Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars Not as deliciously bookish as I'd hoped - but worth a read, 7 July 2010
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This review is from: Library Confidential: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library (Paperback)
I knew I was going to like this book. How could I not? It's about libraries, and books, and eccentric bookish people! Well, it is and it isn't. This book is 'loosely' many things. It is 'loosely' the sum of one man's experiences as a California librarian. It is 'loosely' a homage to the library staff he has known. It is 'loosely' a timely reminder of all the wonderful things a library can stand for, and how much will be lost if they are neglected. It is 'loosely' a romp through some of the weird and wonderful patrons that one finds lurking in the stacks.

The problem for me was that Borchert never really fixed on any of these things long enough to bring together a coherent memoir. Time skips backwards and forwards. The anecdotes can be quite mundane where they were supposed to be scandalous. The reflections on libraries petered out before they said anything profound, and books themselves scarcely seemed to factor at all. Though, to be fair, he does point out that while many librarians join their profession out of a love of books, eventually it can almost drop out of the equation under a tide of customer service and paperwork... I also noticed that Borchert seems to be quite preoccupied with race. He never comes across as racist - just a little misguided - and I understand that his area is hugely diverse, but it seems that every person he mentions has to be noted as being black, or Latino, or Filipino, or even pointedly Sikh or Hindu. In some cases this fitted the context of the anecdote, but in others it just seemed unnecessary. I felt myself rolling my eyes and thinking, 'What does that have to do with anything?'

That said, there are some interesting stories here, and Borchert is very good at capturing the ambience of a library throughout the working day and the working year, from the quietest of mornings to the busiest after-school bustle. There are some amusing moments and some moving ones, and it is obvious that over the years Borchert has seen it all, from drug dealers stashing their wares in the toilets to old ladies who just want someone to talk to, mothers scrapping in the car park to UFO geeks determined to uncover the truth, no matter how many internet hours it takes. In short, there are ups and downs for Borchert AND for his book. It has its flaws, but at the same time I'm sure I'll hang onto it for a while, because I so enjoyed following these anecdotes back into my own memories of the libraries and librarians that have brightened my life over the years. Worth a read...
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