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.


  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Scott Douglas, At Thursday, December 27, 2007  

  • Wow, that's pretty cool! I can't believe you actually read this blog. You're always welcome to comment, even if you're "barging in" to promote your book.

    Librarians like to read, right? :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Thursday, December 27, 2007  

  • Scott,

    Thanks for stopping by, and I'll probably buy your book eventually, too, even though I hate relentless self-promotion. I understand the publishers don't promote books, I just find it weird that you're going to every single review of this book and plugging your own book. And I can understand why Mr. Borchert doesn't read library blogs. He's not a librarian and he probably has other, better things to do with his time. Anyway, Borchert seems like a pretty nice guy, and I'm sure you're a nice guy, too. There's a lot of folks out there who will buy both books. I'm one of them.

    I just don't think it's all that cool to be raining on Borchert's parade. You're funny, too--just in a different way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Thursday, December 27, 2007  

  • Jess, by the way Douglas doesn't read this blog, he's searching for sites that mention Borchert's book so that he can plug his own.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Thursday, December 27, 2007  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Scott Douglas, At Thursday, December 27, 2007  

  • Heather,

    Well apparently he read the post, seeing as how he quoted you. So perhaps you should open your mind a little.... Blogging is about reaching everyone, regardless of if their opinion matches your own. If you don't want comments, don't post.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Friday, December 28, 2007  

  • Jess, I guess I'd just rather the comments focus on the book being reviewed, that's all, but as you suggest, I can't very well control comments. Nor would I want to. In fact, I decided to post the review here (and at my personal blog) because I felt it would be read by more people at this blog and generate more comments. It has only generated comments about Douglas--not my intention, but obviously my fault, since I mentioned his PR tactics in the post.

    Free For All is very funny and, I feel, good for the profession. I read it in one sitting. Couldn't put it down, actually. I laughed out loud throughout. It's obvious that Borchert genuinely likes people, a trait that isn't necessarily natural to librarians or library workers. I hope many people, both librarians and non-librarians, read this book. Librarians could take a lesson from Borchert's skill with people. Non-librarians could, well, perhaps figure out what libraries are all about.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Friday, December 28, 2007  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Scott Douglas, At Friday, December 28, 2007  

  • Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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  • Hello. And Bye.

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