The Library Book


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Orlean re-opens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history and delivers a love letter to the institution of libraries themselves.

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Feb 20, 2019

Better than I expected.

I am a retired librarian. I took my Masters in Library Science at the University of Southern California in 1971, back when U. S. C. offered such a degree. After that I worked at a variety of library situations, public, private, medical, military, etc., in D. C., San Francisco, L. A. and elsewhere around the world. I spent two years developing school libraries in Malaysia with the Peace Corps and have worked in Army libraries in Panama, Europe and Korea. But my first library job, not counting the student library clerk gig at junior college in Compton, California, was at the Central Library Children's Room of L. A. P. L. This was some 15 years before the fire. I was working in Texas then and would have dearly loved to have taken part in the salvage efforts. My memories of L. A. P. L. were mixed, of course, good and bad, as always is the case of any workplace as complicated as a library. By attempting to take on the task of writing about the history of the L. A. library system Ms. Orlean has tried to lift too great a load. This book could never be anything other than cursory. She has made an error or two and no matter how much love she may have for her topic, she will always be an outsider. Despite its failings, this book is a highly enjoyable read and does actually give the outsider a unique insight into a world that is, despite being an integral part of a community, always regarded by the public as separate, almost eerie.

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