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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.

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