My Most Challenging Library Patron

As a library Page (that is, the person who puts away the books- not to be confused for the paper inside of said books), I wind up helping a lot of people locate their desired information and literature. Because I’ve done this same job in the same library for the past seven years, under most circumstances, I can locate any book a person wants within a minute. Today, however, I was faced with a challenge.


The confused looking man weaved in and out of the shelves for several minutes.

Eventually, he made his way over to me and simply asked, “Are these in order according to name?” We were standing in the fiction area. I nodded, “Yes, that they are!” He thanked me and walked off. A couple minutes later, he was back. “So, where would I find a book if the title starts with “the”?” he inquired.


It was at this point that I knew I was dealing with a true library novice. I held back a chuckle and did my utmost to remain professional, “Oh, no, not in order by title. This section is shelved alphabetically by the author’s last name,” I informed him. “Oh, okay. Cool,” he said, walking off once more.


I gave him a nod, knowing he would probably be back for more assistance in the near future. I was not wrong.


“Okay, so, I still can’t find it. I’m looking for a book written by this dude named Sun Tzu. Or maybe it’s Tzu Sun. I don’t know which one of those is the last name.”


“Hmm, okay,” I paused, “do you know if it is fiction or nonfiction?”


“Is fiction the fake stuff?” he looked perplexed.


Again, I forced myself not to grin, as I replied “Yeah, that’s right. Fiction is the fake stuff.”


“Okay. Um. I’m not really sure.”


“Alright. Well, first I’ll look under both Sun and Tzu in fiction, just to cover all our bases in this area,” I stated, as I headed into the stacks with him beside me.


Unfortunately, I located nothing under Sun or Tzu. If we had it, it was probably in non-fiction, which posed an entirely new problem: the non-fiction is shelved by Dewey decimal system. The search now necessitated either knowing a subject matter or a call number, neither of which this man was in possession of. I was stumped.


“I think it’s called The Art of War, if that helps any.” he said.


Suddenly, I had a flashback. There was a particularly small title I had shelved in the 350’s section a few weeks back. That name sounded vaguely familiar.


“It’s a black book,” he added. Of course, that’s the color of the majority of the books we have, but I nodded.


“I have one more idea,” I said.

I headed to the general area where I thought I had seen a book of that name. There it was, on the bottom shelf. A little black volume, with “The Art of War” printed down the spine. This looked promising. I pulled it out and handed it to him. His face lit up like a child at Christmastime. “DUDE! YOU’RE AWESOME!” he beamed. I smiled, possibly as big as he did, feeling incredibly victorious.

“All in a day’s work!” I replied, giving him a thumbs-up.

4 responses to “My Most Challenging Library Patron”

  1. Victoria the Justice Pirate Avatar

    I think that is so neat that you guys still do the dewey decimal system. My library has where I can simply type up on the computer if they have it available or not and I can put holds on my books at home and walk up to them and say, “I have a book on hold.” They grab it and hand it to me and that is pretty much it. Other times I go in the library and see which section it is in. . .they still have a DD system, but it is mainly digital. I go to the library every single week because my sons read a lot (mainly the older one who is ten) and I read a book or two per week too, so yeah…

    LOVED the story about The Art of War book. My husband read that. haha.
    You are awesome. keep it up.

    1. Sarah Avatar

      Yeah! Some libraries have been trying out other systems of cataloging. Maybe I am biased, but I still feel like once you know how it works, the Dewey Decimal system makes the most sense! Oh well, as long as computerized cataloging systems exist, one can find whatever they want no matter the cataloging system. Still, I really nerd out over the different systems when ever I visit a different library.

      Glad you enjoyed the story! And thank you 🙂

      1. Victoria the Justice Pirate Avatar

        It is good to stick with something that does work. 🙂

  2. […] of always being able to find just about anything amongst the stacks. I love solving the mysteries that some patrons present me […]

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