Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian

Quiet, Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian - Scott Douglas If I could have, I would have rated this book at 3 1/2 stars. It is not because the book is bad, but I do have some very mixed feelings about it overall. I am not sure if I am supposed to recommend it to people as a true look of what our work is like, or if I am supposed to recommend it to people as way to scare them away from libraries, especially from working in a library. Much like Douglas, I have been in librarianship long enough to have my own battle scars and the stories to go with it. So I can relate to a lot of what he is saying. I have had the fortune (or misfortune depending on your point of view) of working in academic settings, but they are settings that in some ways are very similar to public libraries. In other words, I do not work at some fancy, Research 1 (that's Carnegie rating for my non-library friends) where we they just serve often brilliant students, faculty, and scholars. Working in a small town campus or working in an inner city university are very different balls of yarn. So in that sense, I could relate to a lot of what he wrote about because I have seen and experienced many of the types of patrons, coworkers and bosses that he writes about. That I am also a state employee works to further help me identify. I think this book should be handed out to library school students or anyone considering a job in a library, especially a public library. Most public libraries are part of the city services, and with that come all the related politics. You also get all the dysfunctional people who probably should not be working in a public service capacity, but they end up doing so anyhow. That it took so long to get rid of Brenda, who is was a toxic employee and a perfect example of what Bob Sutton would define as an "asshole" was something I found hard to understand, yet, I could understand because it was city politics. We all know getting fired out of a city (or state) job is next to impossible. So let's say those jobs do attract a certain type of toxic people. The problem I found with Douglas's story is that it seemed his environment was saturated with toxic people. There really is not anyone he works with that you might find endearing in some way. To be honest, those people don't really have any redeeming qualities if at all. Naturally, the author comes out looking very heroic (is is the nature of the narrative), but again, since I know he is not the only one, he comes across as credible. I have met a librarian or two who are as beleaguered as he is; heck, I have been that librarian. The strong negative wave aside, the book does have some very nice endearing moments. Just when you think you can't take another negative segment, Douglas throws you a lifeline and reveals a small epiphany here, or a little warm and fuzzy moment there. These serve to provide relief to the reader, and to librarians like me, a small reminded of why it is we do what we do in spite of the bad odds. Thus, this blend of very negative and depressing with some positive uplifting moments is why I don't rate the book higher. I really want to like it more, but I can only take so much before I end up depressed and wanting to go look at the job ads. And yet, I believe that this book is a must read. Politicians should read it so they actually get an effing clue of what actually happens in public libraries. It is not all about the sensational (but rare) story about catching someone looking at porn. Libraries really do a major service to their communities, and they often provide things that the government otherwise does not provide. Community members need to read it. The people that really need to read it are the whiners who are always saying libraries should be closed because they do not want to pay taxes for it. Maybe we should send the homeless to your home if we close the library, for instance. Libraries provide things like story time for children, internet access, help with looking for jobs, and many other things. It is not all about those selfish whiners. Sure, those people may buy their books on Amazon, but a library does a lot more for the community. Get a clue. Librarians need to read this. For one, they may well find a kindred spirit in Douglas. Some of them may get angry (why the hell did he put up with X or Y so long? I know I asked that question once or twice while reading this). But librarians will also find some uplifting moments that, if nothing else, will maybe remind them of why they do what they do, at least for another month. Finally, library school students and anyone considering attending library school, or just getting a job in the library, needs to read this. This book basically tells it like it, and it pulls no punches. You need to read this so you can go in with your eyes open. So, at the end of the day, I do recommend it with some caveats.