Welcome to Round One of the championship match between two library worker memoirs: Scott Douglas's Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian, and Dan Borchert's Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library.
Okay, let's start. Douglas's book features a lot of talk about what it means to work in a library and be a public servant. Borchert's book features shorter chapters telling more amusing tales about the aforementioned oddballs, geeks, and gangstas who frequent the library.
That's one point to Borchert.
Douglas's book also features several boring chapters on his escapades in library school, which failed to capture my interest at all. Borchert pretty much skips all that in favor of more action-oriented, if scarier, chapters about actually working in the library.
That's two for Borchert.
Douglas starts his chapters which a device this reader used to enjoy but now just finds annoying because it's been overused: "Being the part where our hero discovers library school is pretty much the most absurd thing librarians ever invented* and his faculty advisor is kind of a dick." Borchert doesn't.
Are you starting to see my point?
I don't know why I didn't enjoy Quiet, Please much, much more than I did. It wasn't that I thought Free For All was such a great book; I was actually very excited to get Quiet, Please because I thought it might be better. But it wasn't. Not for me, anyway. And I know this because I was able to finish Free For All, and it didn't give me the feeling that I really disliked the author. Every now and then Douglas gets it right ("the loudest elderly women always had the quietest elderly husbands") but all in all? Very disappointing. The book had its origins in McSweeney's Dispatches from a Public Librarian, which I actually like more than I liked his book. Consider reading those first.
And, one last thing: does anyone else find it strange that in a profession dominated by women, the two memoirs available are by men? I don't usually have paranoid feminist leanings but this makes me wonder.
*Well, I can't really disagree with this point.