Friday, March 22, 2013

330 (2013 #14). The World's Strongest Librarian

by Josh Hanagarne

The title of this book certainly caught my eye when perusing my choices in the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program last month.  I'm a librarian, this book is by and about a [former] librarian, what's not to like?

Subtitled, "A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family," it's about a 6'7" (whoa, an inch taller than my son!) Mormon librarian who suffers from Tourette Syndrome, and lifts weights and participates in strongman events in an effort to control it.  Josh Hanagarne has been blogging under his book's title since April 2009.

So what did I really like about this book (besides the title and cover art)?  I got a kick out of the table of contents, where each chapter uses the Dewey Decimal Classification system (used in most public libraries) to give you some idea of what the chapter is about. The Dewey numbers and descriptions were repeated at the beginning of each chapter.

Most of the chapters, as well as the introduction, begin with a vignette of an experience Josh had in his former work as a public librarian, mostly in Salt Lake City.  He relates some of the weird encounters so typical for big-city public librarians, who deal with the homeless, the mentally ill, and unsupervised (or poorly supervised) children on a daily basis.   I have the utmost respect for my public library colleagues (I worked in a large suburban system for over six years as a paraprofessional, but have been in an academic library since getting my degree).  I'm all for more exposure of the issues public librarian deal with routinely.

I also liked Josh's honesty about his struggles with Tourette's, as well as his wavering Mormon faith.  I learned a lot I didn't know about Tourette's, as well as about the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).   It was especially interesting to read about the whole mission process for young Mormons.  I could certainly understand his frustrations with the LDS church, especially after his negative experiences trying to adopt under their Family Services program.  I liked the "power of family" part of his book, reading about how supportive his parents and siblings and wife and in-laws were and are, and how his mother in particular promoted his love of reading and libraries.

I also liked how Josh paid attention to what was happening with his Tourette's and tried out some non-drug ways to attempt to control it.  I could see in general how the weightlifting helped.  I couldn't completely follow what he was learning from Adam, but I definitely respected his trying new things.

The one part of the book that I didn't like was on page 203 of my advance reader edition.  Josh has some not-so-nice things to say about his library school, which I also attended, although he didn't start until after I graduated.  Now granted, I'll be among the first to admit my mostly-online program was not perfect.  Some classes and instructors were terrible, but some were quite good.  The program, like ALL the other online or mostly-online programs out there, has grown too big and churns out more librarians than there are jobs for them, and not inexpensively either.

The thing is, you need this master's degree to get a (higher-paying) librarian job in most libraries (most definitely in most academic ones), and Josh fast-tracked through the program in one year.  He was kind enough to respond to my e-mail about my concerns about his criticisms, and he said, "if I were doing it again I'd need to try a different school."  I don't think he'd have any different results in another mostly-online program, and I don't think he could have done a program that usually takes 18 months to two years in only one year (and continued to work full-time in a library) in a program that was mostly face-to-face.

It's a tradeoff.  Because of that, I feel he was a little too harsh with his criticism of our library school, particularly with an instructor who might have just been having a bad day herself.   (He did tell me the incident in question made it into the final book; I had e-mailed to ask because I did not want to criticize something that might no longer be there.)

So the bottom line:  I would most definitely recommend this memoir to anyone with Tourette Syndrome or a loved one with Tourette's, or anyone who wants an inspiring story on how to deal with any disability or medical disorder. 

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[I received this advance reader's edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviwers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

No comments:

Post a Comment