Yes, I am a Gnome-Lover, which is for gamers the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Gname. People always think of Elves or Drow as the most hated of characters, but I think you'll find that many people revile Gnomes just as much.
When it was announced Gnomes were not to be one of the "original" races of D&D 4e, the gnome-haters came out in droves. "Good riddance!" and "Worthless" were the cries of the day.
I freely admit to you that Gnomes have a difficult path in fantasy gaming. Not the stout, proud warriors that are Dwarves, or the cute, mischievous Hobbits-turned-Vietnamese Boat People that are Halflings, Gnomes have long held more than a single identity.
The problem with many races outside of Mankind is that we wish to assign them a basic identity, while reserving the "Sooooo Adapatable!" moniker for Humans (a little bit of home cooking, perhaps?). In fantasy gaming Gnomes were originally a more magical race, by turns subterranean and sylvan. They later morphed into the fast-talking crazy inventors of Dragonlance and other settings. By the time of D&D 3.5, their favored class turned from Illusionist to Bard. In my current RPG of choice, Castles & Crusades, they're back to being largely portrayed as wilderness-dwelling Illusionists.
All this means is that we do not agree on what Gnomes should be; they are too small and wizened to be the graceful poster children for the forest that Wood Elves are. And so, left in limbo, Gnomes were endlessly divided; Rock Gnomes, Forest Gnomes, Tinker Gnomes, Deep Gnomes, Sky Gnomes, and several others to boot. Each highlights a different portion of what we want gnomes to be. Personally, I have a race of gnomes in the East of my setting that love trickery, (bad) humor, inventions, explosions, and discovery. In the West, a sylvan race of Gnomes barely survived a technological catastrophe, and became a Luddite society. A "lost tribe" in the High North lives underground and serves dragon overlords by mining and earth magic. I don't know if any will meet or not in my current campaign, but it will be a blast if they do.
I think, in order to really get the most use out of gnomes, they need to be played not unlike we play humankind--with infinite varieties in the gene pool, and interesting, clashing cultures. I am not saying make the cultures humanlike--that seems boring--but emphasize the cultural and philosophical differences between the different types of Gnomes. We have no problems doing this with Elves or Humans--why should Gnomes be different?
Like Elves or Humans, you're going to find something to hate in Gnomes. But there should also be something you like. Their niche is that they can fill whatever niche you choose--there's a treatment of it out there, or you can make your own. Don't lightly consign a race with this much potential to the dustbin.