Crowdsourcing Alternatives to "There Are No Stupid Questions"

Brianna Hoffman, WebJunction Project Coordinator /

Libraries are a place for finding answers, but first come the questions. Whether working at the reference desk or teaching a class, you've likely had more than a handful of patrons approach you to say, "I have a stupid question." My response has usually been, "There are no stupid questions" but I don't like this response. I decided to take advantage of my social media learning network and #LibraryTwitter to ask colleagues there for advice on how to respond in a more positive way. The crowdsourced responses to my post were so helpful and inspirational that I wanted to share with the WebJunction community. If you have response ideas to share, feel free to respond to my post or comment below. Thank you to all of you for your fantastic ideas!

  • “If you have the question, someone else probably has it too.”

  • [at the reference desk: “this is a stupid question..."] “Oh good! I can answer those!”

  • “If you have a question, I guarantee someone else has it too." I also like to tell classes that I get paid by the question. :)

  • “Every question is a good question.”

  • “Questions are always worth asking,” or “Any question is a good question.”

  • [for children] “It’s smart to ask for help when you need it.”

  • “Basic (or beginner) questions are okay!”

  • “Any questions? If you’re thinking it, someone else probably is too! Help us out and share!”

  • “There are no foolish questions,” or “There are no silly questions.”

  • “We’re here to answer all questions,” or “All questions are welcome.”

  • I always tell patrons they can ask “an UNLIMITED amount of questions (so keep coming back, you’re not bothering me)!”

  • If someone says “I have a stupid question…” respond: “Great! My specialty! What’s the question?” respond: “I’m sorry, that’s not stupid, you’ll have to try again,” smile friendly and give the answer.

  • “If you were brave enough to ask, others had the question too.”

  • “If you are interested in X, nothing you ask about X is going to be useless,” or “Everything you ask about X is meaningful.”

  • “All your questions are valid and welcome.”

  • “All questions matter.”

  • “What questions do you have?”

  • “All questions are worth asking.”

  • “All questions are relevant.”

  • “If you have a question, others are likely wondering the same thing too – just ask it!”

  • “Ask and let’s find the answer.”

  • “There is no question that deserves to be mocked.”

  • Instead of “Do you have any questions?” ask “What questions do you have?” it makes questions normal and expected.

  • “Questions in search of understanding are always welcome.”