing up the site, and just to show him how this works, I typed in a random zip code, and scrolling down the page, I saw his photo!!
  • "A patron wanted a version of the bible that had a picture/drawing of a rocket in it! He was relentless in coming in every day asking for it."
  • I was asked if we had anything that would help a patron learn British. When I explained that we didn't he then requested something to help him learn Italian. "That's a different language, right?"
  • Today I was asked by a patron to help him find websites that sell pond liners. For what? His 8' alligator that lives in his basement.
  • "How old are you???" asked by a children's librarian with 36 years on the job!
  • "I'm filming a movie. How much should I pay my stunt people?"
  • "Do y'all have books on how to make meth?" He'd just heard about a meth lab that exploded and was apparently fascinated.
  • "How do I go about buying property on the Moon?"
  • A patron asked for a book about how to pick winning lottery numbers.
  • "Why do my ovaries itch?" (or is this a pickup line??)
  • "Can I eat a partially frozen egg?"
  • "Do you have the book on the 36 hours my mom was in labor with me?"
  • "Why did Obama sell the internet to Egypt?"
  • Patron wished to see the birth certificate for Jesus Christ.

Library of Things

  • "Do you have a piano we can borrow?"
  • "Do you have a TV to watch shows?"
  • "Do you loan breast pumps?"
  • "Do you have any garden seeds for checkout?"