English for librarians
02. Information desk interactions
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02. Information desk interactions

Customer service

Greetings (= salutations)

  • hello = salutations standards
  • Good morning, good afternoon = bonjour poliment
    ! hi = familier


  • all right I think that's all
  • thank you for your advice
  • thank you very much for your help - you are welcome!
  • goodbye and thanks
  • have a nice weekend - thanks, same to you

Welcoming visitors, introducing

  • Welcome to
  • hello, my name is...from...
  • This is...He/she is my personal assistant

Contact with the users (= contact avec les usagers)

  • Can I help you? = puis-je vous aider?
  • How can I help you? = comment puis-je vous aider?
  • May I help you (to find a document, a book, a periodical) ? = puis-je vous aider à trouver un document, un livre, un périodique?
  • Could you possibly help me to (find this book please)? = Pourriez-vous m'aider à (trouver ce livre svp)?
  • I'd be grateful if you could tell me how (to use this database) = je vous serai reconnaissant(e) si vous pouviez...
  • Do you think you can tell me how (long you need the book?) = combien de temps pensez-vous avoir besoin du livre?
  • I beg your pardon? = hmm, pardon? comment? Je n'ai pas compris!
  • Would you mind giving me (your email address, so we could send you information?) = pourriez-vous me donner votre email....?
  • Could you speak in a low voice? in a soft voice? = pouvez-vous parler à voix basse?

Apology, apologies (= excuse,-s)  

  • apologize for something to somebody (v) = s'excuser
    ! I apologized to the librarian for returning the book to late
  • I owe you an apology, I am terribly sorry, I realize that my behavior was wrong = formule polie d'excuses
  • I'm sorry he's not here = je regrette, il n'est pas là
  • I'm sorry he's not available = je regrette, il n'est pas disponible (sous-entendu, réunion, au téléphone etc)
  • I'm very sorry to hear that = Je suis vraiment désolé(e) de cette nouvelle
  • Oh dear, that's bad news = Oh, c'est une mauvaise nouvelle
  • I'm sorry about this inconvenience = Je suis désolé(e) de ce dérangement
  • Please accept my apologies = Veuillez accepter mes excuses
  • I recognize that this is our fault = Je reconnais que c'est notre faute
  • I'm afraid I won't be able to... = Il semble que je ne pourrais pas...

Meeting (= rendez-vous)

  • suggest (v) = proposer
    ! (" to propose" est très formel  et s'emploie pour une demande en mariage exclusivement)
  • get together (v)  = se réunir, se rassembler
  • to make an appointment (n) [c] with = donner rendez-vous, prendre rendez-vous
  • by appointment = sur rendez-vous
  • schedule or arrange (v) = fixer, agender, planifier une séance; we can schedule with you at any time: nous pouvons fixer une séance n'importe quand
  • agenda of the meeting (n) [u]  = ordre du jour
  • agenda (n) [u] = calendrier et emploi du temps, agenda
  • minutes = procès verbal 

Problem cases (= contentieux)

  • problem cases = contentieux
  • protest (v) = contester qqch
    ! to enter a contest = participer à un concours, to contest ne s'utilise pas!
  • it's unfair, it's absolutely not right = ce n'est pas juste
  • claim: réclamation revendication
  • to claim from sb: réclamer, revendiquer
  • We expect you to give back the books as soon as possible
he claims the he has given the book back: il prétend avoir rendu le livre
! to pretend:= faire semblant
  • To complain about a late delivery 
  • reminder (n) [c] = rappel. He contests that he has received a reminder
  • invoice (n) [c] = facture
  • fine (n) [c] = amende
  • cut down (v) = réduire; ne pas utiliser "reduce", trop formel
    to cut down on the time = réduire le temps de qqch
    to cut down on a word = tronquer un mot
  • cross out (v) =  supprimer, biffer

Problems solving (with the printers, the copying machines)

  • You have a limited number of copies
  • The number of copies that you are allowed to print is used up, please contact your computer manager
  • Let me suggest a quicker solution
  • Unfortunately there is a problem with
  • I'm afraid there is a problem

To borrow / to return loans

  • When you borrowed the book one month ago you received a loan receipt that shows the return date. You have been informed about the loan conditions. If you didn't get this receipt, you can check on your own account on the Nebis system 

Giving advice

  • If I were you, I would simply use the Nebis catalogue, not the bibliographic database where you will find only very specific information
  • Instead of ordering a paper copy of this dissertation you should simply see the electronic version
  • To look for words in the dictionary, but to search articles in specific databases. (search s'utilise pour l'électronique), search a book in the Nebis catalogue
  • You should give back the books before they are overdue, before the due date, on time
  • You'd better return your books on time to avoid paying a 10-franc fine for each book returned late
  • My advice to you is to borrow the latest edition
  • Let me suggest...


  • I'm ringing (or calling) to complain about ...



Dealing with questions