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Committed To Understanding

| Baltimore, MD, USA | Language & Words, Love/Romance, Non-Dialogue

Today a library customer called and told me she had an unusual question. She was born in another country, and usually drank tea. She knew Americans like coffee, and she wanted to brew coffee for some guests. After helping her with coffee to water ratios and converting ounces to milliliters, she said, since I have you on the phone…

“I am friends with a younger woman who was not born in the US. She has been spending time with a young man from her classes. He recently said he wanted a commitment. We looked this up in the dictionary, but we do not understand exactly what this means. Is it a marriage proposal?”

I asked some questions, and discovered that the young woman and the man had been dating, and assured the caller that a commitment in dating terms meant that the couple would be exclusive, not engaged.

The caller was very sweet and thankful. I hope she calls again!

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Life Is Stranger Than The Search For Fiction

| New Orleans, LA, USA | Books & Reading

(I work in a library system where the adult fiction is shelved by genre: general fiction, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and western.)

Patron: “There was a book I checked out once but I can’t find it now. The author’s last name was Hamilton.”

Me: “Do you remember the title of the book?”

Patron: “No.”

Me: “The author’s first name?”

Patron: “No.”

Me: “What was the book about?”

Patron: “I don’t remember, but I really liked it and the name was Hamilton.”

Me: *searching by last name* “There are several different authors with that last name. Do you remember which genre the book was? Was it a mystery?”

Patron: “No, it wasn’t a mystery. It was just a story with things happening.”

Me: “That sounds like it would be general fiction.”

Patron: “No, it wasn’t general fiction. It was definitely a mystery.”

Me: “Okay, let’s go look in the mystery section.”

Patron: “Well, it wasn’t so much a mystery, but it had a cowboy in it.”

Me: “That sounds like it would be in the western section.”

(We go look. There are no books there by a Hamilton.)

Patron: “Actually, maybe Hamilton was the title of the book.”

Me: “…”

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Looking For Wifi In All The Wrong Places

| New Orleans, LA, USA | Extra Stupid, Technology

Patron: *indicating a tablet* “I just got this and I need help with it.”

Me: “Are you trying to connect to the library Wi-Fi?”

Patron: “No, I just bought this and I need help getting it to work.”

Me: “Ma’am, are you asking me to set up your new tablet for you?”

Patron: “Yes.”

Me: “If you have a question pertaining to the library, I’ll be happy to help you with that, but if you need help setting up your tablet you should contact the company where you purchased it.”

Patron: *bewildered* “So, you just do library questions?”

Me: “…”

(The same patron comes up to the front desk 10 minutes before we close.)

Patron: *indicating same tablet again* “I went and talked to [Company] and I need to set up my Wi-Fi password.”

Me: “You don’t need a password to access the library Wi-Fi. It’s free and not password-protected. Maybe they were talking about setting up your Wi-Fi at home?”

Patron: “I’m not at home. I’m here at the library, and they told me I need to add a password.”

Me: “Not that I’m doubting [Company]’s expert knowledge on every aspect of our library’s Wi-Fi, but I can assure you that it does not require a password and there is no way you could use your tablet to add a password to the library’s Wi-Fi.”

Patron: *holding up cell phone* “But I got a text saying I used 90% of my gigabytes and they are charging me for it and it was because of your Wi-Fi! I need to add a password!”

Me: “There is no possible way that [Company] is charging you for using our free, public library Wi-Fi. Now, we’re about to close, so why don’t you come back tomorrow and use our Wi-Fi then?”

Patron: *with a judgmental glare* “Fine. I’ll just go to a coffee shop. Maybe THEY will help me!”

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Making A Dramatic Leap

| OR, USA | At The Checkout, Books & Reading, Crazy Requests

(Right before closing, a patron comes up to the self-check machines with a very large pile of children’s books. After we’ve closed, he’s still using the machine and is having some difficulties with it.)

Coworker: “I can help you over here, sir.”

Patron: “No, I’ll do this myself.”

Coworker: “Well, those are programmed to turn off automatically after closing and they are about to turn off, so I can continue to check out to you over here.”

(The patron continues to use the self-check anyway, at which point he gets a message saying the computer is shutting down.)

Patron: “Why is this shutting down?! I’m using it!”

Coworker: “Those machines automatically turn themselves off after closing. I can check out to you over here.”

Patron: “So you’re saying you don’t want my children to read?!”

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Lost In Multiple Translations

| Mariehamn, Finland | Books & Reading, Crazy Requests

(I’m standing in line at the service desk at the library. It is located in a Swedish-speaking region of Finland. A patron is in front of me.)

Patron: “Hi! I’m looking for a book. A very specific book.”

Librarian: *very friendly and accommodating* “Of course. Do you have the title or the name of the author so I can look it up for you?”

Patron: “Well, here’s where you can help me, because I can’t remember the title of the book. Or who wrote it. But I think it was about an Italian girl… or a woman. Maybe she was French, by the way. Or Finnish. Somewhere from that area anyway.”

Librarian: *still friendly* “All right…”

Patron: “There also may have been a crocodile involved in the book somehow. But I can’t remember which page that was on. Or if it even was in this book.”

Librarian: *just a tad less accommodating now* “Well, er, you see—”

Patron: *interrupting* “And I simply can’t remember what language it was written in, but it’s very important that you find me the book with a Swedish translation. The original edition was written in English. It might have been Japanese, though. And there was a crocodile in it. I think. In Finland. Or in Italy. It’s about divorces.”

Librarian: *not looking very happy at all* “Let’s just go have a look at our fiction section, then…”

Patron: “No! It was a biography! Or a short story. I think.” *they walk away*

Me: *to the other librarian* “And I thought I had had a bad day working in retail.”

Other Librarian: “This is the second time this week!”

(I later found out that the woman was looking for ‘The No. One Ladies Detective Agency’ by Alexander McCall Smith! Way to describe it.)

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