Review: Librarian Tales. Funny, Strange, and Inspiring Dispatches from the Stacks
Title: Librarian Tales. Funny, Strange, and Inspiring Dispatches from the Stacks
Author: William Ottens
Published: 1 September 2020
Format: Hardback, Library Book
Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of librarian William Ottens’s experience working behind service desks and in the stacks of public libraries, most recently at the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas. In Librarian Tales, published in cooperation with the American Library Association, readers will learn about strange things librarians have found in book drops, weird and obscure reference questions, the stress of tax season, phrases your local librarians never want to hear, stories unique to children’s librarians, and more.
Ottens uncovers common pet peeves among his colleagues, addresses misguided assumptions and stereotypes, and shares several hilarious stories along the way. This book is must reading for any librarian, or anyone who loves books and libraries, though non-library folks will also laugh and cry (from laughing) while reading this lighthearted analysis of your local community pillar, the library.
I’ve worked in public libraries for 8.5 years, and have been a librarian for 2.5 years. The job is unique, demanding, stressful, and, at times, hilarious. You never know what is going to happen, and sometimes you find yourself very grateful for the “boring” days, because the exciting ones are usually filled with paperwork and contacting the police and library administration. Needless to say, I was excited to read a book about working in a library, by a fellow librarian (especially since I’ve enjoyed the Librarian Problems blog for several years).
While Librarian Tales is a nice introduction to some of what goes on in libraries from staff perspective, it is more of a humble brag with limited explanations of issues that the public really should have more information on – like why it’s so hard to go fine free.
The pacing of the book was all over the place, and the fact that there was no real order (each part of the book was a different topic), it just didn’t feel like a cohesive read. It felt that right when Ottens was starting to explain something, he would wrap it up just as quickly and move on to the next topic, reflection, or mini-story. It was underwhelming to say the least.
The little stories from Facebook commenters that were sprinkled through the book were certainly a nice touch that I appreciated as a library employee. Sometimes it’s just refreshing to be reminded that librarians and library staff all over are dealing with similar problems and often have funny and odd stories to tell. I truly wish there had been more of this. I think it would have given non-library staff readers more perspective of what working in a library is actually like (hint: it isn’t a quiet, relaxing job).
Overall, I found myself chuckling a few times while I read this on my lunch break over the past few days. I’m at a new library job, and it felt good to be reminded that although my setting is new, some problems will always be the same. I love working in a public library (no matter how crazy it gets), and I hope I will forever love my career.
Happy reading, friends!