Friday, September 12, 2014

Free for All: Odd balls, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

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.

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