Librarians From Around The World Share Student Meltdown Stories

Librarians From Around The World Share Student Meltdown Stories

School is hard. Even with the internet, you still need a book once in a while to get by. There's no way around it, and librarians tend to see the worst side of students who are feeling the stress of final exams, 30-page essay, and assignments that were due yesterday. We asked these poor bespectacled souls to share the stories of the worst student meltdowns their library has ever seen.

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33. Do you remember where you parked?

It was finals week. There was a dude who had spent probably the last four days in the library, only leaving to go take his tests. One day he is enraged, just screaming at everyone in his path as he charges up to the Circulation desk. He claimed that someone stole his stuff out of the locker he was using. The librarians go insane as they always do in situations like these. The campus police are called. The row of lockers where his stuff was stored was taped off. They start hunting down security footage. Then, a row down, he sheepishly peers around a locker door and says, "Oops." He was just sleep deprived and forgot what locker he was using.


32. Cramming himself to death.

My brother stayed awake for a about 36 hours between two finals. Didn't look good when he left for the second final, but I had one too so I couldn't really do anything about it. When I got out of my test I have a bunch of missed calls from his phone. I call back and a woman answered and said that my brother collapsed during the test and they were taking him to the ER. He was just really dehydrated and sleep deprived but he doesn't remember anything. Craziest part is he completed enough of the test to pass the final and the class.


31. The almighty power of stress.

We had a student (male) have a psychiatric breakdown during midterm exams and follow a female student around and then into the women's bathroom "just to talk." Apparently he never touched her but of course the situation was extremely terrifying. Police were called and when they got to him he couldn't remember his name or where he was or what school he attended. He was taken away in an ambulance and we never saw him again.

Had another student get hit by a car while on his bike on his way to the library. His adrenaline was rushing so high he got back on the bike and rode the rest of the way to school, only to collapse in the library lobby upon arriving. He had to be taken away in an ambulance. He had broken both elbows. Crazy.


30. Holler at me.

A girl in my major started screaming as loud as humanly possible in the bathroom and wouldn't come out. We (some dudes) had to rush in to make sure she wasn't dying. The cops came because someone heard the screams and called 911, thinking someone was mortally injured.

She was having a panic attack. To be fair, it was a pretty stressful semester.

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29. Poor guy, let him sleep.

I remember walking to the Library about an hour after my Bio exam during my first semester of college. I took up all of the time allowed for my exam, and it was tough, but I was finally done. I just wanted to return a book and get a cup of coffee quick before heading home for the holidays. Once I got there, I was overcome with how trashed the library looked. I went to Pitt, a big public university. There had to be hundreds if not more students living full time in the library for the past week. I remember looking around and trying to take it all in, it looked like a battlefield. On the third floor, in one of the comfy chairs, I saw a kid who I am almost certain was from by bio class. He was sleeping hard, surrounded by his laptop, a few books, pop cans, and junk food wrappers. I chose not to wake him up, because he looked really peaceful in that moment. But I can't imagine the scene that must have happened when he woke up.

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28. You can dance if you want to, but not here.

I was working in my college's Library at like midnight during finals week. The Library was packed and people were desperately trying to study when some weird kids started a flash mob type thing in the middle of this area that was just rows and rows of tables. Nobody was happy with this and started yelling at them. Then this guy went over and ripped the power cord out of the boombox and screamed at them to get out and then proceeded to just yell at nothing before another dude came over and calmed him down. The student I was working with was a freshman and I think I watched his faith in college die right at that moment.


27. Language is no barrier to bad behavior.

I am a student worker at my university's library. Most students have their breakdowns away from the circulation desk so I tend not to see them. I do get my fair share of jerks and rude people. However, my first time witnessing a breakdown was when a foreign Master's student wanted to check out a 2 hour course reserve for a whole semester. I was so confused because she kept asking "where is the book?!?!" in an irate thick accent. I asked her what the name of this book was so I could help her and she refused, she just wanted this mythical book without telling me its forbidden name. After three rounds of me asking for the name of the book, she threw a hissy fit and walked away. 30 minutes later she came back demanding to see the manager. My supervisor had to explain to her how course reserves are on a 2 hour loan period due to demand, and she still wanted it for all semester for herself. They argued for a full 15 minutes and my supervisor kept his cool. That guy is a trooper.


