Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert (2007)

Pages: 240

ISBN: 1905264127

Description: Jack-of-all-trades Borchert shares wholesome, guardedly witty dispatches from the suburban L.A. library system in this charming tell-all. For 12 years the family-man author has held the post of assistant librarian, keeping a wary eye on unruly kids, mollifying mystified parents and repairing sadly manhandled materials. Borchert relays a conversation with an aged librarian who reveals how it was in the good old days (staff lunches used to be served with wine), then contrasts that account with modern-day multicultural crayons and the preponderance of latchkey kids abandoned in the library for long, numbing afternoons. A few of the regular patrons are inspiring Renaissance types, but most are unsettling and unsavory, such as intensely reclusive crossword-puzzler Henry hounding the reference desk; loser Max looking futilely on the Internet for a South American wife; or the drug dealers working the restroom. From patrons who rack up hundreds of dollars in fines to missing pet rats and fist-fighting mothers, Borchert has seen it all, and his account gives a human interest spin to this undervalued profession.

Review: This biography goes over much of Borchert's interesting library career. He tells stories of his experience in the inner-city library. For the most part, I was bored with his narrative. I work at a public library and much of what he describes happens all over the country. I guess you could say it is just part of the whole job experience. I'm not saying that it should be fine to have a drug deal go down in your bathroom at work, but that is sadly happening everywhere. I like to regale my stories from when I used to work at Borders and now at the library. My friends have a hard time believing it can be happening. That said, I think this book was dry and to be honest it was difficult to finish. I mistakenly thought it was to be humorous, but I barely even cracked a smile. I will give him that it was a great way to get the public aware of what it is we as library workers have to face on a daily basis.

Score: 2 out of 5

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