The Book Maven's Reviews > Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library

Free For All by Don Borchert
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Jul 28, 14

bookshelves: read-nonfiction, read-career-tell-alls
Read in February, 2008

I've never met the author of this book; never been to his library, never even heard of him, but I am willing to swear to his honesty and authenticity: Everything you read in it is true. Fecal-covered dildoes tossed into the bookdrop? Oh yeah, not surprising. Punk kids using the library as a base of operations for god-knows what? All in a schoolday's work. People refusing to be held accountable for their fines? People falling in love? Perverts exposing themselves? Housewives attacking each other in the parking lot? Ho-hum.

I have to give this book five stars out of professional solidarity, and even if I didn't have the professional solidarity thing, I'd still give it five stars for being a great book. It shows the human face of librarians--cussing, swearing, disgruntled librarians who would throw down if the city would give them half the chance, thankyouverymuch.

Those of us "in the know" will relate to it and know it to be the "Everylibrarian"'s memoir, and know that what the author tells is so completely par for the course in the day of a public library.

Those of you not in the biz will be shocked, appalled that this sort of nonsense goes on in the library; but you will also be entertained, amused, and hopefully inspired by what we put up with, and the smiles that come to our face with the inadvertent kindness and appreciation of some of the patrons who make our time in the profession worthwhile. At times, the book makes you want to cry; it effectively illustrates the ignorant bureaucracy, the patience and generosity of under-paid civil servants, and the painful pathos of underprivileged, sometimes unbalanced men, women, and children who view the library as their haven, comfort, and last resort.

And if you have read Unshelved, you will end with a sneaking suspicion that the author brought the characters of the comic strip to life. The author could be Dewey, and Terri could be Tamara's twin sister. If Mel were a little more Machiavellian, she would be Juanita through and through.

Everyone should read this book: librarians, for comfort, solidarity, and the reminder that they are not alone; non-library users, so they could realize how misguided their preconceived notions of who librarians are and what they do; politicians, so that they can see how much they affect themselves and society with each budget cut they approve; bureaucrats, so that they might see how counter-productive so many of their measures are; and library users, so that they can be aware of, and appreciate, how hard it might be for us to smile some days.

And yet we keep on smiling.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Indeed, it's all true, the good and the bad.

Despite the fact that I was the one who requested this title for the collection, I didn't get a chance to read it before I had to bring it back (another staff member had put it on hold).

I'm glad that the author is brutally honest, and your review makes me anxious to get my hands on this book again.


Myrna I just started reading this book after a friend of mine (who works in a library) told me about it. It's great. I always said I'd write a book about working with the general public, but nobody would believe it!


message 3: by Jane (last edited Jun 13, 2010 08:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jane Davis Oh yah, been there. The branch where I work is on the edge of a large public park so we have homeless sleeping in the bushes and get cussed out when we are closed for the holidays. Air freshener is part of the pages equipment when working in corners. My brother-in-law turned out to be one of the clueless when he showed up for Thanksgiving dinner and said, "Jane, the library was closed this morning!", I said, "Yes, or I wouldn't be here". "But someone might want to go." "Larry, only retirees like you, who could go at anytime, would want to go."


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