26. Caffeine's no joke.

I did witnessed a guy drink three of those tall Monsters in about an hour. He stood up shortly afterward to use the restroom and collapsed on the floor. We couldn't wake him up and had to call an ambulance.

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25. There's always someone watching.

Used to do security at a Library. Was probably 1 AM and the week before finals, everyone was cramming of course. I decide to do my rounds and I make my way down to the bottom floor and this student just starts slamming his keyboard against his head and throws the wired mouse as far as it will go. I ask him to calm down and ask him what is wrong? He just walks out calm and ignores me. Computer had shut off during his meltdown so I wasn't able to see what had happened, cameras didn't get a good glance either.

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24. Let it all out.

At the college I work at I saw a girl have a panic attack at the library over an upcoming exam. She got up from her chair, laid down on her back next to the table and just started scream-crying. It lasted for like 3 or 4 minutes before she got up and ran out of the library. Still one of the strangest things I’ve seen.

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23. Bathroom's that way.

Two prime examples of student nonsense come to mind.

One student took something, I don't remember what, and decided that clothing was no longer necessary. He stripped naked up in the stacks and ran up and down the bookshelves with his arms stretched out, throwing all the books on the floor. The police had to basically tackle him since he was so out of his mind on whatever substance or medication he'd taken. We were not pleased about having to re-shelve that entire section.

Another time, a student came in at around 3am and started knocking against the staff-only door leading to the circulation desk area. One of the staff members got up to answer and heard a thud, followed by liquid flowing under the door. Turns out the very, VERY inebriated student had passed out and peed all over himself right outside the door.

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22. Valuable lesson learned, at least.

About 10 years ago. I was working in the computer lab towards the end of term. It was around 2am. All of a sudden across the room is this bloodcurdling scream, me and this other guy jump out of our wheelie chairs. Then we just hear sobbing. Me and my new found friend skulk over to the sound only to see a girl crying into the keyboard and hitting her head. It turned out her only copy of her final thesis was on a USB stick and was corrupted. It was due at 5pm that day. No idea what happened to her. Now, I always, always eject before removing.


21. Weirdness during the witching hour.

I work graveyards in a 24 hour college library. We've had people race rolling chairs down the hallways and build entire living room areas with the random chairs and sofas lying around. One time it was like 2 AM and I saw a dude on top of his desk doing push ups as fast as he could. Body parts are drawn EVERYWHERE. Another time I was checking on the individual study rooms we check out, and I thought nobody was in a room because it was dark. Nope, turns out a dude was sleeping on the floor and I nearly screamed because I thought it was a dead body. Things get weird between 12-5 AM.


20. The librarians are stressed too, you know.

Walked in on a kid yelling alone in the basement of the physics/math building. He needed someone to vent to. He started complaining, crying, and yelling about the content of Game Theory and felt that in no way the subject was being correctly taught or something. He thanked me for listening to him vent but I just wanted a moment to myself in the basement. Ruined the mood but whatever.

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19. Her home away from home.

Student hid from me while I was making closing announcements in the library. So I turned the lights off and went home. Came back the next day to find this woman had kicked her way through the glass door and crawled out when she was done with her work.

Luckily she left her ID on the table so it was pretty easy to find her.

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18. Trying to hold it together.

We had a student (international student from a very success-centric culture at an American university) stapling himself in the arm during finals. The night shift librarian called campus security who took him to Health Services for an eval. We never really found out why--to keep awake? self harm? But it was very disturbing.

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17. He's just gonna lay here for a minute.

I was a student worker at one of the libraries at the University of Minnesota and I saw a kid stop what he was doing, walk into the middle of the the great hall on the second floor and just lay face down on the cold marble. I went over to see what he was doing and the guy was so out of it, he couldn't even form coherent sentences. Called campus police and they escorted him out and I'm assuming got him medical attention. Dude must have just been sleep deprived or dehydrated.

