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Created and Maintained by
A.B. Credaro
June 26, 2002

The Idiots' Guide to Libraries

So, you think you might like to try to use a library? This brief introduction is designed for library beginners to gently introduce them to the basic concepts involved.


Libraries can be found around the world - in schools, universities, in government departments and private companies. However, you will mostly know the institutions known as "public libraries". These should not be confused with "public lavatories", despite any similarity in odour at their entrances.

Inside a library, you'll find lots of books. Many libraries also have video and audio tapes, CD-ROMS, maps, magazines, and other material. You might also find furniture, computers and people. Quite a few books are available for you to borrow, generally at no charge. Unfortunately, you are expected to bring the books back within a specific period of time. If you don't, the library will expect you to pay a fine, or possibly even pay for the item's replacement. As if!


Librarians are people that work in a library. If you want some very specific information, (eg "what is the current time in Tasmania?") you could ask the Reference Librarian. He/She is usually found in the REFERENCE section of a library.

General enquires, like "where is the photocopier" or "do you have books here" can be directed to the Help Desk, which is usually found in some prominant place like right in front of you. If you cannot find the help desk, look for a sign that says something like "Help Desk". Sometimes you might be confused where libraries have signs like "Enquiries" or "Information". Do not be fooled! You can also get help at these places.

In larger libraries, there will be a number of people doing different jobs. Many of these people will be wearing ID badges with their name and picture. You should remember not to laugh at their picture - it often causes offence. People pushing brooms or mops in larger libraries are probably not librarians. However, in smaller libraries, they may very well be librarians.


Yes. You will find that very few libraries allow you to eat or drink in there. However, you are generally allowed to sleep, provided you do not snore. Unfortunately, libraries close each day, and you will be asked to leave at this time. So you will not be able to make use of a library as a cheap rent alternative.

Different libraries have different rules. If you are not sure what the rules are, just be yourself. Someone will immediately come and explain all the rules to you.


Take a peek into any offices that you can access. There is generally a person sitting on a large chair, behind a large desk. This is likely to be the LIBRARY ADMINISTRATOR. Try not to wake them up - they can be unpredictable when disturbed. This person is responsible for policy decisions, like when they should go to lunch, and for how long. This is a very important job, so they get the highest salary.

Somewhere around the library, you will find one librarian who seems more stressed than the rest. This is the person who has worked in the library for the longest period. No matter how specialised your area of interest (eg the butterflies of Botswana, Korean soccer team selection procedures, or invasions from outer space), this is the person you need to speak to. Even if they don't know anything about your topic, they will know where all the books are located. If they burst into tears or start shouting advertising slogans, do not take it personally. Stress can manifest itself in many ways.

At the Help Desk (or whatever any particular library decides to disguise this as) you will find librarians armed with low powered laser guns. These are defensive weapons only. Due to health concerns, librarians will generally give books a blast as they are taken out of the library. All sorts of nasty bugs collect in the striped bars that are found on the back of books. If you try to leave the library without this health precaution, you might be called back.

If you look really closely around the library, you might see librarians putting books back on shelves. And thus, another of the world's great mysteries are solved.

To correctly cite this page:
Credaro,A.B.(2002). Libraries 101: The Idiots' Guide to Libraries. Warrior Librarian Weekly [online] [Accessed:insert date]