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Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian Hardcover – March 25, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McSweeney's contributor Douglas was a college student who liked books and needed a job, so he became a page in a "run-down" Anaheim public library. He soon discovered the "dark truth about librarians"-that they don't actually read much. Still, lacking better career plans, he accepted a state grant to get a degree in library science. The more he got to know his local branch, the more it felt like "watching a soap"; the staff was "like a family." When he's not repeating petty tales of staff infighting, Douglas focuses on four types of library users: teens, homeless people, crazy people and the elderly. According to him, most of them smell, all but the elderly make too much noise, and they all, in defiance of library rules, try to access pornography on the internet. After retelling a story of someone masturbating at the computer, or of nefarious activities in the public restroom, the author is quick to follow up with proud words about being a non-discriminatory public servant; his pieties wear thin after awhile. Early on, when Douglas realizes he's a librarian because he loves helping people he's quite likeable, but when his stories become prurient, it's a turn-off.
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From Booklist

Douglas launched his career as a page in a library branch, and never wholly losing his enthusiasm, he persevered, got an education, and now works as a librarian at Southern California’s Anaheim Public Library. For several years, he has been documenting his experiences on McSweeney’s Web site, giving vent to all the hopes, fears, everyday joys, and constant frustrations of daily life in a public library branch. Patrons with all their foibles take on recognizable form, from rowdy, sometimes threatening teens to an elderly patron demanding the Oxford English Dictionary on audiotape. Douglas casts a jaundiced eye on library administrators, but he does clear away stereotypes about public-service librarians and affirms their worth. Hardly a systematic treatise on public librarianship and limited by the very format of a blog (and its ineluctable narcissism), Douglas’ memoir nevertheless offers unique and utterly engaging insights, valuable for public librarians, managers, and trustees. --Mark Knoblauch
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (March 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786720913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786720910
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,372,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I know everyone else who reviewed this book really liked it, but unfortunately, for me, it did absolutely nothing.
Tina
The best part about this book is that underneath the hilarious anecdotes there is a heart-warming story that reminded me why I love working in a library.
K.F.
The story of Scott Douglas's life in the library has a great first line and one that acts as a springboard to the rest of his memoir.
Libra

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Davy on May 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was going to buy this book for myself to read over the holidays--sort of a career-path pick-me-up (I'm currently in library school)--but my interlibrary loan request came in at the last minute. I am SO glad I didn't buy it.

Basically, you've got a writer who is torn between being smug and being funny, and who unfortunately rarely succeeds at being either. Early on, one begins to wonder why the book was written...why, indeed, Mr. Douglas is even a librarian at all. In an unbearably condescending voice, he writes about how much he hated his library page job. He writes about how much he hated his coworkers. He writes about how much he hated his superiors, his library school, his professors, and worst of all, his patrons. No one is safe. And then, in the very next breath, he tells us what a noble institution the library is. Now, most of us already know that the library is a noble institution. Unfortunately, the sentiment rings utterly false when it follows a dozen pages of his childish ranting.

It certainly doesn't help that the writing is so clunky (Take this gem, for example: "Over 200,000 volumes were destroyed. It really upset a bunch of people." Imagine that!). Douglas has a particularly annoying habit of contradicting his own opinions. "There are schools for librarians," he writes, "and the idea's not as ridiculous as it often sounds." He then proceeds to explain--at length--just how ridiculous they are. In fact, check out this excerpt on the subject of 9/11: "It's a new dawn for the way we are seeking and are fed our information. For better, for worse, things will never be the same." And the very next sentence, in the very next paragraph? "Maybe the date was important to librarians, but I didn't see it."

WHA--?! About-faces like this are not uncommon.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By suible on June 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The author is convinced he is thoughtful, brilliant and humorous. I found him overbearing and mean. The theme of the book seems to be "Look at me." "Look at how much better I am than everyone else." "Isn't it funny to read mean things about other people?" I've suffered through the first hundred pages - yeah there are some interesting tidbits. And it is perhaps as funny as one of the many stale sit-coms that I'm sure Douglas looks down his nose at. It is clear that Douglas looks down his nose at pretty much everything and everyone else. Well, he has a high opinion of himself and libraries - at least except for the people IN the libraries. sigh.

I know there are a lot of five star reviews. I do wonder if I am reading the same book that those people did. I just find it unbearably condescending and mean. I think there has been one character so far who has been described as likable and NOT ugly. I wonder how his characters/victims feel about HIM. shrug. I do NOT like Douglas and am giving up on the book. I'm tempted to read further - I think it has the possibility of getting better, but life is short and I doubt that the mean, condescending trail this book takes is worth the trip.

FOOTNOTE: There is no reason for this footnote, I just want to share that I, too, can put in unrelated material - just like Douglas.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Let me state upfront that the reason I picked up this book is that I myself am a library-addict, and I have no shame in admitting as such. I visit my local public library branch (in Blue Ash, a suburb of Cincinnati) at least once a week, usually more than that. So when I saw this book, I immediately picked it up.

In "Quite, Please--Dispatches From a Public Librarian" (330 pages), author Scott Douglas brings the irreverent but very tongue-in-cheek and fun look on how he became involved working at a public library (in Anaheim, CA), eventually getting a Masters Degree in Library Sciences from San Jose Sate, and working his way up the ladder. His observations are astute. "What I quickly learned was the dark truth about librarians: they simply do not have the time to read", haha! The author understands quickly that the library is more than about books, it is a center point for the community. He describes in great, and often hilarious, details how to deal with teenage kids hanging out after school hours until they get picked up by a parent, seniors, and homeless people, all of whom see the library as much more than just a place to get a book or go on the internet. Along the way, the author brings fascinating tidbits of the history of libraries, including how Germany destroyed the main library of the Catholic University of Louvain (where I went to university, before migrating to the US) not once, but twice, in both WWI and WWII ( it was rebuilt each time and I spent many an hour there in my college days).

In all, "Quite, Please" is a terrific read from start to finish. At one point, when the author feels he needs to work on his physical appearance and starts working out, he dryly writes "I stopped after three days. I concluded that librarians just weren't made to be tough. They were made to shelve books, and you don't need a lot of muscle for that", haha! Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in libraries.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Superbug Safety on March 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ah, the library. Some people think of it as a nice, safe haven for some quiet studying, and others know the truth: that more often than not it is a dumping ground for bratty children, obnoxious teenagers, cranky adults, and everything else in-between. By now people know about some of the admittedly nutty folks who go to the library everyday, but what about the nutty people who actually work there? What I liked about this book is that it not only gives you stories about some of the weirdos who come into the library all the time, but it also focuses on the staff, the bizarre rules and regulations of the library, and the idiotic process of obtaining a Masters Degree in library science so that you can make a decent salary by sleeping at the reference desk and having your life threatened by ornery computer users. This is a great book, and I highly recommend it for anyone who's interested in knowing how a public library is actually run. Popcorn machines inside the library, rats in the break room, bribing children to read with promises of free burgers, librarians who don't read (and recommend books that they haven't read), old ladies who physically abuse the staff, and yes, even a one-chapter love story. It's all here.

Another nice touch is the overuse of footnotes, which some people will definitely find irritating, and various trivia about library history. There are also some bits from Douglas' McSweeney's dispatches, which will be familiar to those who've read them before and a nice introduction for those who haven't. Best of all, for me at least, is reading how an optimistic book-lover grows increasingly disappointed and apathetic about his job. The ridiculousness of policy and expectations of a demanding public take their toll, but there is always a sliver of optimism throughout the book, which was more than I expected.
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