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Friday, January 28, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest...Well, You Know

In case you didn't already know, I’m a children’s librarian. As a result, I spend a lot of time on the children’s reference desk, which is located on the second floor of the library. The adult reference desk (at which I also spend time, but not as much) is located on the first floor. Admittedly, it can be a bit Lord of the Flies-esque on the children's floor at times. It takes a lot of patience, the ability to drown out loud noises, and a high tolerance for being grossed out to work a shift on the kid's ref desk. (A woman recently made her grandson blow his nose into her BARE HAND. I'm still recovering from that.) A couple of the adult specialists refuse to even do it. Out of respect, I won't publicly call them wimps.

Although I love working with kids, sitting at the children’s reference desk can sometimes feel like sitting on one of those tiny deserted islands you see in cartoons where sharks are circling around a disheveled, dazed-looking cartoon character. Here's a rough depiction:
(This illustrates why I loved pass/fail art classes in school.)

As you can see, the children's librarian is isolated, yet completely surrounded. The kid-sharks do various things: some completely ignore anything else around them and play on the computer; some ask only what they need to ask and leave; others still loiter around the reference desk for extended periods of time, chatting incessantly, asking for homework help, showing off songs or dance moves they've learned, etc.

To some people, this may be distracting. However, I appreciate that the kids like me enough to just want to hang out with me (they often can't go home after school and the library is a safe place for them). It's absolutely one of my goals to make every kid that approaches the desk feel comfortable and welcome (thus my stick figure's smile in the picture. That was no accident). The upshot of doing children's reference - besides the rewarding feeling of helping kids and promoting literacy and blah blah blah - is hearing the unintentionally hilarious things they say. 

I often post my favorite kid quotes to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Here is a recap of some of the recent gems I've heard:

1) Girl: "I need a book that's not too short and not too long. I need one that's just right."
 Me: "What are you, Goldilocks?"
 Girl (touches her hair): "No, I'm Brownlocks."

2) During a discussion about what the kids wanted to be when they grew up (during which they asked me when I was going to get a "real" job, by the way) one of the girls said: "I want to be a teacher so I can yell at people. I love yelling at people."

3) A girl offered me some candy. I politely declined. She insisted, and I declined again. The girl said, "Come on! I didn't poison it." Just to quiet her down, I took a piece of candy and put it in my pocket. The girl said "I DID poison it!" and then laughed.

4) A boy was simultaneously playing a video game AND a board game with his friend. When I marveled at his multitasking abilities, he said: "I know. I'm awesome."

5) A girl said to me: "Your teeth are white." Then she said: "Your nail polish looks weird." Children giveth, children taketh away.
6) Kid: "Where are the biographies? Me: "I'll show you. Do you need books on someone specific? Kid (after a pause): "Humans." (This one was my fault; I really should have been more specific.)
And my personal favorite:

7) A girl approached the desk and asked for books about William Pennect. Suspecting this wasn't right, I asked to see the note she was holding in her hands. It said "Get books on William Penn, etc."

Kids are the best.


  1. When I was pregnant one kid asked me what the names would be for the baby, I said Carter if it's a boy and Emily if it's a girl. He sneered up his nose and said, "I hope it's a girl!" That was one of my favorites.

  2. Ha! Well, you can always count on kids for complete honesty.

  3. I was a Children's Librarian for 5 years, and I used to keep a log of the ridiculous stuff kids would say to me. I lost it, though. :-\

    One I still remember was a kid asking me to help him play some game on skittles.com. i was like "dude, I have no idea" and this kid goes "don't you eat skittles?!". I was like "Yea", and he just goes "WELL?!?"

  4. C'mon, JP. EVERYONE knows how to play the Skittles game.

  5. I am scarred for life. I was in the children's section of our library helping my son find required reading.

    Someone's lovely little angel, definitely a Mean Girl-in training, strode up to me and announced in a very un-library voice, "You have a really big nose."

    My fault, clearly, for taking it out in public.

  6. "A couple of the adult specialists refuse to even do it. Out of respect, I won't publicly call them wimps."

    I think you just did.

  7. Patty: don't forget that kids have no depth perception!

    "Anonymous": all in jest. Everyone does time on the kid's desk sooner or later. :)

  8. A young kid who was reprimanded at a library in an affluent neighborhood by my librarian friend said, "My father pays your salary". My friend wanted to reply, "Tell him to give me a raise".

  9. You hit it out of the park again, Rita!

  10. I heard advice from a woman who was my grammar school nurse. She said, "to accept whatever it is a child offers because they don't have much to offer." So even if you didn't want the candy, it makes the child happy that you took it. But I love the little "twist" of her putting poison in it! Great stories, as always. I'm sharing this with a friend of mine who is currently studying to be a librarian.
    - Marilyn

  11. I understand what you're saying. You wouldn't know it from my post, but the girl is a library regular, so this happens a lot. She wasn't insulted when I declined; it's kind of a game at this point (and from her poison comment, you can maybe see why!) :)

  12. I recently overheard the following;
    Dad: Hey, wanna go skating in New York City then to American Girl cafe for lunch?
    Daughter: Cool, I'll have to get an ice skating costume first ...
    Dad: Hmmm, I'm not sure about that ...
    And who says we have a consumerist society??

  13. Hahahaha! I have a not-as-funny children at the library story... at the circulation desk, I checked out a young girl and told her the due date, to which she replied with a giggle and a "WOO!" If only the rest of us could get so excited about due dates...

  14. I love hearing these stories! Thank you for sharing, everyone.

  15. Wait, does the BPL have a biography section divided into humans and animals? I heard Robert Caro's 900-page tome on Lassie is pretty good.

  16. Humans, animals, and cyborgs. (Well played, by the way. Well played.)

  17. From across the library, a 2nd grader shouts, "I found Uranus Mrs. Buckley, it was here the whole time!"

  18. Thank you for sharing this story, I have to agree with you kids do say the darnest things but it's the truth.

  19. Kids do say the weirdest things, especially now that media can influence the children. Thanks.