Author: Susan Orlean
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Reviewed by: Orla
This is one of the best Non-Fiction books I’ve read over the last couple of the years. Not only because I’m a librarian myself but it highlights the significant role a library plays in our communities. The library has always been the heartbeat of any community. Every library casts a net to the wider community to capture their attention and interests. Each librarian endeavours to show that there is something for everyone at their public libraries.
The best reward for any librarian is to witness all resources are being made good use of. When the Los Angeles public library burned down, ruining a multitude of contents a gaping hole was left in the community. The fire not only left a hallowed building but its existential soul was lost too. Susan Orlean emphasises how many people depend heavily on library services. For example, elderly patrons may have no one to talk to. Their daily visit to the library could be the only social interaction they have all day.
In big cities homeless people that are shoved from pillar to post often take refuge in libraries. It helps to shield them from the elements and give them something to fill their day. Story time for toddlers and babies is often a welcome chance for worn out parents to meet other parents. Urban librarians try to retain the interest of disadvantaged children and fill them with courage and belief. Students, casual readers, teachers, researchers, the list is endless of all those who avail the library.
The author also acknowledges the valuable damaged hard copies of archives was a colossal loss. It has been painstaking and labour some to restore them. Some items were salvaged. Others needed more tender care and treatment. Other artefacts were beyond the stage of rescue. The book also goes into history of libraries and how they came about.
Every so often the suspected culprit of who burned down the library raises his head. There is a chase throughout the book of the cops trying to frame him. He was there the morning the library burned down, he was prone to playing pranks but he had a believable alibi. He also craved to be an actor so was he acting when he gave his testimony? Is he trying to pull the wool over the cops eyes? Or is he genuinely being made a scapegoat? The reader draws his own conclusions and plays detective. This book is unputdownable and gives a great insight into the workings of any library and fosters a passion for those who love to read.