11 things really annoying people do in libraries

by Rachel Smith
05 April 2019

I’ve worked in libraries a lot over the past few years – here are five of my favourites in Sydney. During that time, I feel like I’ve seen it all, and then some, when it comes to bad behaviour in libraries. Here are just a few things I think you should probably avoid doing in the library, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list.

Sniffing over and over.

There’s always a sniffer in the library. They are usually a) a bit entitled and b) never have tissues.

Making conference calls.

Pretty much every journo I’ve ever worked in with a library has respected the unofficial ‘Don’t be that dick on the phone’ rule and taken calls outside, but the amount of people who carry on loud, lengthy phone convos in the library is huge. Once I even sat next to a guy who spent the better part of an hour making sales calls while on a communal desk he was sharing with four other people. As you might imagine, Sales Guy didn’t last very long on that communal table.

Being super loud.

I know some people have loud voices and can’t help it but is it necessary to bellow everything so everyone around you can hear? Do we really need to know that you want to renew Fifty Shades of Grey because it is just so great and you simply must read it again? No, we do not.

Letting your kids be brats.

What the library is: a great environment for kids and a sanity-saving measure slash time-killer for many parents (myself included). What the library isn’t: a lounge-room away from home where you can loudly admonish your bratty children and let them run amok for extended periods of time.


It’s a grey area, but I think we can all agree that tuna sandwiches are a no.

Inappropriate use of the computers.

Using the library computers for printing out airline boarding passes, applying for jobs, researching new fridges, checking your social media accounts and so on is fine. A little headbanging to YouTube videos with the appropriate headphones is weird but mostly tolerable. Using it to access porn? No. Just no.

Destroying library property.

That includes a wide gamut of destruction, from setting off a homemade bomb to messily slurping a frappuccino all over a library book. Have some respect.

Bringing your pets to the library.

Should animals be allowed in the library? Only if they can read. Can we make that a new rule across the board?

Being abusive to the librarian.

There have been a couple of times I’ve been in public libraries in the past year when I’ve actually contemplated calling the cops. People can treat librarians so incredibly badly, and they have to keep their cool while dealing with spectrum of people and personalities on a daily  basis. I don’t care if you can’t figure out how to find something on Google or the book you wanted to borrow isn’t in right now; swearing or abusing the librarians is not cool. Ditto bellowing to the librarian from the computer terminal. Just get the eff up and go to the front desk already.

Pashing in the library.

I don’t care if you’re wearing the sexiest green dress of all time (a la Keira Knightley in Atonement). Get a room.

Using the library as an extension of the school yard.

Lying under the tables, putting your feet up on the couch, yakking loudly or attempting to do some bad skateboarding on top of the bookcase are all in the ‘inappropriate behaviour’ box.

Do I sound like a grumpy old lady, or are there things you’ve witnessed in your local library that should be outlawed? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Main Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash
Rachel Smith

3 responses on "11 things really annoying people do in libraries"

  1. Kylie orr says:

    I hear you and can relate to every single one.

    I always seemed to schedule my library visits right at Toddler Time where I’d battle very loud singing of Incy Wincy Spider on repeat.

    I was also a nutter magnet, attracting those special people who insist on sitting too close and muttering to themselves.

    Long gone are the days of the SHUSHING librarian. It’s quieter in the middle of the supermarket.

    Needless to say, I now write from home.

    1. Rachel says:

      I always have strange people insisting on sitting close to me. Many also opt to have naps and snore loudly right next to me. I should’ve added random sleepers into the post. So many people around me in the library flipping NAPPING!!! FFS the library is NOT your lounge room… #stillranting

  2. John says:

    Just a warning to anyone who works out of libraries – it’s that time of the year again when school students are out in force, along with their often-untenable behaviour.
    At North Sydney over the past week, I have watched four girls having races on office chairs, listened to a table of boys loudly letting their hormones talk about Taylor Swift, and watched another group of students have a screaming match over a school assignment while seated in the middle of the quiet study area. Many of these kids have no idea they are not in their living rooms and oblivious to the many, many other people around them trying to study. The librarians are superb, but there is only so much they can do in this age when no one wants to reprimand kids.

    I have recently found another library where NONE of this happens, but it will remain my secret escape for now, especially when my other regular spots get too crowded with the schools set.

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