Book Review – The Library Book

As a librarian, visiting and learning about other libraries is a happy experience for me. Even if I’ve not visited the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) before, I feel like I have after reading Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. Orleans uses the story of the LAPL fire in 1986 to write and explore all things public library within the American context and in particular in the state of California.

Orleans weaved her library exploration eloquently from her fond memories of her library visits with her mother as a young girl growing up in Cleveland, Ohio USA; reevaluating a 30-year arson mystery to introducing us to a bunch of library characters like Mary Foy (who became the first female librarian at LAPL in 1880 – she was only 18!) and Charles Lummis (who ran the library in a slightly unconventional way from 1905 to 1910).

Orleans writing is witty and flowing and certainly, the content is close to my heart. However, I did find the length a bit too long. I was starting to doze off three-quarters of the way. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book so I highly recommend it. Library professionals would find the content relatable and for those non-library folks well I would hope that you might see us librarians and public libraries in a new light?

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