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Dispatches from a Public Librarian

3.17 of 5 stars 3.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,535 ratings  ·  388 reviews
Contains 34 dispatches of "Dispatches from a Public Librarian" from McSweeney's contributer, Scott Douglas. Also includes several other library themed essays.
Nook, 49 pages
Published October 20th 2009 by Smashwords, Inc. (first published March 24th 2008)
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I had high expectations of this book. I hoped the author's observations about public librarianship and library school would be amusing or insightful. They were neither.

Some advice to Mr. Douglas:

* "Smelt" is not the past tense of the verb smell, and "desert" is not what comes at the end of a meal.
* Footnotes are a bold choice, and should be used only by those with the skill to pull it off. For good examples, please see Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell or the front matter to A Hea
Supposedly a memoir about Douglas’ work as a public librarian, this book is actually about how Douglas is smart and sane, while everyone else who works at or comes into the library is crazy and dumb. My god: rarely have I read a memoir where the author comes off as more of a pretentious ass. If Douglas were funny it might work, but instead he’s just mean. And not even honestly mean: he keeps trying to turn his mocking into little lessons about the importance of community, or “covering” a chapter ...more
Rita Meade
Let me preface this by saying that in no way do I consider myself to be a perfect librarian. On a bad day, you might hear me complain about a difficult patron or a frustrating encounter with a co-worker. I can be impatient and annoyed and upset. More often than not, however, you will hear me sing the praises of my job and the endearingly wacky people I encounter on a daily basis. Honestly, if I ever appear as mean-spirited or bitter as Douglas does in this book, feel free to revoke my MLS degree ...more
I loved this book. Why? Because
A) I thought library school was the biggest waste of my time and money and will tell it to anyone who will listen
2) I think librarians by and large are the most socially defunct group of people (I may be included in that)
III) Although I love the patrons, I have repeatedly said "This job would be great if it wasn't for the patrons."

This book reminded me of the many patrons who left me shaking my head (in both wonder and disgust). Two favorites include:
- The man w
May 23, 2008 Carly rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: complete jerks
A narcissist tells stories about working in the public library - not a good match between job and personality. If only there were a 0 stars rating.

If you want to read a book about working the public library, try Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks & Gangstas in the Public Library by Borchert. Borchert is funny and also has an ounce of compassion for his fellow man.
A review where I find I'm writing more about myself than the book at hand, only because the farther along I read in the book the more I saw myself in the book -- which might not be the best way of reading a memoir.

When I first came across this book I thought 'oh cool - a book about being a librarian', then I thought it will be nice in the biography section with the other book that came out a few months ago about being a librarian, and I'll mean to read it and probably not, or at least until it c
Homophobic, fat-hating, unlikeable, but he had some interesting points about libraries. Too bad he was a giant dick.
Is this what working in a library is like? Well yes and no. Every library is different and from what I've seen in my time in the profession, every library worker's experience of the library is different. Mr. Douglas, whether through his own mentality or through exaggerations meant to obtain what he thought would be a funny book, seems to see librarianship as long stretches of boredom punctuated by encounters with crazy patrons and co-workers. It's one legitimate experience of the library, one th ...more
May 07, 2008 Grace rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Employees at my library system, or at any library
Scott Douglas is brilliant! And he is, at the same time, just a regular guy. As a 5-year library employee (who would like to eventually get her Masters, but has to wait for financial reasons for a few years more), I could relate to so many of his stories, both of crazy patrons, and intra-office drama/gossip. His unique perspective of having worked at both a smaller and larger library ensures that librarians of all sorts will be able to relate to something in his book. For me, it was his old (fir ...more
Aug 22, 2008 Lis rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: non-fiction
I expected to like this. He's a librarian, I'm a librarian, and the few excerpts I'd read sounded like he had some interesting crazy patrons stories.

But in fact I hated it. I *forced* myself to read to page 156, and then skimmed through the rest in about 5 minutes. The problem is, the author is a pretentious jerk. And while I'm happy to read a book by a jerk if he makes me laugh, this guy is also not funny in any way, which is a huge problem in a book that doesn't have anything else going for it
What an unpleasant book. Scott Douglas doesn't seem to have an unreservedly positive thing to say about anything or anyone - with the exception of his significant other, Diana, who has absolutely nothing to do with the public library other than dating a staff member. He is mostly dismissive of his job and public libraries in general, then comes out with a statement like "This is my life, my passion. I see the road is long, but the road is bright." Huh? I never saw his passion for his work in thi ...more
Mary Jo
Quiet Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian held such promise, the initial flip through the pages had me wanting more, it seemed so clever really the way the chapters were set up, the funny little footnotes~ until one actually sat down to read it word for word. What was initially taken as clever and insightful was actually a very sad account of someone who is clearly in the wrong profession. In all fairness to the author and the book I had to apply book club rules - read the first 50 pages ...more
God damn this is a good book. As an ex-library worker I might be biased, but this book is so funny, and smart and sincere.

Scott Douglas is relatable. We like the same things, and we're enraged by the same things. If we hung out, we'd probably drink wine and talk about our favorite movie librarians (mine would have to be Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption, I'd imagine his would be Parker Posey's Mary in Party Girl, because who doesn't love her? (this is of course eliminating Sylvia Marpol
the more i think about this book the more maddening it is. call me a newbie, but i actually think librarianship is worthy and rewarding profession. this felt like it was written by someone who says condescending things like "you mean you have to go to SCHOOL to be a librarian?!" instead of an actual librarian who should know better. if you don't like your job, man up and get a new one instead of making fun of it, your coworkers, and your patrons to make some money. a few good parts didn't make u ...more
Jun 19, 2009 Diana rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who loves a good laugh
Shelves: favorites
No, it is not because I am married to him, but it is really good!
"I'm opting to be nice and just not say anything, except that I wish it were possible to give negative stars to books on Goodreads."