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16. An extreme reaction to stress.

I'm just an assistant librarian. But once we had someone with apparently no history of seizures suddenly have one, apparently triggered by intense stress. One minute they're walking to the printer from the desk they were working at, and suddenly they just drop to the ground and start seizing. Thankfully a few other students around knew what to do and sprung into action. Ambulance eventually came and everything. As far as I know they were fine in the end.

As if that wasn't bad enough, while this kid was having a seizure someone went off and stole their backpack. For every few good samaritans that spring into action in a crisis, there's at least one horrible person to balance it out.

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15. Karate chop your GPA.

This particular incident happened just a week and a half ago. A female Chinese student was sleeping on the floor and one of our IT guys told her she had to move and that she couldn't sleep at the library. She ignored him the first two times. When he came back a third time, she decided to attack him. She was throwing haymakers, trying to claw his face, and trying to Kung Fu kick his chest (she was short and the dude was huge, so this was a little funny.)

The police were called. At this point, the student had stopped trying to attack him and was screaming at him in Chinese (nearby international students said that she was screaming "I want to go to sleep!!!"). The cops show up and this triggers her rage again. She starts screaming in English this time, "I'll fight both of you!" She then takes a swing at the cop and he, using one hand, throws her to the ground. She turned her face at the last moment and ends up breaking her nose, so there's blood everywhere. Turns out she is the same student who was going around trying to kiss people a few days prior to this.


14. Pitching a tent in crazy town.

I work at a library and had a undergrad who had what I assumed (and it was confirmed later) was a schizophrenic break in front of me. It started with him trying to ask a question in something that was entirely garbled language and he was so very angry I couldn't understand him. Eventually, I figured out his "printer" was not working (because it was his cell phone). He was taken to the local hospital and his parents were called.

We had a student who pitched a camping tent in the middle of one of our book collections (tied it to the shelves, used books to support it as needed) and got so aggressive when he was told to take it down that our University Police had to be called and escort him away. He just liked studying in the library and wanted to reserve his spot.

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13. Classic essay tantrum.

I worked in the library at my university for 3 years. One time it was finals week and a student was working on her term paper on the public computers. Since the computers were for public use, they are designed to have anything saved on the hard drive wiped off at shut off so that the next user who logs on doesn't see a bunch of saved documents from previous users. Her computer crashed and she lost a paper she had been working on for over a week.

She had no back-up for here it either. I had to break it to her the paper was gone. SHE LOST IT. Started screaming and balling her head off while I was trying to console her which was not even close to helping. She ended up having to be dragged out by security while everyone studying for finals watched with stunned faces.


12. Printer issues blow-out.

I worked at the circulation desk at a library. We had this college student who clearly was autistic who came in to work on his paper. Our print system was having connection issues and he apparently waited until the last minute to print out his schoolwork. He stormed up to the desk, started clapping(?) at us and screamed, "HELP ME!" I thought sometime horrible happened like he was injured by the way he was screaming. He said, "YOUR COMPUTER IS A PIECE OF TRASH! I HAVE CLASS IN 5 MINUTES AND I NEED MY PAPER NOW!!!" I'm just standing there shocked, I've never had anyone freak out on me like this before. So I try to get him to calm down and put him on another computer to make sure it wasn't just that particular computer having problems. When that didn't help he just goes. "You know what? Screw it!" and sprints out the library to his class. This happened about 3 years ago and I don't think I have ever seen him again.



11. It wasn't music to his ears.

I was doing some computer work in the library since I didn't have the software at home. It was around 8 weeks class finals and those isolation study rooms were packed. I see this guy running around in a room within my gaze going absolutely mad with his group. He's pounding on the whiteboard, erasing with his arm and writing, and has the full neck vein going on. Maybe it was for stress, maybe it was for the holidays, but the PA started playing soft classical music. I'm talking so soft that everyone in the library would need to stop breathing and moving to hear it clearly. I see the guy in the room start jolting his head at the ceiling and starts saying something inaudible; I know a "what the [bleep]" from my years of collegiate experience though. The guy storms out the room, does the finger in the air thing, then yells, just yells, "TURN THAT CRAP OFF" at the librarian before slamming the door and going back to work. A librarian aid came by to give him a warning but he still was bothered by the music.

