Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Free for All by Don Borchert, a library tell-all

If library news was covered by tabloids like the National Enquirer, there would be stories about Elvis appearing at the Reference Desk or Martian babies attending storytime. The real story of working in public libraries is only slightly less surprising as related in a book written by California library worker, Don Borchert, and reviewed in USA Today. Reviewer Bob Minzenheimer writes:
"Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library (Virgin, $21.95) aims to do for libraries what Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase did for urban schools in 1965 or what Bill Buford's Heat did for professional cooks in 2006. "
Borchert says that libraries are dull most of the time, but he writes about the rest of the time, the not-so-dull times that involve patron behavior that ranges from quirky to criminal. These are the incidents that all librarians have experienced and when they tell the stories to non-librarians, people are incredulous that such things go on in the library, the last place most people would expect to find misbehavior. But people don't drop their humanity at the library doors nor are they better behaved just by virtue of the fact that they are library users. Any public place will have similar issues of unruly behavior, it's just the incongruity of say, drug dealers using the library bathroom as the place of business (a story from the book) that makes the story seem more shocking.

On the good side, a library can be like Andy Taylor's police station in Mayberry, RFD, a meeting place for friendly locals to gossip and pass the time of day. On the bad side, well for the bad side, read the book.

BHPL is more like Mayberry and less like Borchert's library, but there are untold stories here too. Did we tell you about the time that... no, nevermind, this is a family blog and Privacy Laws must be observed. Every librarian I know is waiting to read this book. Are his stories better than ours, we wonder?

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