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

I put a hold on this book in November, after reading about it here, and I almost canceled it the day before it actually came in, because I thought surely the book was lost and would never be returned, and I was just out of luck as far as reading this book went.  Which I thought was too bad because it sounded interesting, and I was curious to know what I missed out on when I dropped out of the library science master’s program.

This book is amusing and entertaining, which is what it’s intended to be.  The stories he tells are funny and engaging, and it does give a good idea of the day-to-day life of a librarian.  But it never got past fun.  I one time read a memoir – I think it was A Charmed Life – where the author showed her book to an agent, or an editor, or something, and the person said that the book didn’t have a clear ‘sentence’; i.e., it wasn’t clear what sort of a book it was, and what it was saying.  That ‘sentence’ is what Free for All just didn’t have.  Each chapter had a sort of structure, but the book as a whole is just a great big collection of amusing/alarming/sad anecdotes.  As I say, it was entertaining, but it didn’t have the unifying structure that could have made it a really good memoir.

I also have to say, without any good explanation, that I wasn’t in love with the way he talked about race.  It’s nothing I could put my finger on – this happens to me sometimes, that someone will be talking about race, and I won’t be able to quote any one thing they’ve said as evidence to support my discomfort, but I will just not feel good about how they are talking.  I was not comfortable with the way the author wrote about racial issues.  It felt not quite right, that’s all I can say.  I enjoyed the book when he wasn’t talking about race.