I've always been a library patron. Even before my mom starting working at the library, we attended programs and checked out books every week. In all, I've hung out, volunteered, and worked in libraries; I've even done janitorial work in one. Growing up in the library meant getting to know staff and patrons alike. So when it comes to stuff that happens in the library, I've seen — or heard — it all.
As in any service position, library staff encounter rudeness from patrons on a daily basis. Most of it is just the same inconsiderate assholery you expect when you work with the public, but some situations are unique to the library itself.
I know most annoying library patrons aren't trying to be horrible people. But when you're using a public service on a regular basis, you should try to be your best self. It's mutually beneficial: you don't ruin a staff member's day, and they aren't inclined to ruin yours.
The following are the 14 worst behaviors library patrons can exhibit. If you see your own library habits listed here, it might be time to reconsider your behavior. Even if you're the worst patron in the world, you can still make a fresh start and become a model library user.
The library, as an institution, has changed quite a lot over the years. While you'll be hard-pressed today to find the persistently shushing old lady librarian made famous by the media, and while the library can get pretty loud and rambunctious, you should still use your inside voice and treat the building, well, like a library. That means no yelling, running, hammering your keyboard, playing loud music, or being a general nuisance to staff and fellow patrons.
Bringing in Food and Drink
Library materials and equipment should be respected. The reading lounge might look like your living room, but that doesn't mean you get to bring in your potato chip bag and get crumbs everywhere. I know it probably seems as if the library staff just don't trust you to be a responsible adult. That's because they don't. Accidents happen, and the last thing your local library wants to do is spend big bucks to get your caramel mocha Frappuccino out of the carpet.
Thinking Everyone Who Works at the Library Is a Librarian
In order to be a librarian, a person has to get a Master of Library and Information Science degree. If they don't have one, they aren't a librarian, OK? Sure, there's bound to be at least one person in the building with an MLIS, but it probably isn't the woman talking to you, and it certainly isn't the book jockey pushing carts around all day. Thinking only librarians work in libraries isn't harmful; it's just annoying.
Cutting in Line
This is just a general rule, really, but if a staff member is currently helping someone else, don't interrupt them to ask for help. Unless you're having a heart attack or the building is on fire, it can wait. Even if your question will take two seconds to answer, wait your turn. And, please, don't yell from the computer lab to the front desk for assistance. C'mon.
Making "Sexy Librarian" or Other Inappropriate Jokes
Ugh. Whenever you're tempted to say something like this, just stop. Trust me, you aren't the first person to make that joke, and no one thinks it's cute. This includes renditions of "Marian the Librarian" from The Music Man. And also, don't hit on the staff. You're only making everyone uncomfortable.
Getting Irate Because the Books You Want Are Unavailable
If you find out your local library doesn't have the book you need, don't get in a huff. Even the Library of Congress doesn't have every book. Instead, politely inquire as to whether you can place an interlibrary loan or file a purchase request. If you go full-on jerk when you hear that the library doesn't have what you want, the staff won't suggest these options to you, so be nice.
Trying to Get Books Banned
The library is a public service, not a gatekeeper for morality. They may have books you find offensive, and that's OK. What makes the library brilliant is that it is an equal opportunity book provider. So, please, don't be the person who tries to get every book outside of her worldview banned. Picketing the library won't win you a book-burning, but it will make you one of the most annoying breeds of library patrons.
Misusing the Library's Computers
Remember when I said I'd seen it all? Here are just a few examples of the ways in which annoying library patrons misuse and abuse public computers. One rude man used to turn off the monitors on either side of him, so that no one would sit next to him while he unwrapped granola bars and potato chips and watched YouTube videos. One woman would harass patrons on the computers to let her have a turn, then yell to the front desk that her computer screen wasn't bright enough. Then there are all the "accidental" porn downloads... The moral of the story is: if you don't know how to use a computer and play nice with others, please stop annoying library staff.
Thinking the Library Is Google
OK, so the New York Public Library is an amazing, amazing institution that will answer any and all research questions you have. Unless you are calling the NYPL, however, it's probably best to try Googling your question first. If that fails, the library is full of thousands of books that might contain the information you need, and library staff will be more than happy to help you find it, but please don't expect them to do all your legwork for you.
Not Minding Your Children
Not all children are complete terrors when left unattended, and the library is absolutely one of the best places you can take your kids on an outing. However, please make sure you know where they are and how they're behaving. When I worked for the library, I had a patron let her small child pull 25 books off the shelves, scatter them down an aisle, and then lie in that aisle and read. While I was pushing around a 60 lb. cart, trying to shelve books. No one wants to step on your child, so please keep little Joffrey on a short leash.
Making a Mess of the Library's Organizational System
Speaking of which, the aforementioned Cersei wasn't very respectful of library organization, either. She enjoyed pulling books off of my — neatly and precisely ordered — cart and then shoving them back into any spot that would have them. Most libraries have signs telling you where to leave books you aren't taking with you, and most don't want you to reshelve your own books. Rather than making library staff even more overworked, just follow the rules.
Constantly Returning Books Damaged
Thou shalt not return books with any of the following: illegal drugs, water damage, urine odors, cigarette burns, coffee stains, fecal matter, roaches, or peanut butter globs. OK? OK.
Using the Library for Your Romantic Rendezvous
I know, movies and TV make making out in the stacks look like the sexiest thing since Matt Bomer, but those are actually really, really annoying situations for library staff to deal with. Again, I've seen everything from afternoon delight on the lawn to a threesome in the stacks. No one wants to tell you to put it back into your pants, so go have sex in your neighbor's pool, like a normal person.
Refuting Every Fine Assessed
Everyone forgets to return a book now and again. We are human, after all. And sometimes, yes, the library does make clerical errors and levy fines against patrons for books they returned on time. Again, we're all human. But look, claiming that every fine you get is an outrageous ploy designed to bankrupt you $0.50 at a time is more irresponsible than just paying for your mistakes. Don't be that person! Just own up to your mistakes, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a model library patron.
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