Don Borchert's book, Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library, might have a limited audience, but it's limited to anyone who ever worked in a public library. Buy it for your co-workers. Give it to grad students planning to get a Library Science degree. You might even want to buy it for governing bodies who think public libraries are nice, quiet places where nothing ever happens. Borchert tells the truth about the reality of public libraries.
Borchert introduces library staff as "invariably professional, courteous and unobtrusive." They're almost always educated in "Library Science, a degree as arcane as alchemy or predicting the future by reading the entrails of a recently slaughtered lamb." Yet, on a daily basis, the library staff deals with hiring decisions that went wrong, unruly kids, gang wars, drunks and drug dealers, and racial problems. At the same time, they have regular patrons who enjoy the books and computers. There's the pleasure of a group of third graders and children getting their first library card, storytimes, the volunteers and patrons who share their pleasure in the library. Anyone who has worked in a library for any length of time will nod with recognition at the stories of the large number of keys in the library, and the acknowledgement of the hard work of the pages.
Free for All captures all of the highs and lows, frustrations and joys of working in a public library. Don Borchert has written the story that everyone in libraries knew should be told. We've all said, "We ought to write a book. No one would believe what really happens in a library." Borchert just let the cat out of the bag.
Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert. Virgin Books, ©2007, ISBN 9781905264124 (hardcover), 237p.
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