7 weirdest things I’ve seen in the library – from a library assistant

8 mins read

by Asya Filipova

I work as a library shelving assistant – such a quiet, peaceful job, right?

Well, that’s how the cliché goes, and let me tell you, I usually respect clichés, because more often than not they’ve turned into clichés for a good reason.

Not in this case though.

I have never become privy to a greater number of bizarre situations at any of my other jobs, and I spent three years working as a bartender/waitress.


The obvious number one. We’ve all seen them, we all know them, but you never feel their effect on you until it becomes your job to be around them. The sleepers.

I’ve seen people make pyramids of books and put them over their head to block out the light. I’ve seen people take naps between book aisles and moving the mobile shelves with their bodies.

I’ve seen a girl take her bra off and use it as a pillow. The effect I mentioned? I have myself become completely disinterested in worrying about where I sleep and who might be watching me sleep.

I mean, if I didn’t care about that guy who fell out of his chair while napping, why would anyone care about me taking a much-needed, well-deserved midday nap on that very public bench on campus?


– Excuse me, why isn’t it letting me take this book out?

– Oh, it seems to be put on hold by someone.

– But I really need it… I mean, if the person’s not here, surely I could just take it out?

– I’m sorry but, unfortunately, that’s not possible – you’ll need to wait for that person to return it.

*Sees person leaving the library half an hour later and hears the alarm going off*

Credit: Giphy

– Oh, it must’ve not scanned properly!

*Checks book and sees barcode’s missing*

I get it, mate. Totally unrelated.


End of semester. Exam session.

– Excuse me, are there any other floors in the library? I’m so confused.

– Yeah, there are two more – I totally know how you feel, I was completely lost in first year too!

– Oh no, I’m actually doing fourth year.

Yeah, I’m the one who ends up confused when I see them again the following semester.


Nothing better than doing a shift towards the end of term time – it’s like playing treasure hunt. Students on the brink of a mental breakdown desperately hide piles of books in the strangest of places hoping we won’t find them and put them back where they belong for others to use.

Credit: Asya Filipova

It makes the job so exciting, where will I find the next pile?

Will it be behind the printer, behind the blinds, maybe behind the toilet seat in the accessible toilet… or behind my ear perhaps? Unfortunately, it’s library policy to put everything we find back on the shelves – and you can almost hear the subtle sound their heart will make when it breaks once they come back and realise their hopes and dreams are gone.

It’s painful.


The beggars are just evolved hiders – they realise library staff specialise in book hunting, so they turn to more desperate measures, e.g. THE NOTES.

THE NOTES are heart-breaking novels which you find attached to the pile of hidden books. They tell stories about life-threatening essay deadlines which, if missed, would imminently lead to a life deprived of happiness and love.

Credit: Tenor

I’ve heard I’m supposed to just ignore them and put the books back. I can’t. Nobody could. Even you, library-manager-who-made-those-brutal-rules, even you.


Ah, my favourite, the non-believers. People who come and ask you how to find a book and then don’t believe you when you say it’s not there and that’s definitely due to any conspiracy against them.

– But…but it says it’s available!

– Yeah, I’m sorry – someone’s probably using it somewhere in the library. You can report it as missing if you can’t find it next time.

– But did you check everywhere?

– I checked all the places where it’s supposed to be.

– But we must check everywhere! I don’t think you checked everywhere!

Yeah, about that: if you wish to check every single bit of space in the library, be my guest.

However, it’s not exactly library policy, otherwise we wouldn’t get round to getting anything done.

That’s probably what doctors feel like when they have to treat people who are suspicious about vaccines.

“So, you came here because you know I’m the expert, but I told you something you don’t like, so you choose not to trust my expertise?”


People always look for a specific book. And I mean, a very very specific book, which they must find r-i-g-h-t n-o-w. And they must find it by the two words they remember were in it.

– Just try the catalogue and use the key words you can remember.

– But you work here, surely you would know about that book I graced with a quick glance a few years back and then lost track of for the rest of eternity?

Credit: Imgur

No, mate, I do Journalism and Politics – I can tell you all about war theory, but I really don’t know much about the sustainability of local fish farming practices in South Africa. Just put the key words in the catalogue.

I love my job, I truly do, but I could keep this list going forever. To be fair, that’s probably why I love it.

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1 Comment

  1. Oh my, having spent some amount of time in libraries as a college student (TEN YEARS) I have seen some funny things but these take the cake 😛 I had nooooo idea students hid books, my goodness.

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