Unshelved: Read Responsibly

The latest Unshelved volume, Read Responsibly, is out.

Read Responsibly cover
Read Responsibly
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The strips collected originally ran February 2006 – February 2007, plus there’s a few extras originally published in American Library Association projects. The art is still basic, but when I look back at earlier books, it’s surprising to see how far it’s come. The direct approach works for the material and the audience, too. It’s straightforward, allowing the jokes to come from recognition of or familiarity with the situations.

The book opens with the library staff trying one of those “everyone in the city reads the same book” efforts popular recently as civic development projects. Tech-hating Colleen has come a long way, now blogging too often in another run of installments. She describes her “hobby” like this:

At first, it’s just a lark, a few wry observations and catty comments. Then you start writing regularly. Soon you’re opening your soul instead of taking lunch. Before you know it, you’re a twitching, nervous wreck.

There’s a punchline later, of course, about making fun of co-workers, but that’s the part that will stick with me.

Other subjects include personal use of work computers, weeding collections to keep them a manageable size, bureaucratic information-gathering, being hit on by an inappropriate co-worker, contamination and germs, how best to serve the community, and having to deal with stupid (or more charitably, oblivious) people. They’re all based realistically in the library, but as one can see, they’re also generalizable to many other readers. Then there’s the silly bits, like sending Dewey to provide community library service in a nudist colony.

One of the things I like about this series is that they take on real issues, but happily and with humor. For example, there’s several strips about homeless people outstaying their welcome in the library, but they turn this real-life problem into a joke by speculating on people sleeping on top of bookshelves. It’s not deep, but it’s comforting, which especially helps during the sequence where Homeland Security wants to investigate circulation records. (I hate being reminded of that abuse of rights, even as I’m being reminded that there are courageous librarians fighting for civil liberties.)

The book also includes a page showing the writer’s art, since he draws the strip once a year on the artist’s birthday, and the color Sunday Book Club recommendation pages.

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