Sunday, December 30, 2007

Most Beautiful Libraries

Of all the places to learn and study, these are among the greatest. I only wish I had the funds to visit a few of them. ;)

Click here

Thursday, December 27, 2007

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

Okay, this book by Don Borchert is pretty good stuff. No, it's not as funny as The Society of Librarians Who Say Mofo, but not much is. Let me begin by saying that I could give a rat's tushie whether Borchert is actually an MLIS degree carrying librarian, or not. Patrons don't see the difference between a library page and a librarian. Heck, my mother doesn't see the difference either, except that she knows that once I get that golden MLIS I'll be able to pay my own bills--barely--for once in my adult life. (Btw, getting an M.F.A. in poetry doesn't pay the bills.) If librarians want to get all huffy about the fact that Borchert isn't a "real" librarian, then maybe they should write their own book. And I, for one, am getting sick of real librarian, Scott Douglas, writer of the admittedly funny McSweeney's Dispatches From a Public Librarian, barging into nearly every comments section of nearly every online review of Borchert's book and letting us know that his (Douglas') book is coming out in April and that it can be pre-ordered from Amazon. I'm sorry, I don't like relentless self-promotion. It smacks of, well, relentless self-promotion.

Back to the book. Borchert is a library assistant at a suburban public library in California. He offers the layperson a view of the public library that many don't ever see. He doesn't write it sarcastically or mockingly, but with compassion, genuine humor, and a few hefty ounces of honest to goodness pissed-off-edness at some real rude mofos. I do think every library board member, library trustee, local city mayor (whose office funds the local library), local newspaper reporters, and library patrons and non-patrons should read this book. I especially think parents who drop their kids off at libraries for hours at a time should read this book. Public libraries are not necessarily safe havens of knowledge and light. They do have a lot of books and other cool stuff to check out for free! They can be places where children learn the pleasures of storytime, where people learn English when they are new to this country, where school kids can get homework assistance, or where adults can learn the basics of computer literacy. But they are also repositories of our society's weirdos, freaks, and screw-ups. They are places where people game the library card system by signing up their 18-month old for a library card and then rack up huge fines on the kid's card, where homeless people have a warm or cool (depending on the season) place to hang out, where school kids are left for hours to wait for their working parents to pick them up, and where people drop all manner of disgusting and inappropriate things into library bookdrops. Believe me, I'm getting the MLIS and becoming a librarian because I want to be a part of libraries that offer the former, but I also recognize that libraries currently contain the latter.

Borchert (and his daughter, who just got her MLIS degree) is welcome in my library any time. Librarians everywhere should give a standing ovation to Borchert. He's done something remarkably good for the profession: he's been honest about it.