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10. Musical chairs was never this competitive.

When I was at Uni studying for my finals the place was always packed. We had small cubicles which were difficult to get but amazing as you got some privacy. I was in one and had been there for about an hour, the one in front of me had been empty. A guy comes along and sees it and sits down.

A girl comes across 5 minutes later in a rage and starts screaming at him that he had taken her desk. He said there was nothing on the desk and it was empty. I joined in and said I had been there for an hour and no one had been in the seat.

She just kept screaming until security came and took her away.

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9. Good reason for an ugly cry.

I had a federal work/study job at a library in college, specifically the medical college at my university. We had computers anyone could log into, and your login had an associated drive you could save data onto from any computer on campus. What you couldn't do, was save anything to the desktop. Or rather you could, but once you logged out of that computer it would be erased.

A girl walked up to the help desk and asked us how to retrieve files saved onto the computer. She had been in the library with a group of friends all day working on an assignment due in the next couple days. I think you all know where this is going. She had been saving everything onto the desktop instead of her student drive or a flashdrive.

Turns out it hadn't been an issue since she hadn't left the computer for longer than a couple minutes to use the bathroom and didn't bother logging out since her friends were there. She lost 12 hours of work. Once we explained to her that anything saved to the desktop is lost when you log out he face fell and she just walked outside the doors to the library and broke down in front of the elevators. These were not stoic movie tears, it was full on snot dripping down her shirt ugly crying. I've never felt so bad for a complete stranger in my life.

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8. Inter-library violence.

I worked at a university library in circulation for 4 years. This school was considered a "public ivy" and we didn't normally have behavioral problems in the library. One night I'm working around 11 PM during finals week and this huge frat bro comes in and asks if we have a text book for a business class. Our library kept the textbooks for some classes on a shelf behind the circ desk for in-library use only. We have his book, and I check it out to him. He turns around and goes to walk out the front door. I tell him he can't take that book out of the library, that it's in-library use for 2 hours only. He starts losing his cool about how he has an open book exam tomorrow and he didn't buy the book. Now look, this guy had been in before and certainly knew our policy on textbook loans. If he had walked around a corner, put the book in his backpack, left, and brought it back the next day he would have had a few dollars in fines, but I wouldn't have seen him take the book out of the building and he could have passed his exam and gone on his merry way. No, instead this dork decides to steal a book in front of me, and then when I catch him doing it he goes nuts. He starts screaming and repeatedly slamming the metal detectors and the metal door frame, hard enough that the glass in the entryway is shaking. I was getting ready to call the cops because I am just sitting here thinking this moron is going to shatter the glass entryway. He then chucks the textbook over the circ desk at my face, while continuing his wordless yelling. I ducked out of the way but I still cannot believe this maniac threw a book at me. The whole library was on camera and since it was after 10 he had to swipe his student ID to get in! If he had hit me it would have been GAME OVER for him! I have worked over 9 years in libraries, worked in some of the most poverty-stricken areas in my state, seen ODs, had people come at me, broken up fights, called the police countless times, and I have yet to see someone as irrationally angry as this dude was over a textbook. It still blows my mind.


7. He had a mind-opening experience.

I went to a prestigious school that I got into because my application was in the athletes pile; their normal acceptance rate is barely in the double digits. Lot's of breakdowns at all spots on campus because there's just a lot of high-strung people in one place that are all consistently under a good amount of pressure to academically succeed.

I was lucky enough to witness a couple shocking scenes in the library where I volunteered. It was unnecessarily big and there were a crazy amount of personal study areas plopped throughout the entire building. It had the usual small rooms with chairs & a table but the most utilized study spaces were the ones with these big extra soft couches and chairs. It was actually really helpful to have a quiet place to go and study comfortably.

But of course, people abused the comfortable and private setups and you'd find couples "studying" intensely in certain spots. Full disclosure, I never caught anyone actually doing the deed but I walked in on 5 or 6 couples aggressively making out during my first semester before I started learning what spots were kinda unofficial areas of activity.

