Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Free For All Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library-- Don Borchert-- Comments

Free For All Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert is a slice of life book about working in a public library in an inner city Los Angeles neighborhood. It covers the career of Don Borchert in the library.

This book touches on the different personalities wandering into the public space that is the public library. There are the usual oddballs, the little old ladies that want to give you greeting cards and cookies when you find their books, the old eccentric gentlemen into space aliens, the wild kids who run around unattended when their parents drop them off until closing time.

Most of the people who come into the library are not sinister, they often just want a place to rest, or pursue their reading interests. However, there are often problems that occur because the library is a public space. The book touches on incidents in public restrooms, inner city gangs in libraries, people viewing porn on the public internet terminals, and the almost homeless or slightly mentally disturbed who need a place to spend their days. It points out correctly that a large part of library workers jobs is to diffuse anger, calm people down, and keep the place quiet.

The usual career eccentricities of civil service public librarians are touched on. Public librarianship is often a career for the public intellectual or artist. Once a person becomes a librarian in a public library, it becomes very hard to get rid of them. Most public libraries in the United States are unionized. There is the usual talk about library romances, staff intrigue, long hours, and odd proclivities. Most librarians become librarians because they love books and information.

As an aside, not part of the book; I personally think of the library as its own kind of separate space like a bar or an airport. Time is different in libraries. You can set the clock approximately fifteen minutes ahead in many librarians minds. Also, it is a kind of neutral ground, where people can hide from their troubles in peace. In the book, the librarians end up helping many stray teenagers and others get back on their feet.

This book is quite fun to read. It includes all the things which people don't talk about. The book seems to be a pastiche of many different peoples experiences written into a single persons experience. I think the depiction is somewhat accurate. I've had some pretty unusual experiences as a public librarian.

There is a bibliography in the back of the book which can be quite humorous. For example, Chapter 25: Senior Librarians cites How To Buy A Franchise by James A. Meaney. There are also several recommended reading lists in the back. One of my favorite childrens books, The Cricket In Times Square by George Selden is on the list.

Some people will hate this book because he says some not so nice things about homeschoolers, librarians, and other people. This is the kind of book that will cause extremely positive and negative reactions. I think that you might want to borrow this book to see if you like from a public library before you buy it. Other people will say it is too mild mannered and not extreme enough. They are looking for titillation. I happened to enjoy reading it a lot.


Anonymous said...

This is one of the fairest reviews of my book I've seen on the internet. Thank you.

Book Calendar said...

I really appreciate you coming by. It is satisying seeing a compliment.

JamiSings said...

I just finished this book myself and really liked it. I work in a library in Orange County, CA, and actually recongnize a lot of the same people types he talks about. (Actually, I found your blog trying to see if he has one so I could ask him about something. I had a patron yell and scream at me over the 25 cent hold fee we charge, claiming "LA doesn't do that!" but I noticed the story about a 75 cent charge for holds.... making me think that the patron was lying....) I highly recomend it. Especially considering how many parents will do things like leave their 16 month old babies in the pimary room while they go look for books in the adult fiction. Certain stories in there should be required reading for any parent dumb enough to leave a young child alone in a public place.