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

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

by Don Borchert


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780753515013
Publisher: Random House UK
Publication date: 10/28/2008
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Don Borchert lives in Lomita, California and still has his job in the public library. This is his first book.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

Chapter 1 A Civil Servant Is Born 1

Chapter 2 A First Taste of the Library 9

Chapter 3 My First Year 15

Chapter 4 How It Used to Be 23

Chapter 5 The Reference Desk 29

Chapter 6 Illegal Activity 39

Chapter 7 The Civil Servant's Cycle of Life 47

Chapter 8 A Library Page 53

Chapter 9 The Parent Conference 63

Chapter 10 The Graduates 71

Chapter 11 Overdue Fines and Fees 77

Chapter 12 Wild Animals in the Library 85

Chapter 13 The Friends of the Library 95

Chapter 14 Volunteers 103

Chapter 15 The Renaissance Patron 111

Chapter 16 Card Registrations 117

Chapter 17 Cinco de Mayo 131

Chapter 18 MMM 141

Chapter 19 The Hair on the Back of Your Neck 149

Chapter 20 The Last Day of School 155

Chapter 21 The Summer Crew 159

Chapter 22 Love Stories 169

Chapter 23 Vacation Time 177

Chapter 24 Flying Saucers and Lemon Squares 185

Chapter 25 Senior Librarians 191

Chapter 26 Special Events 199

Afterword 207

Bibliography 211

Selected Reading 221

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Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I hope Mr. Borchery continues to write many more books. He has a style and 'voice' which made this book throughly enjoyable and a wonderful read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Apparently the first reviewer was looking for some romanticized pablum about the nobility of the library profession. I heartily encourage them to try in the fiction section instead, or maybe fantasy. If there isn't such a book, perhaps Mitch Albom or Nicholas Sparks could be convinced to write it for them. What Don Borchert has written is a warts-and-all look at the joys and pains of working in public libraries. Ask anyone who's worked in the profession for any length of time -- say, longer than a week -- and they'll have a similar array of humorous, sad, touching, and outright bizarre stories to share. Ask them whether they love what they're doing, warts-and-all, and usually you'll get a resounding 'yes.' Reading ''Free for All'' should be mandatory for anyone planning to enter the library field. Not to scare them away from the profession, but to give them a more realistic picture of what being a librarian is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I totally disagree with the previous reviewer. Free for All perfectly captures daily life in a public library, with all the highs and lows. Give it to co-workers, grad students, and maybe even government officials who think libraries are quiet places where nothing happens. After 34 years in public libraries, I've seen most of Borchert's stories come to life. He tells the stories most of us want to tell, and tells them with honesty.
bellalibrarian on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I am a public librarian and I loved this book. Borchert tells the truth about working in a public library. He makes me realize that I am normal; it is okay to fear the after-school rush, and some patrons are absolutely more difficult than others. :)A must-read for any public librarian.
dawsong on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Borchert captures the universals of the library world through the portraiture of the small branch he has actually experienced and details. He also successfully exposes the intangibles of the library profession; the subtlety of reference alchemy and deep rewards this profession can provide. I had my doubts when I started reading, but was thoroughly warmed by the end. Excellent job Don.
aapike on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This was a great book for any librarian or customer service personnel. The book was about one librarian's personal experience coming to and working in the library profession. Each story told explains the daily life of the librarian, from the unexpected - a drug bust in the public bathroom- to the usual- dealing with upset or irate patrons and reshelving books. Nicely told and very entertaining. Highly recommended.
libraryclerk on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Lots of interesting experiences shared, but the language could be offensive to some.
salweir on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book should be required reading in Library schools. I laughed out loud, snickered, teetered, giggled and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a fairly new librarian (my second career; I worked in cubicle-jungle corporate for 25 long years), this book entertained me, amused me, and finally answered a nagging question I've had for the past few years: how can someone going to graduate library school REALLY know what it's like to actually work in a library.While in grad school I took numerous reference courses, a computer course, and so on, and only in one did the instructor/teacher/professor even comment on actually working in a library. All teachers in my Lib school were Ph.D.s -- and all but one had no clue how to prepare students for being librarians. They prepare you to write research papers, yes, and if you become a researcher, that's great. They teach you about archives, and if you become an archivist, that's great. But if you become a working librarian dealing with the public (or with corporate employees), they do nothing to prepare you for the real world.Real library work includes repeatedly being asked : "where's the bathroom?" Or, other times: "do you have a bathroom?". I've had other duzzies: "can I get a piece of printer paper for every tax dollar I pay?" (we give out one or two free sheets of paper; if patrons want more they have to buy it -- at the reasonable rate of 2 cents a page). "No, I wasn't" patrons answer, as if librarians are making up a reason to tell them to stop doing what they aren't doing. "Why do you tell me to turn off my cellphone and not other people too?" One of my favorites: I told a guy to not have a cellphone conversation inside the library, and he told me "I'm just listening; I'm not talking." I gave him credit for creativity, and told him to end the call.Library work is fun. I like being a librarian. But this book makes it clear in a humorous and accurate way that it can be a jungle out there. Highly recommended.
aidenn on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I shared this with all of my library co-workers, and we kept saying out loud "We have someone JUST LIKE THIS!!" Borchert does a great job of making the ups and downs of library work accessible to a crowd that does not often get to see what it's like behind the circ desk!
