Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Strange Tales from Auckland Libraries...

If you've ever worked in a job that involves a lot of customer service, you'll have a few funny stories. One of life's inevitables, if you work in a bookshop (or a library) long enough, is to be asked "Do you have any books?" by customers who have just passed a large display of them. I worked in bookshops for a decade, and over the years, I was asked if we sold grand pianos, cars and ladies' underwear. That's why, when Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops came out recently, it gave me many a wry chuckle. In it, you will find the answer to the question: "Did Anne Frank ever write a sequel?" You will also meet the woman from Canada who rang every bookshop on the Internet - including the ones in the UK - to demand they remove The Gruffalo from their shelves because her daughter thought it was scary. Not to mention the mother who rang to get her teenage daughter a job:
"But I'm not sure she wants a job, so maybe if you came round and convinced her you'd like her to work for you."    

Step into our shoes and you will be gobsmacked. You will be confused. And you will sometimes find it very hard not to laugh.



"At closing time one Saturday a library assistant went to check the toilets to make sure there were no customers still inside. He found a man sitting on the loo, stark naked, with a bottle of beer in his hand. As you do..." (Waitakere Central)

"A customer asked for a book with photographs of REAL dinosaurs. They were very disappointed to discover no one had thought of such a thing." (Ponsonby)
"Once a man came into the library, and asked for a blue book. I asked what the book was supposed to be about, or what he wanted to know, but he simply repeated that he wanted a blue book. I thought if all it takes to make the man happy is to find him a blue book then I should just do it, so half-jokingly I wandered over to the shelf with him and picked out a book that looked blue. He said: "No, that's not blue, that's light purple". So I found a more decidedly blue book, at which he smiled, thanked me, and went away happy." (Auckland Central)
Perhaps he was going through a blue phase, like Picasso? And here's another one:

"You got that red book!!" she asked, or was that a yell? 
"Which one did you mean?" I asked her.
"Y'know, that red one..Don't be so silly, of course you know!"
"No I do not. Do you know the author or title by any chance?"
"NO!! You should know, you're a librarian aren't you?"  (Manurewa)

We librarians do like to think of ourselves as well-informed, but alas, we're not psychic. On that note:

"I had a woman come in and ask me to find James Cameron's contact details. Because she was "the psychic sensitive that gave him the idea for Avatar"." (New Lynn)
I would like to know how she gave him this idea without his contact details! 

Recently a woman with a strong Eastern European accent came in and asked where the honey factory was. I tried to work out if it was a specific factory or brand. "Manuka honey", she replied. Seems to some tourists manuka and Manukau are too similar; they come here expecting a huge factory that produces all the manuka honey in the world." (Manukau)

"My favourite so far is this person who came in upset that his doctor had said the the tiny insects burrowing into his scalp were imaginary. He came to the library to show his scalp to a librarian and ask if we knew what the insects were..." (Onehunga)

"Two young boys (around five or six) were in the library talking about how old their grandparents were. One young lad said his granddad was really old. The other young lad said: "My granddad is even older than that, he's nearly dead". Granddad was highly impressed - he was in his early fifties." (Mangere Town Centre)
"A customer had just walked into the library for the first time, and when she saw the large ADULT FICTION section she seemed aghast. There was a look of great relief on her face when I explained that it was just fiction for adults, not the X-rated section." (Orewa)
But it's not just the customers:
"I recall being asked for a book about teaching deaf cats to communicate. Admittedly, I asked the inane question: "You mean like signing for deaf people?"" (Massey)

"One quiet Saturday morning there was suddenly a tremendous BANG! Clouds of books exploded off the shelves, and a car appeared through the wall! One of our retired librarians had mistaken drive for reverse, and accelerated over a raised flowerbed into the fiction section. We cordoned off the hole so people could keep browsing." (Titirangi) 

"I had just started working at the library, at the tender young age of 17. A customer came in and asked if I could tell her where she could find the women's room. Feeling ever so helpful, I told her that it was outside, and up the path, just to the left of the library building. I still remember the look of total confusion on the lady's face, until she finally figured out what I was referring to. After laughing a wee bit, she told me that she was referring to the book by Marilyn French, entitled The Women's Room. I was mortified!" (Glenfield)

It really is a wonderful job at times!


breve711 said...

I just started reading Free for All by Don Borchert (from the library) and it's along the lines of your strange tales, but in the states :)

Scriven said...

Thanks for that, Breve - must have a read!