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Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public…

Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian

by Scott Douglas

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    Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: If you really want to know what a librarian's life is like in an urban public library, warts and all, these two candid accounts should keep you both informed and entertained; Quiet, Please also shares a brief history of libraries.

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After graduating with an English degree and with vague plans to write, Scott Douglas ends up working in the local library as he waits for his real life to get going. After going back to school for his MLS, Douglas eventually realizes that he's a librarian. In Quiet, Please, he documents both his journey to librarianhood and his experiences working in a public library in Anaheim, California.

If you're a regular patron of your local library, parts of this book will feel familiar. I enjoyed learning the different library positions and what their duties are, as well as his comments on the changing nature of libraries and their importance in this digital age. Douglas admits that he is a bit of a jerk and I have to agree with his assessment, but this makes for a more entertaining book, as he dislikes a few of his co-workers, is astonished that some of the people employed in a library aren't readers and pokes fun at the patrons. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Oct 14, 2016 |
There's so much wrong with this book. Starting with the cover - Douglas says he's so accustomed to wearing slacks for the job he doesn't even wear jeans to the grocery store. And he speaks of two kinds of people - those who like David Sedaris humor, and those who like Dave Barry humor... but I despise Sedaris style humor, and am not impressed by Barry. (For the record, Douglas is very negative, cynical, etc., exaggerating everyone's incompetencies and vulnerabilities for the sake of humor, and is much too much like Sedaris for me.)

And he has to work very hard to be sympathetic - is not empathetic at all. For example, he has no idea, and no interest in finding out, why a certain woman came in and took pictures of her emails with a video camera. I can imagine a number of possibilities - one came to mind instantly: she's illiterate, doesn't want to be outed in the library by asking for help with the printer, and has come up with this method to carry them to someone who will help read them.

He also speaks as if his experience, as a young white male in a small branch library in a poor section of a huge city, is typical. Some things he experiences (or claims to) I've seen at our small city library, for example homeless people hanging out all day (though we have fewer), but I am confident that most of our staff reads, and most have respect for each other, more than would be the case in most office environments.

I dunno. Maybe some will find it funny. I just wanted more authentic behind-the-scenes information and gentler, truer humor. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
I'm not sure why I am continuing to read this because the author is really offensive about most, if not all, of the people he writes about. I also am not sure how this got published.

I stopped reading this book at 94 pages. I just couldn't do it anymore. ( )
  Kristin_Curdie_Cook | Apr 29, 2016 |
As a librarian I could appreciate his stories about the patrons he met and his work; don't we all have similar stories! But I am glad I didn't start my career at his library system; I would have been totally disheartened. Also, I didn't bother with the hundreds of footnotes or the "For Shelving" tidbits. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Quiet, Please: Dispatches From a Public Library by Scott Douglas shows the humble public library in the time before computer labs were taken for granted, when physical library schools were more common than online, and a young man wondering if he picked the right career.

Douglas's dryly sarcastic style is in fine form when he talks about the teenagers, elderly, and coworkers who cross his path in the library. Far from being the genteel library of old, he opens the chapter about teenagers with this anecdote: "A teen walked out of the library with his girlfriend, looked straight at me, and said, 'F**got.' I had never seen the kid before. That, in a nutshell, sums up what I think of teens" (232). Despite his sometimes misanthropic observations, Douglas clearly cares about his library and the community the library serves. He frequently pokes fun at people, including telling a teenager about a horrific murder case caused by friending strangers on MySpace (not true), or lying to a naive coworker about the Internet (everyone tells the truth), but it's clearly in good fun. That said, his coworkers are shown in such an unattractive light that every time he maintains that "despite X's flaws, I liked him/her", it's hard not to wonder why. I realize that people are likely to become caricatures in books, particularly in humorous books because - let's face it - awful people are funnier, but some of the people he talks about are so downright unpleasant that it would have been nice to have seen some good moments just to balance it out.

While he can sometimes come across as arrogant, and goes on political rants that made me roll my eyes, Douglas maintains a kind of sarcastic charm throughout. It's hard not to admire his refusal to be politically correct, either. When talking about the mentally ill people who frequent his library, he freely admits that they can make him uncomfortable - but he also relates with obvious fondness the antics of some of the more interesting patrons he's come across.

I really only have two complaints against the book. One, the use of "commercial breaks" - the writing is often interrupted by a short blurb about a particular subject that has some tangential relation to the passage preceding it. The idea smacks of cutesy gimmick, and not a particularly good one. Douglas's writing is enjoyable enough that I would rather not have my attention broken by periodic breaks.

The second is that, as many have noticed, Douglas is a pretentious ass. I happen to find that as a sign of a kindred soul more than a reason to hate a book, but it is definitely true that, at the very least, that is how he comes across. Mostly, I found this to be wickedly clever in his observations, but - perhaps struggling to resolve a chapter ending - he usually ends with some saccharine reflections on what the library means. These observations felt tacked-on, trite, and a bit false when compared to the rest of the chapter where he skewers the object of his attention with unapologetic relish.

Every library is different, and I can't even say that Douglas's experience is anywhere close to my own, but I always felt he was honest, sometimes brutally so, in his observations. For those who enjoy libraries, and don't mind their heroes being tipped from their pedestals, Quiet, Please paints a picture of the people who make a library: the librarians, the pages, and the patrons, with all their quirks. ( )
1 vote kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
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"You catch a guy on a computer jerking off, just get a librarian-don't try and handle it yourself." That was the first thing Faren, the library manager, said to me on my first day of work.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Some content originally in a blog at: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/libra...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786720913, Hardcover)

For most of us, librarians are the quiet people behind the desk, who, apart from the occasional “shush,” vanish into the background. But in Quiet, Please, McSweeney’s contributor Scott Douglas puts the quirky caretakers of our literature front and center. With a keen eye for the absurd and a Kesey-esque cast of characters (witness the librarian who is sure Thomas Pynchon is Julia Roberts’s latest flame), Douglas takes us where few readers have gone before. Punctuated by his own highly subjective research into library history-from Andrew Carnegie’s Gilded Age to today’s Afghanistan-Douglas gives us a surprising (and sometimes hilarious) look at the lives which make up the social institution that is his library.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An unexpectedly raucous and illuminating memoir set in a Southern California public library.

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Scott Douglas is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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