Dirty Library Trilogy, part 2: Readers’ advisory at the World’s Freakiest Bookstore

In the second of three features pushing the boundaries of what librarians can learn from pop culture, we take a visit to Melbourne bookstore Polyester Books and talk readers’ advisory with one of the most provocative booksellers I’ve ever met.

Polyester Books – the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Freakiest Bookstore’ – spells trouble. It did from the moment I discovered it.

I was visiting Melbourne for the first time and a friend recommended an alternative bookshop at the far end of Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.

I had no idea where this was, so on a visit to the State Library of Victoria, I asked one of the youth librarians to help me find it. She googled ‘Polyester Books’ on a State Library computer terminal and we were both immediately confronted with the store’s incredibly NSFW logo.

As Polyester proprietor Jo Emslie puts it, “If that sign upsets you, don’t look around our shop, ‘cos your head’s gonna explode!”

Polyester Books, Melbourne
Polyester Books, Melbourne

Yet Polyester’s commitment to supplying all kinds of books, DVDs, zines, art, and periodicals is deeply relevant to the mission of 21st century librarians. I dropped in to the shop for a browse and was impressed to find the likes of obscure Austrian novelist Hermann Broch on the shelves alongside the more eyebrow-raising fare. 

So what can librarians learn from the World’s Freakiest Bookstore?

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