Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library

by Gwen

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Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

Let me see the hands of all of you that are just dying to know the zany secrets behind your local library? That is what I thought, most of you. I have never met a book about Libraries that I haven’t liked. Well, except for those dour tomes about the Dewey Decimal system or how to get more of your community involved in your reading programs. Those books that I had to read for my Library Tech degree were boring, this one is he-larious.

Don Borchert fell into working at the library on his road to becoming a writer. He needed a job and a friend suggested that civil service was the way to go. How hard could it be? People check out books, People put them away right?

Twelve years later, Borchet tells us that the library isn’t quite what it used to be and certainly isn’t what you thought it is. Between gang bangers storing their drugs in the bathroom vents, random cab drivers dropping off lemon bars, breaking up fighting moms in the parking lot, the lady with 6 last names and late fees to go with every one of them, and more. Seriously, I laughed, coke flew out of my nose at one point and I even shed a tear or three.

Borchet’s style is much like my own. He finds humor in the wacky situations, rules and traditions of the library, like why they make children actually sign for their own card.

“Her children have already signed the forms, which we require, although we know full well that a juvenile can’t enter into a legally binding contract. They can’t go out and buy refrigerators and plasma screen televisions. They can’t cosign for a car. Their signatures mean nothing in a court of law. But we require it because we believe……hell, I’m at a loss to tell you what we believe. I don’t know why we require it. I guess it’s like college hazing rituals. It’s certainly illegal, but that’s the way we’ve always done it. It’s tradition. We’re fiddling on the roof.”

He tells it like it is and at one point left me speechless with his thoughts on Christian fiction.

“Christian Fiction.

It’s getting to be big business, this Christian fiction, but it is mostly second-rate crap with generic plots, innocuous =, pastel cover art, and two-dimensional characters hawking nondenominational, two-dimensional beliefs. It is the next big thing in the library, a genre that was non-existent just 5 years ago. If you are currently unemployed or behind in your rent, you would be advised to start writing Christian fiction, and you should probably start doing it before everyone else does. “

The above is about the only point in the book where he may have gone a bit too far, but don’t let that part scare you. A later chapter where they are realize that a little girl ran to the library rather than call 911 because at the library she felt safe, will melt your heart.

I don’t usually rate books, but if I did, this would really high.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

· Paperback: 224 pages

· Publisher: Virgin Books (March 9, 2010)

· ISBN-10: 0753515016

· ISBN-13: 978-0753515013

For another Library related read, check out my review of This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson.


9 Comments to “Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library”

  1. Okay – I think I have to read this. I think there are so many sub-societies in the most unlikely places there could be a series of books like this. I would love to read about what goes on at Sam’s and Costco that no one notices, for example. Drama abounds.

    I think I might agree with his statement about Christian fiction – I have yet to read a book in that genre that could hold my interest. It’s authors tend toward the B grade, which is a shame because the subject matter is incredibly captivating. You get either something resembling video game narrative or chicklit, rarely intelligent literature. Anne Rice has a thread of Catholicism in her writing, although she’s resigned apparently (I suspect she’ll be back), and Flannery O’Connor wrote with her Catholic background as a strong if occasionally dark and creepy motive. I think the current brand of Christian fiction underestimates it’s audience.

  2. and I think I might be able to write I think more times I think….hmpf.

  3. Oh I saw this title on Goodreads a while ago and have had it on my to read list for a while – it sounds wildly entertaining!

    I think that the reason little children should have to sign their own library card is because it allows them to do something independent – for the first time in their life they have something in their name. I know it made me feel all grown up when I was a little tyke getting my first library card.

  4. I needed to read this today. I appreciate your kind words!

  5. Thanks for a great book and I am glad that you found the review of your book at the right time:)

  6. That is the reason, but I thought that it was hilarious that Don couldn’t come up with a legal reason. A library card is the first step for many of us to adulthood. Use it wisely grasshopper:)

  7. I think that Christian fiction has come a long way since he wrote this in 2007, but it still has a long way to go to be accepted in the mainstream or….lose that coveted genre title and just let their message come out on it’s own. So many times if I mention Christian fiction, people cringe because they think that it is all about God, all the time. A good Christian fiction read can carry a great message about God and Faith wrapped up in a really good plot line without cramming Christianity down the readers throat.

    There are some great catholic mysteries that aren’t all about faith, but you get the message. I like those, but can’t think of the authors right now, maybe Greeley?

  8. This book sounds fantastic! I have wondered what it is like to work at a library. This sounds like a lot of fun to read. I feel bad saying this, but I’m kind of with him on Christian Fiction. I’ve read some and really liked it (Bodie Thoene’s series in WWII in Europe was good), but for the most part it isn’t the most compelling stuff to me. I made it through a few of the Tim LaHaye/Jerry B. Jenkins books and they were TERRIBLE. I had to stop after the third or fourth I think.

    Maybe things have changed since then, but as a whole I think that there’s a lot of books that don’t interest me out there, but are really interesting to other people. My mother-in-law is a big reader and inhales Christian Fiction. I don’t even know what to buy for her because it seems like she’s read everything! So, there’s a market for it and that’s great. 🙂

  9. I did an internship at a branch library for my degree, but it wasn’t as crazy as a branch library in LA.

    I have read some Christian Fiction that I liked well enough not to run and hide, but nothing so far that knocked my socks off. There defiantly is a market for it, but they have to choose the market. The seem to tone down the Christian message to appeal to a wider range of readers, but then they come off as bland and don’t appeal to those that are really looking for Christian Fiction. Do carve out a really strong genre, the need to go full boar or just decide to go bland for the bigger market. They can’t do both and succeed.

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