Other than that, a kid had a bad trip on shrooms and had to take a ride in an ambulance from the library. I doubt he was at the school much longer after that. And that was during exam week, not sure what he was going for by eating a bunch mushrooms right before a study session..?


6. To catch a student thief.

I was a supervisor at the library for late night shifts during finals. One night I was working there and a student came to the front desk furious, raving that someone had stolen his phone charger and insisting that I go apprehend the culprit. I told him library policy for lost or stolen items is to fill out a slip so we can contact them if their stuff shows up, and students can call campus police if they think something has been stolen. He was having none of that and stormed off.

A few minutes later he is back, brandishing some poor kid's student ID and a photo of them looking harassed at a desk. He insists this is the thief and demands I arrest them (I am not a cop nor do I look like a cop), to which I reiterate that he can call campus police if he wants but this is not the library's responsibility. He argues with me a while longer, suggesting wilder and wilder scenarios that might make me believe him enough to arrest the kid ("what if I bring you his phone?") and eventually leaves in a huff to call the police.

The cops show up, and after some questioning, it turns out that this guy had left his stuff on a desk at lunchtime and had come back at nearly midnight to find that it had all been moved to the floor nearby, and was accusing the kid there of stealing his phone charger out of his coat pocket, but not his laptop, wallet, textbooks, or anything else he had left unattended in the library for nearly 12 hours. The cops basically laughed in his face at that point and had to escort him out because he was getting angrier and angrier, shouting and threatening the kid at the desk.

I eventually learned to dread seeing that kid in the library because he was such a nut.

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5. All in a day's work.

I am a librarian. Without fail around finals/end of year papers we'll have students come in and ask for books and get mad that the books are all gone.

"But my paper is due tomorrow I can't wait for the books to come."

"Why are all the books checked out?"

"I don't read ebooks."

"No I will not go to other university to pick up books, you should have them here."

My university has ten libraries, nine of which have circulating collections and the other which has a request/booking system that takes 24 hours. We serve a student body of undergraduates and graduates of 37,000. We can not physically hold that many copes of each book because a procrastinator decided that the best time to start your final paper was the day before or day it was due. Sorry.

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4. Is that diploma worth your life?

I've worked at an engineering library at a relatively rigorous university for four years, and there have been a number of "meltdowns" to the degree where we had to take hostility workshops to learn to deal with hostile/inconsolable students. The worst was a student who got a call that they didn't get a summer internship, sat on the railing of the sixth floor stairwell, and was (apparently) going to jump to the ground floor. The night custodian talked her down and now there's a net there.

There's a PhD student that spends probably 90% of his life in the library for the past year or so. He brings a whole loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and works all day, has a toothbrush and soap to wash up, and pushes together a few cushioned ottoman type things to sleep (has a pillow as well). My supervisor told him he couldn't do that several times, but now we've just given up trying to stop him.

There was also a student with an outstanding fine (15$ or something) who had graduated and moved back home, and we started getting calls where she would call and threaten to kill (and much worse) our supervisor/head librarian if we didn't clear the fine, just rambling without any room for us to respond for 10-15 minutes. We got caller ID after that.

Otherwise you just get a lot of students at the end of their rope who are ticked that the textbook they need isn't available and decide to take it out on us as if we can do anything about it.


3. Don't treat it like your living room.

I've seen a lot of tears. Many get frustrated trying to print off final papers and not understanding the printers. The worst was probably the sobbing student whose computer crashed and they hadn't saved their work in hours and hours. This was before Word saved copies of work regularly that could be restored in the case of a computer crash.

We waive a lot of fees during finals. We wake people up who are sleeping (I've definitely had a student thank me and immediately run off to a final). We have students party in study rooms. Once we had a student who was cold light a trash can fire in a study room to stay warm. Mostly though, it's exhausted tears and thousand mile stares as they turn in headphones and shuffle off to class. Finals are brutal.


