Monday, August 18, 2014

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories - from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan

I see and hear some strange things working at a public library. So does Gina Sheridan, as she tells us in I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories - from the Stacks. I was once asked for "actual true photos from future space colonies." Similarly, Sheridan has been asked for an actual autobiography by a dragon. I denied an odd request to load strange software on public computers from a man who would not reveal his name because he was fleeing his evil mother. Sheridan was approached by a self-revealing undercover cop who seems to have told her so she would not tell others. I could probably recall a few more strange stories, but I could never match Sheridan. She has far more stories to tell.

The trick with telling library stories is confidentiality. As librarians, we have an obligation to respect our clients' right to privacy. Adhered to strictly, we could tell no stories at all, but it seems that we need to tell some stories. We need others to help us understand what we have said and done so we can do better or to tell us we did okay. We sometimes need to prepare our colleagues for encounters they may have. We also need to describe the nature of our work for the benefit of the profession. What better way than through true stories - with identifying details removed.

Most of Sheridan's stories will never be pinned on specific library users, as she recounts little other than dialogue in many cases. The exception is the stories in the chapter "598.2 Rare Birds," which focuses on one unique woman, whom a few people at one of Sheridan's former libraries may identify. Sheridan told Cuckoo Carol that she would be in her book, and Carol did not object.

At first glance, I Work at a Public Library seems mere entertainment, but I think it could be used in classes and workshops for librarians learning how to cope with the hazards of public service. It would be interesting to hear students and veterans describe how they would have handled these strange situations.

It warms my heart to find Sheridan included an index. So few books have indexes these days.

If there is ever a Librarians' Old Folks Home, copies of I Work at a Public Library should be stocked in the check-it-out-yourself library to prompt the old librarians to tell their stories. I'm sure they saw and heard some pretty strange things at their libraries.

Sheridan, Gina. I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories - from the Stacks. Adams Media, 2014. 157p. ISBN 9781440576249.

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