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Overdue
Cover of Overdue
Overdue
Reckoning with the Public Library
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"One part love letter, one part eulogy, Overdue tells the story of America's public library system . . . Amanda Oliver proves herself a vibrant new literary voice . . . This is a book for all book lovers." —Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
When Amanda Oliver began work as a school librarian, fueled by a lifelong love of books and a desire to help, she felt qualified for the job. What she learned was that librarians are expected to serve as mediators and mental-health-crisis support professionals, customer service reps and administrators of overdose treatment, fierce loyalists to institutionalized mythology and enforced silence, and arms of state surveillance.
Based on firsthand experiences from six years of professional work as a librarian in high-poverty neighborhoods of Washington, DC, as well as interviews and research, Overdue begins with Oliver's first day at Northwest One, the DC Public Library branch where she would ultimately end her library career.
Through her experience at this branch, Oliver highlights the national problems that have existed in libraries since they were founded, troublingly at odds with the common romanticization of the library as a shining beacon of equality: racism, segregation, and economic oppression. These fundamental American problems manifest today as police violence, the opioid epidemic, widespread inaccessibility of affordable housing, and a lack of mental health care nationwide—all of which come to a head in public library spaces.
Can public librarians continue to play the many roles they are tasked with? Can American society sustain one of its most noble institutions?
Libraries will not save us, but Oliver helps us imagine what might be possible if we stop expecting them to.
"One part love letter, one part eulogy, Overdue tells the story of America's public library system . . . Amanda Oliver proves herself a vibrant new literary voice . . . This is a book for all book lovers." —Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
When Amanda Oliver began work as a school librarian, fueled by a lifelong love of books and a desire to help, she felt qualified for the job. What she learned was that librarians are expected to serve as mediators and mental-health-crisis support professionals, customer service reps and administrators of overdose treatment, fierce loyalists to institutionalized mythology and enforced silence, and arms of state surveillance.
Based on firsthand experiences from six years of professional work as a librarian in high-poverty neighborhoods of Washington, DC, as well as interviews and research, Overdue begins with Oliver's first day at Northwest One, the DC Public Library branch where she would ultimately end her library career.
Through her experience at this branch, Oliver highlights the national problems that have existed in libraries since they were founded, troublingly at odds with the common romanticization of the library as a shining beacon of equality: racism, segregation, and economic oppression. These fundamental American problems manifest today as police violence, the opioid epidemic, widespread inaccessibility of affordable housing, and a lack of mental health care nationwide—all of which come to a head in public library spaces.
Can public librarians continue to play the many roles they are tasked with? Can American society sustain one of its most noble institutions?
Libraries will not save us, but Oliver helps us imagine what might be possible if we stop expecting them to.
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About the Author-
  • Amanda Oliver is a writer and former librarian. Her writing has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Vox, Electric Literature, Medium, and The Rumpus. She has been interviewed about libraries and being a librarian for NPR, CBC Radio, Associated Press, and American Library Magazine. Oliver is a graduate of the MLS program at SUNY Buffalo and the MFA program at UC Riverside. A New York native, she now lives and writes in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree.
Reviews-
  • Booklist

    March 1, 2022
    Oliver knows that librarians don't read all day in a quiet building; she worked for seven years as a librarian in Washington, D.C., first in its public schools, then at the Northwest One branch of the public library. Like so many public libraries, Northwest One served as a de facto day shelter, with many patrons suffering from mental health and addiction issues, creating an environment where ""even with this basic understanding of, and patience for, trauma-impacted behavior, the reality was that I felt unsafe at the library every day."" She began to suffer from empathy fatigue, and quit library work when she was diagnosed with complex PTSD. This well-researched book is part memoir, part history of the public library, part analysis of the current state of library service, and a necessary cure for vocational awe for those outside of the profession. Despite harsh words for administrators and the capitalist forces that keep people disenfranchised, she ends with a note of hope, that libraries are a necessary part of American society. A thought-provoking read for those in and out of the library.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Overdue
Overdue
Reckoning with the Public Library
Amanda Oliver
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