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Free for all : oddballs, geeks, and gangstas in the public library (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Don Borchert

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787None11,808 (3.5)41
Member:vancouverdeb
Title:Free for all : oddballs, geeks, and gangstas in the public library
Authors:Don Borchert
Info:New York : Virgin Books : Distributed by Holtzbrinck Publishers, c2007.
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:non-fiction, libraries, librarians, biography, humour, anecdotes

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

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Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Pretty accurate picture of library work. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
If you'd like a collection of anecdotes about the weird, crazy, and horrible in the library, then this could be for you. I made the mistake of expecting a well-rounded look into what it's like to be a librarian. ( )
  Alyssa.Jocson | Aug 21, 2013 |
Although I work in an academic library, I use the public library religiously, and since I'm hoping to attend library science school next fall, I had high hopes for this book. Brochert's style was humorous to me at first, but eventually I got weary of the dramatically negative way the author worded things. For instance, when describing the library's Technical Services department, Borchert writes, "Suneeta was in the basement of the library, learning the driest and dullest of library alchemy--technical processing......Technical processing is eight hours a day sitting in an uncomfortable chair, staring at a computer screen that is all lines and fields of information, with almost no human contact."

There's a little more on this subject, but you get the idea. Both technical services departments I've worked in have been very different than his description, and since he's never worked in "technical processing," I was unimpressed by his lack of knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of modern technical services workflows and work areas.

Hey, maybe I've taking his view of "technical processing" too seriously, and you can tell by the title that this book wasn't necessarily supposed to paint public libraries in a nice way (but in many ways, it actually does). Public libraries are amazing places, staffed by many people who care about their work, and who deal with an extremely varied "customer base." Still, it rubbed me the wrong way that his brief mention of behind-the-scenes work at the library was so negative and stereotypical.

While Technical Services is well-suited for introverted personalities, there are many outgoing people in Tech Services as well. And even introverted Tech Services staff are involved in local, state, and national professional organizations, if they want to be (and many are). Sharp communication skills are vital, too, no matter where you work.

I think I'm glad I read this book, but I know I'm glad to be done with it! ( )
  dukefan86 | May 29, 2013 |
The author never seemed to find his voice in this book, so the writing is inconsistent and lackluster. Which is a shame, because the anecdotes and brief character sketches are an interesting slice of ordinary American life in a public library. ( )
  katemo | May 16, 2013 |
Meh. Shock-value stories written without any charm. ( )
  StefanieGeeks | May 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
"The secondhandedness of the learned world is the secret of its mediocrity." - Alfred North Whitehead
Dedication
To friends and family.

To Sally and Andrea and Beth and Rosie, and to my dad.

To Bob and Donna Perkins.

To Ian Morgan, John Kalmbaugh, and Tom Ryan - oh my, what a bunch. Big, tough ones.

To Theresa and Curtis Babiar and Rhea Edelman, library stalwarts.

To Greg Bobulinski, jazz trumpet player extraordinaire, who reminds us that life is not merely endless commerce.

To Lynn Wolverton.
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Libraries are a footnote to our civilization, an outpost to those unfamiliar with the concept, and a cheap, habit-forming narcotic to the regular patron.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Mild-mannered librarian tells all!

Not long ago, the public library was a place for the bookish, the eggheaded, and the studious--often seeking refuge from a loud, irrational, and crude outside world. Today, libraries have become free-for-all entertainment complexes, filled with deviants, drugs, and even sex toys.

What happened?

Don Borchert was a short-order-cook, door-to-door salesman, telemarketer, and Christmas-tree-chopper before landing work at a California library. He never could have predicted his encounters with the colorful kooks, bullies, and tricksters who fill the pages of this hilarious memoir.

In Free for All, Borchert offers readers a ringside seat to the unlikely spectacle of mayhem and absurdity that is business as usual at the public library. You'll see cops bust drug dealers who've set up shop in the men's restroom, witness a burka-wearing employee suffer a curse-ridden nervous breakdown, and meet a lonely, neglected kid who grew up in the library and still sends postcards to his surrogate parents--the librarians.

You'll finally find answers to all those often-asked questions: What's up with that Dewey Decimal System--do librarians actually understand it? (Yess, but they don't all like it.) Do the library computers have access to everything, even porn? (Yes.) What happens if you never pay those overdue fines? Do they just keep adding up? (sort of. It depends on the kind of day the librarian is having and how polite you are.) And what's the strangest thing to land in the book return bin? (You won't believe it, and it's got absolutely nothing to do with great literature.)

From the first page of this comic debut to the last, you'll learn everything about the world of the modern-day library that you never expected. [from the jacket]
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The author recounts his experiences working as an assistant librarian in a public library in suburban Los Angeles, as he encounters patrons who range from bored latchkey kids left there for the afternoon, to rowdy teenagers, to Internet-obsessed adults, to drug-dealers.… (more)

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