The World’s Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne

16101121I’ve always admired public librarians. On top of all their regular librarian duties, they also have to be social workers and counselors and police and baby-sitters. Josh Hanagarne has a challenge on top of all this: Tourette Syndrome. In The World’s Strongest Librarian, Hanagarne shares how he learned to deal with his tics and shouts, find love, and become a librarian. As a bonus, Hanagarne shares stories of life at his libraries, the Day-Riverside and Salt Lake City public libraries. (Librarians love hearing each others’ stories. When we get together and conferences, we talk for a while about best practices before trying to top each other with a story about the weirdest library patron ever. My story involves a guy and a tinfoil covered rock.)

Hanagarne begins his story with his parents, who met at a uranium mine near Moab, Utah. Throughout the book, they’re a wonderfully zany presence. His mother gave him a love of book and libraries. His father encouraged Hanagarne’s curiosity. His Tourette’s didn’t manifest until he was around 10, but he wasn’t diagnosed until his condition got really bad in high school. Hanagarne tried college and an LDS mission, but his tics would get so bad that he would have to quit until he could get them under control. His father introduced him to weightlifting after he returned from his mission, which did help with his depression and his Tourette’s–but not quite enough.

A few years after his mission, Hanagarne was fixed up with Janette by his mother. They were so perfect for each other that he proposed a few weeks after their first date. Trying to have a child with Janette, I think, is what really helped Hanagarne change his pattern. He got a job in a place he’d always loved, the library. He sought out different kinds of strength training that would help him deal with his Tourette’s. He found Adam T. Glass through a kettlebell forum online. Glass has a unique perspective and will not take any bullshit from anyone. Glass needles and presses Hanagarne to really think about his Tourette’s and teaches him how to experiment with movement. He leads Hanagarne to a life-changing epiphany.

The World’s Strongest Librarian may sound a bit boring when I describe it, because my summary is missing Hanagarne’s voice. I really enjoyed his irreverent sense of humor and liberal use of allusions to genre fiction. He is honest with himself and his readers, which I’ve found to be very rare in biography. If you’re a librarian, you should read this book. If you’re not a librarian, you should read this book anyway, because you shouldn’t miss out on meeting Josh Hanagarne.

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