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not all librarians like to read


If you have a strange craving for library history lessons, or you want to know when the first children’s book was published (“Little Pretty Pocket-Book,” by John Newbery in 1744) Scott Douglas’ “Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian,” is your best bet.

Unfortunately, I don’t really care about the literacy rate in Niger or Burkina Faso. (Frankly, I don’t even know where Burkina Faso is.) Maybe Douglas is just too clever for me. Or maybe he’s trying too hard to be clever (this is my guess).

“Quiet, Please” is a twenty-something librarian’s memoir set in Southern California. Douglas, the librarian, interrupts his own story with side notes and footnotes. Some tidbits are interesting, like Footnote # 13 in Chapter 355.0097, “Libraries do not usually waste the time to take someone to collections unless the fine is greater than $20.” Good to know, since I’m chronically a library delinquent who never returns books on time.

But his “For Shelving” segments added boring library facts that even librarians would snooze over. (John J. Beckley was the first librarian of the Library of Congress.) It seems as though Douglas wrote this book, then went back later and tried to make it more than just an interesting look at life in a library. Had he just stopped while he was ahead, Douglas would have had a pretty good book on his hands.

Douglas has a keen eye for observation, and he shares a witty analysis of coworkers who don't read and other crazy characters that frequent the library. At times his insightful honesty is refreshing, and at other times I want to slap him. (This must be a common reaction since several patrons in the book threaten to kill him.) In his effort to be completely honest, Douglas comes across as a jerk at times. Douglas on seniors: “As sad and cruel and insensitive as it was to say, they would be dead soon, anyway.”

“Quiet, Please” exposes a modern-day library where teens are tripping out, middle-aged mothers are addicted to computer games and paranoid patrons have conspiracy theories when they can’t print. Overall, it’s an interesting book once you skip over all the intellectual fluff.














“not all librarians like to read”