Why do we do what we do?
I found myself asking this question as I read this book.
I have worked in a public library branch for about as long as Mr. Borchert, and from what I could tell, in a similar (paraprofessional) job. And the waiting list for our libraries’ copies of “Free for All” is made up largely of my fellow workers.
To Borchert’s credit, most of all of his experience as a library employee rings true. The problem/quirky/belligerent patrons, the latchkey kids, the machinations of a public library system, even the foul deposit in their book drop (unfortunately)—none of this was news to me. These experiences and others like them make up the bulk of the book, accompanied by the author’s pithy comments. Only a couple of chapters talk about people or situations that have touched his heart.
Which brings me back to my original question.
For me, the answers are easy, although it took me a long time to discover them. First of all, I love books, facts, and details. My mind just seems to be hard-wired that way, and a library is a great place to be able to use those skills. Second, heaven help me, I like people. I have enjoyed some really great working relationships. And I like helping people, for the most part, especially when something I’ve done has made a difference for them, even in a small way. When I left retail a dozen years ago I took a pay cut to work in the library. The number of sincere thanks I received that first year (which has somewhat diminished over the years) more than made up for the smaller income.
In an interview with USA Today, Mr. Borchert is quoted as saying that the library can be the “dullest place in the world—91% of the time,” and that it’s the other 9% of the time that “Free for All” deals with. What I would love to ask the author is why, if your job is boring most of the time and loony the rest, do you continue to do it? That was the part of the book I think I really missed …