Books · Lifestyle

Library Law: Checking in Books and Breaking Up Fights

9733763683_de45d5361e_zPhoto by laura redburn via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

We librarians are expected to check out your books and answer your reference questions. But we’re often called upon to perform other tasks. When a Facebook pal recently asked her fellow librarians “What has been your most memorable ‘other duty’ since you began your career?” the responses she got might surprise people who think that library work is quiet, humdrum, and routine:


Breaking up fights between moms in our play area. 

Picking up poop in the Storybook Garden before the ice cream social.  

I once guided the bomb squad as they slowly and methodically combed through our two-story library. Empty phone threat—phew

Furnace repair. 

Escorting a pigeon out of the computer lab. 

Breaking up a couple who were making whoopee in the Women’s Bathroom. (I was the very definition of “coitus interruptus.”) 

Dealing with the dead trout in our fish tank. 

Putting pajamas on a llama. (He was part of a story time presentation.)

Administering first aid to a patron who was stabbed in the computer lab.  

I do Potty Story Time, so once every three months I spend 30 minutes extolling the virtues of pooping into a toilet to a room full of strangers. 

Pulling weeds. 

Posing for stock photos. 

Distracting a student (who’d threatened a prof with a gun before hiding out at the library) until the police arrived.   

Shoveling sidewalks. 

Tending chickens. 

Checking to see if the dude who’d been in his car in our parking lot for hours, motionless, was dead. (He wasn’t. Just sound asleep.) 

Holding a bag containing a baby wallaby so it would stay calm during a story time presentation. 

Calling 911 after a pregnant young woman passed out cold at the computers. (The ambulance arrived quickly and she was okay.) 

Chasing down and tackling the miscreants who grabbed our “Donate Your Spare Change to the Library” canister and ran out the door with it. 

Helping patrons apply for Moose Permits. 

Removing a black widow spider.  

Climbing onto the roof to retrieve a young patron’s stuffed animal. 

Administering CPR to a patron who had a heart attack in the Reading Room.  (He survived.) 

Making a sign for one of our bathrooms that said “There is a live duck in the bathroom. Do not let it out. Use the other bathroom.”


So the next time the line backs up at your library’s circulation desk because there’s only one librarian on duty instead of the usual two? Don’t get angry. That other librarian may be busy fixing the furnace, holding a wallaby, shoveling the sidewalk . . .  or saving a life.  


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  • Kelly March 28, 2016 at 10:57 am


  • Perry Block March 24, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    OMG! I didn’t know I needed a permit for my moose!

  • Diane March 24, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I always say there’s a world of entertainment at your local library! 🙂

  • JC March 24, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Ditto. I love how people say “A librarian -how nice-you get to sit and read books all day”. It was nice but had many of the same challenges you describe. My favorite was when a patron brought in this huge fungi and wanted to know if it was toxic as he wanted to eat it. Found a pamphlet saying it was highly toxic and he was angry with me. Go figure.

  • Suzanne Fluhr March 24, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Maybe I should have been a librarian for my encore career. I would so love to hold a baby wallaby for story time. Cleaning up story time poop—-not so much.

  • Lois Alter Mark March 23, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    You knew you would wear so many hats? At least you know you have many jobs to fall back on – just in case.

  • Alana March 23, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    When I was growing up in New York City, I wanted to be a librarian. And not just any kind of librarian, but a bookmobile librarian. The dream never came true, but, hey, I would have missed the duck bathroom and the llama. And, in New York City, I bet I never would have helped apply for a moose permit.

  • Ruth Nathan March 23, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Too much! The story about the duck rings true. Remind me to tell you about it.

  • Mister Wonderful March 23, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    This is wonderful writing!

  • Nancy March 23, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    I worked in libraries for ages. The weirdest thing thing for me was chasing out the masturbo-pervs out of the stacks. The rubber band man was the strangest one of these.

  • Carol Cassara March 23, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Well, so here’s what i learned. Being a librarian is wayyy more exciting than I ever thought it could be. If more people knew, there’d be more librarians.

  • Leslie Handler March 23, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Oh Arizona, utilities librarians get all the fun.

  • hillsmom March 23, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Roz does it again! Who knew she had such adventures, and also plenty of experiences for more essays. “Library Woman”…what a good idea. Love it!

  • Bonnie K. Frogma March 23, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Was this a real llama?

    Are there pictures?

  • Roz Warren March 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Dave, funny you shold mention that. A good friend just told me that Batgirl is a librarian.

  • Dave Astor March 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Funny/eye-opening piece, Roz. The next superhero(ine) should be…LibraryWoman!