Friday, December 5, 2008

58. Free for All

The title: Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library
The author: Don Borchart
Publication: Holtzbrinck, 2007
Got it from: The lib, of course!

D. asked me while I was reading this if it was more horrifying or funny. I replied that it was a little of both. The funny is the horrifying and vice versa, if you catch my drift.

Free for all (get it? free-for-all?) is a "tell-all" book about the highs and lows of library life. There are some things that are universal to all libraries, and I'm sure librarians everywhere are nodding their heads in recognition. Mentally ill patrons who stay all day? Uh-huh. Flashers? Seen a few. Troubled schoolkids whose parents use the library as a baby-sitting service? Tell me something I don't know. And we've all got stories. Heck, I just figured out that I've worked on and off for over ten years in ten different library branches or departments, and if I hadn't seen some crazy stuff I'd have to be literally blind. As my career is just beginning (gulp!) I'm sure I ain't seen nothing yet.

Of course, as the author works in LA, his stories are slightly more horrifying than mine. Latchkey kids number in the tens rather than the hundreds around here, gang wars are not exactly an issue (unless you count the current rivalry between Conservatives and coalition supporters), and I've never had to deal with anyone setting up a drug ring in the bathroom. Although I once worked with someone who made a girl take off her skirt in the ladies' room to get some stolen books. That was a fun day.

Whether you're a librarian looking for confirmation that you have to be slightly crazy to work in a library, or an outsider shaking your head in disbelief at the shenanigans that go on in these public institutions, this book is sure to entertain. B+

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