What do you want to be when you grow up? I have asked myself that for far too many years. Shouldn't I have an answer by now? Well, I kind of do. My dream is to be a librarian. I know that for some people their great dream is to sing on Broadway or discover the cure to cancer or win the lottery (okay, I would totally take any one of those, too), but for me it would be to be paid to go to the library. And I'm not naive- I know librarians don't sit at the desk and read all the new books before anyone else gets to check them out. That is beyond even my dreams. Well, unless I won the lottery because that is totally what I would do if I did. The point is I love the library and I'd love to work there.
This book, Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert is a collection of anecdotes collected from his years working in a public library in California. Some of these anecdotes were heartwarming, some were sad and others just plain freaked me out. People are weird. We all know that and a public library is like any other public place that sometimes attracts the weirdos. Borchert's storytelling style is blunt, a little sarcastic and peppered with the occasional F-bomb. He pulls no punches and no one is safe. I feel like I must share some of my favorite bits with you:
[Librarians] love seeing new patrons. Why? Because there is a belief that once you begin to open books, you will become a better person. It is a Pandora's box, but in a good way.
I don't understand people who will pay $10 to sit in a movie theater for two hours but hesitate to pay a 25-cent fine for a book that is overdue one day....I think a free library is an outrageous perk. I think being able to take out fifty books at a time is an astounding luxury, especially if you've priced hardbound books anytime since the Clinton administration. Go into a public library, fill out the application, and here you go, we'll loan you $1000 worth of free materials. Collateral? Nah- just take them. You're good for it.
Speaking of one of his colleagues, he says: The reason she went into the profession in the first place was books. She still remembers the effect a certain book can have on people at the right time in their lives. A book, at its most mundane, can be a loaded gun. At its most powerful, it can split the trunk of a tree, mend a broken heart, heal the sick, and topple a corrupt government.
There were so many good parts of this book. If you love libraries, even if you just visit them occasionally (and I really hope you do), I think you would enjoy this peek behind the curtain. Best of all, there is no shh-ing.