You know, that was my initial review, but forget that - why not detail how much I despised this book? Sure, I'm southern (not by birth, but by the grace of my parents moving us to the south) and I have adopted the whole southern politeness thing like I have adopted the inexplicable love of shrimp and grits, but I am deeply compelled to defend my profession from this
I wouldn't have wasted my time reviewing this book, except that I see that a couple of my library colleagues have put this on their 'to-read' shelf.

Let me give the plot away: it is a stunningly mean spirited series of complaints written by a man who, by the end of the book, made me wonder not only why he continued to be a librarian but why he chose to interact with other human beings at all.

Basically the book can be summed up as "my co-workers are annoying, my managers are annoying, teenagers,
Mar 19, 2009 K rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a sense of humor seeking an inside scoop into the library
Recommended to K by: margueya
This book, a memoir about working as a public librarian, was readable, often funny, and usually interesting though occasionally tedious and repetitive. What was actually more interesting than reading this book, though, was reading the range of goodreads reviews. People loved it, hated it, and fell in the middle.

Reading the reviews of this book was actually reminiscent of reading the trails of comments following particularly snarky reviews of popular books on goodreads. I read a lot of these revi
Every so often I get a nagging feeling that I should have become a librarian. Many thanks to Scott Douglas for an engaging behind-the-stacks look at this career. He is clearly meant to be a librarian, though he sort of wrestles with that notion, and I am clearly not, as I learned through reading this book. Librarians, Douglas points out, don't just sit around reading and revering books and dispensing knowledge; they also serve the public, and, well, I really can't deal with the public. Douglas s ...more
Feb 25, 2008 Roland rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: librarians, library technicians, library assistants, library clerks, library pages, library aides
Recommended to Roland by: Scott, obviously
A great story about one man's quest in a library. Much better than that other piece of crap library book on the market, which is the equivalent of listening to a cranky old man bitch about his job for a few hundred pages.

Oh, and my being in the book in no way colors my review of it.
This is taking forever to read because, well, as much as I wanted to like it, it just isn't very good. I am abandoning it for now - too much else to read that is actually worth reading.
This was an extremely quick and fun memoir about being a librarian.

It amazed me how little work he actually did (not him specifically, sounded like his profession as a whole at least according to him). I don't know if this is an accurate portrayal of most librarians' days or not but wow---it blows my mind to think how busy I (and other professions of course) am for hours and hours a day at my job, never feeling "done" with work...and he seemed to have about an hour of work a day and the rest wa
I loved, loved LOVED this book. I picked it up totally randomly at a book store (!) while waiting for the bus after eyeing it a few times - it looked sort of interesting, then I skimmed it and was hooked.
This is an annecdotal memoir of a man's experience or sort of coming of age in, of all places, the library as he climbs the library ladder to become a librarian. In short, it is hysterically funny as well as touching and insightful.
There were so many amazing lines that made me stop and laugh out
Apr 13, 2008 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all of my librarian friends
Shelves: library-related
It is shocking how many similar our library stories are. The most notable one is when he tells a co-worker that it's a small library and sometimes you have do things that aren't in your job description. I have two co-workers that like using the phrase "But it's not in my job description." Finally my boss printed out their job descriptions and most of the stuff they weren't doing was in fact in their job description. Plus we do work at a very small branch.

Another thing is I, like Scott, also som
Amanda [Novel Addiction]
When I saw the size of this book, I was already ready to convince myself that I wouldn't like it so I wouldn't have to read the whole thing.

And then.. dangit, I read the first chapter and fell in love. I have lived this book. I have weird patrons that I love. I've had encounters or questions that just throw me for a loop for the rest of the week. Heck, there are some things I will never get over, but after a while, they become hilarious "I survived..." memories.

Reading this book, I imagined my
If you are not employed, or have never been employed, in a public library, this may not be as humorous as I found it!
I will write a better review shortly.


Scott Douglas, public librarian at Anaheim Public Library, has written a delightful look at the ups and downs of being a public librarian. He brings to life the best of co-workers and the worst, the best of patrons and the worst.
Having worked in a public library for 37 plus years, I think that everything he wrote about, I have expe
Honestly one of the worst books I've read in a really long time. It started out okay, and it looked promising, but:

#1 His characters are so flat and one dimensional and caricatures of themselves. He even says that they are exaggerated to be funnier, which really doesn't work. In fact, when you make the characters look like they have absolutely no personality except to be a stupid, lazy, bitch, it really doesn't make me want to keep reading about them. This goes for the narrator as well.

#2 The en
Douglas is one of those people who thinks that his self-deprication is a good basis for humor and since he's making fun of himself, he is allowed to mock any and everyone. No one is off limits--children, teens, the elderly, the disabled--they're all fair game. I once had a professor who thought the self-deprication act was a good one; he also felt that since he made fun of himself he could be as rude to us as he wanted. One time I got into a confrontation with him in front of the whole 50+ perso ...more
I tried. I really did. I really wanted to like this book but after a couple of weeks and only getting through a couple of chapters I have decided to abandon it. I wanted to like this because I am a librarian and it sounded fun. And it does have some interesting tidbits like the historical sidebars but the biggest problem I have with it is the negativity and it just doesn't let up by page 50. I cannot imagine being in this author's position and actually wanting to become a librarian. Maybe it's j ...more
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“There was the smell of old books, a smell that has a way of making all libraries seem the same. Some say that smell is asbestos. ” 48 likes
“I am convinced that grandkids are inherently evil people who tell their grandparents to "just go to the library and open up an e-mail account - it's free and so simple.” 39 likes
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