milibrarian on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A must read for all public service librarians. We all seem to know the same patrons--only the names change! There are the kids who come in after school with nothing to do but wait for their parents to pick them up, the lady who swears she has never had a card before but also has overdue items and a huge bill for both her and her children's lost items, and the person who complains about the dime they owe in overdue fines. Anyone who has ever worked in a public library will recognize these people and more.
jentifer on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I just didn't like the writer's tone; I felt like he was trying overly hard to shock and dismay. It's hard enough keeping up your own morale sometimes, and to go home and read about all the negative aspects of library work from a bitter cranky guy seems defeating. Also he complained about kids and teens a lot, which bugged me - I don't think he ever called them "hooligans" but he came close.
skyeval on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Pretty accurate depiction of library work.
eenerd on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A really funny/gross/disturbing/heart-wrenching/totally true look at life in the public library. People might not believe it's true, but this book is dead-on about the wackiness that goes on in your local library!!! A great, quick read.
Gloria2010Books on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A grittier view of the public library's function and its patrons and civil service staff. For all the lumps and bumps this ends up as a love letter to libraries and the people who keep them running.
ecaran on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I was really hoping that this would not be a snarky, "patrons-are-stupid" humor book written by a disgruntled public servant. And I was pleased to find it was nothing like that. Sure, there was some snark... but the essays were filled with love and respect for a profession that has been around forever and is constantly striving to gain at least as much respect as the oldest profession. I could relate to all of his stories and was astonished at how parallel libraries are, no matter where they are. My system is clearly very different than his, but we face many of the exact same issues. A moving, funny, and well-written quick read.
mspolly on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A look at the daily routine of the public librarian and the public he meets.
bookstar on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Loved, loved, loved this memoir! As a public reference librarian I felt as if I was reading about my own daily life. I couldn't put the book down as I laughed and nodded my head through all of his descriptions. Borchert went beyond just telling what it's like to work in a public library. He showed compassion, the silly moments and the harder moments all in a well-written way, without being cynical or harsh to anyone. I highly recommend this book to anyone, and especially to librarians!
coconutmacaroon on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A poignant, funny account of Borchert's 20 years as a public librarian in California.
mjmbecky on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I don't know how I can really express how much I enjoyed this book. So many things that Borchert said reminded me of my own frustrations and feelings as a high school teacher. Some of the bizarre things he has encountered, I have encountered. Some of the insanity in dealing with people who try to work the system (as if there is much to work in a library), I have felt and seen in my own work. It was just an interesting comparison, and reminded me once again, that anyone working in any sort of public service, will encounter people of all sorts. There can be highs and lows, but you are always guaranteed a certain amount of madness! In short, I loved reading about the many antics and people Borchert has experienced over the years. While some reviews I've read have really hammered the author for his supposed "negativity" about his work, I honestly could see that he simply was sharing not just the daily routine of a librarian, but the things they experience that you might not believe had he not shared them. I guarantee, I could sit down and write down the experiences I've had in the classroom, that would fill a book! Sometimes you don't believe them, but can look back and laugh at the absurdity, and yet joy that all of them as a whole have brought to your life. As one who can relate to his line of work, although different, I really enjoyed (and laughed throughout) Borchert's experiences shared in Free for All and would recommend it to anyone interested in the "behind the scenes" of a librarian's work.
wortklauberlein on LibraryThing 5 months ago
An insider's view of a community branch library that starts out snarky but ends up as a tribute to both the people who work in libraries and those who inhabit them. The author swears like a newsman, not a librarian, but aside from that discordant note, it's a charming book.
KR2 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I'll never look at my librarian the same again. Nor will I look at the patrons the same again. There are some classic tales in here about what the library used to be and modern tales about what the library has become. I visit a lot of libraries around my hometown and most all of the stories that Borchert tells hold true.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn¿t wait when I heard there was a book coming out about a librarian¿s life of public service! Then I got the book, and found that not only was this not by a librarian (he's a library assistant), but it was a dry and boring read. It's nothing more then a memoir by a cranky old man who discovered too late in life what he wanted to be when he grew up if that sounds funny, then you are mistaken--it's not. It had potential it opens to a great anecdote that keeps me reading, but when it¿s over the book begins to quickly fall flat on its face, and never really gets back up again once it¿s there. It's funny in places, but has no substance it has nothing that's lasting. The book reminds me of Borat I'll admit that there were places I laughed in that movie, but I laughed because I was shocked and appalled in retrospect I don't know what was so funny about that movie, and, a year after seeing it, I can't remember a single scene in the movie that's how this book is--I laughed because I was shocked and appalled, but nothing in it is lasting. I don't know why anyone would buy this book when you can hear these kinds of stories for free all over the Internet. The stories are a dime a dozen on the hundreds of library blogs out there. In fact, I'd much prefer clicking over to Dispatches from a Public Librarian on McSweeney's and rereading some of Douglas' anecdotes, then reading this book. I wish I would have done that. If only I had been warned! I'm waiting for a book by an actual librarian who has more then a funny story to tell. I want funny with substance. In short, I don't want this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was horrible. The author is SO insulting towards people and has a complete disregard for libraries and librarians.