2. It's a circus, but not the fun kind.

I worked at a University full time as Tech Support, which was located on the first floor of the library so we got to see all kinds of freak outs:

  1. I was told to meet a student at the library that was having issues with the computer they were logged into (not their own, it was a school computer). I show up and this girl is in tears sobbing at her desk surrounded by two other students and a librarian aid. I come over and they explain that she needs to get her documents off of this computer and that her class starts in 10 minutes. The computer froze so she began having a panic attack. After a few minutes of poking around I realize that something bad happened to this computer, and that it was blotto. I tell her that I will need to shut it off. Girl lets out a scream that I have only ever heard in horror movies (she thought that I was going to delete her work). I end up ripping it apart and getting all her work back, then I go with her and the librarian to class to explain to her teacher what happened. She ended up getting an A on whatever she was working on and thanked me later. But that scream was haunting.

  2. A couple had a fight and the guy stands up, takes his MacBook and throws it across the room. It blows into about 15 pieces and this dude just starts yelling at his girlfriend saying that she lost all his work. Later we had to explain to him that while we were able to get all of his data off of the computer, there was no way to repair the computer, to which he lost his mind and we had to call campus security.

  3. Watching a guy fall onto the floor and start screaming because he had such a bad headache. He had been at the library for 3 days, barely sleeping and was worried about failing his finals. We had to contact his parents because he was basically on verge of death (the dude ate 2 packages of crackers and drank monster energy drink for all 3 days).

  4. One guy decided he didn't want to go to college anymore so during finals he walked into the middle of the computer area of the library and screamed at everyone to go [bleep] themselves and proceeded to throw a dictionary at a librarian breaking her nose. He was arrested and kicked out of school.

  5. I saw a girl throwing up violently in one of the bean bag chairs as her friend patted her on the back saying, "It's ok, you will pass your final. Its just math, who uses math anyways?" I laughed but then let out a long sad sigh because I had to clean that up (no janitors around when it happened and since I was am employee I cleaned it). My boss bought me lunch the next day and I was given a free day off because of that (so thank you vomit girl).

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1. A PhD in losing his mind.

I work in a university library as support staff. One of the duties in my department is taking payments for late charges, damaged items, and lost items. We can take payments in person, by mail or over the phone. This took place around finals which is our busiest time as people are taking exams, getting ready for MA/PhD defense, etc and trying to get transcripts.

I was doing our daily cash reconciliation when I heard my coworker talking to someone over the phone. I was mostly tuning her out as it sounded like a standard call that we get daily from students complaining about why they shouldn't have to pay overdue fines for books that "no one else wants" until I noticed that she kept getting cut off while trying to explain why the fines were added to his account. She was trying to explain things to him for around five minutes but was getting cut off each time.

Next thing I hear is screaming. High pitched screaming like what you hear when a toddler has a meltdown in the middle of a store because their parents refuse to buy them a toy. The screaming and wailing went on for a good 5 minutes and would increase in pitch everytime my coworker said anything.

I asked my coworker if she wanted to hand the call off in as it seemed like the person she was speaking to wouldn't let her get a word in edgewise. In the middle of a pause between a scream, she informed the person that she was handing the call to someone else, placed him on hold and gave me a quick rundown.

I asked the person to explain what the situation was (just in case my coworker missed something) while I pulled up his information to get a look at his account. He explained that he was working on his defense and that his account was frozen and he needed it unblocked because he needed to renew some items on his account which the system wasn't allowing. His account showed that he had an item that had been recalled and had gone into default. Everything is automated so there is nothing we can do once an account is frozen. The patron needs to return the item and pay off their obligation before the system will lift the freeze. It doesn't matter if the person is an undergraduate or a professor. All policies apply across the board regardless of campus status.

When I tried to explain to the patron that his only option was to return the recalled book and pay his fines (same as what my coworker was trying to tell him), he started screaming again. As I was holding the phone this time, I heard the guy having a pretty epic meltdown. He screamed "nooooooo" over and over like a toddler with "why are you doing this to me" for another ten minutes.

Eventually I got him to stop screaming long enough to explain what his options were very quickly and told him to stop by the library asap to talk to our billing person to see if she could give him a break on the money he owed and hung up.

The entire situation was so unreal. I've dealt with many other students working on their defense and never had something like this happen ever.