Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Prison tattoos-Library style!

If you have spent any time watching Lockup, or any of the other various behind-prison-walls shows, you know that tattoos are huge in prison.  I bet 1 out of 5 tattoo artists in your neighborhood tattoo parlor learned everything he needed to know about tattooing in prison.  Just kidding, professional tattoo artists go through a lot of training and apprenticeship hours, and I have lots of respect for their artistry.  But there are many tattoo artists in prison so when your gel ink pen goes missing, just know that it is probably finding new life as tattoo ink.

So today the clerks were talking about tattoos while we were getting the book drop and they were joking that they should have library clerk tattoos.  I told them that would be a great idea if it weren't illegal and thought that would be then end of it.

When I was coming back from signing in at the office, the clerks were laughing hysterically.  Because sometimes I just don't want to know, I told them "Let's go!" and we went to the next unit.  Lo and behold, in the next unit book drop was a book that someone had sworn up and down that they turned in two days previously.  (Note: usually that happens, so if someone swears they turned a book in, tell them "OK, We will look everywhere here and you go back and look everywhere in your room and if it hasn't turned up by the time you come back, THEN we will freak out.")

That made the clerks howl with laughter and in response to my quizzical look, one let me in on the joke:

Clerk: "You know that tattoo that some of the women have that says 'Trust no b****'?  Well we are going to have our library clerk tattoo be 'Trust no b**** who says she put her books in the book drop!'"


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Party like it's 1981!!!!

Greetings, readers!

Tonight's blog will give you a small insight into what it's like to weed books in prison............

So the other day we had a GED teacher retire after a long and illustrious career.  She left us many books and her boss graciously passed the usable ones along to us and discarded the old ones including a set of encyclopedias from 1981.  I thanked her, and went along on my merry way.

Fast forward to 5 minutes from then, and I got my first phone call:

*ringring*
Me: "Library, how may I help you?"
Officer: "Yes, is this the library?"
Me: "Yes it is, how may I help you?"
Officer: "Um, I have some offenders who are wondering why you threw all these books away."
Me: "Well, it was actually the teacher, but it's ok, they are supposed to be in the trash because they are encyclopedias from 1981."
Officer: "They want to know if they can get them out of the trash."
Me: "No, they are from 1981.  They need to stay in the trash."
Officer: "Ok, bye."

Now, dear readers, nobody EVER throws anything away in prison.  They are the KINGS AND QUEENS of repurposing items.  They were repurposing things before repurposing became trendy.  My patrons simply cannot accept the idea of library weeding because "Someone will want to read those!!!!"  When I respond that nobody has wanted to read them in 3 years, or nobody wants to read a book that is only pages 25-167, they look at me as if I am speaking gibberish.  And if nobody wants to read the items, they want to cut them up and decorate their bulletin boards.  Nobody cares that it's still state property and our rules state that we can not give state property to offenders for personal use.  "Ha, rules?  I care not a fig for your RULES!" is what they would say if they had a good vocabulary.

About 30 minutes after my first phone call I was out getting the book drop and the officer in the office (different officer) where I was signing in asked me why we threw away a set of perfectly good encyclopedias.  After a *facepalm* I explained again why it was ok that they were in the trash.

Me: "Do you know how many things have happened since 1981??  Like THE INTERNET?!?!?"
Officer: "Oh, I guess you're right."
Me: "We would actually be doing them a disservice by letting them keep those hopelessly out-of-date encyclopedias.  I have some current ones in the library they can look at any time they like."

The next day took the cake though.  I was out getting the book drop again and I stopped in yet another block office to sign in and I was greeted by a very happy-sounding officer:

Officer: "The offenders in that pod are SO HAPPY! They rescued a perfectly good set of encyclopedias from the trash that someone just THREW AWAY!"
Me: *HEAVY SIGH*

So now I think that these encyclopedias are somewhere floating around in one of the units.  I can't bring myself to go find them and confiscate them, because right now I have way too many other things on my plate than fighting the Battle of the 1981 Encyclopedias.

Until next time!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Interesting prison article

Just came across this on Buzzfeed. Not my prison but the cement blocks are the same no matter where you go.

A Heartbreaking Look Into The Battered Women Of Rikers Island http://bzfd.it/1qnXtjN

Funny prison one-liners

I was getting the book drops today and eavesdropping on the clerks. They are hilarious!

Clerk 1: "Did you hear she got a jury summons in the mail? I mean, it was sent to her house but she's in PRISON!"
Clerk 2: "Maybe they thought she would be extra qualified?"

Clerk 1: "Yeah I got a notice saying I was approved for an American Express card!"
Clerk 2: "But can you buy tokens with it? Hahaha!"
Clerk 3: "Only if it's the black one!"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Well the good news is: nobody hates you!

We used to have a clerk who, every time something bad happened, would always explain it was because "They hate you." It was kind of hilarious because she was this soft-spoken young clerk whom you would never expect to say anything like that. I actually bought a book called Somebody Up There Hates You just because it made me think of that and I laugh every time.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago one of our clerks had the book Doctor Sleep on hold but she didn't want to check it out yet. Three days later (which was still within her allotted time frame) she went to check it out and the book had mysteriously disappeared. Such occurrences are not unknown in the prison library as sometimes no matter how much you hammer into them at the clerk meetings that ethics are important, they will still use the library as a way to get back at their enemies. I chalked it up to the latest clerk vendetta and told her she would stay #1 on the hold list until it reappeared.

Well fast-forward to Friday when I finally had time to do some cataloging and lo and behold what did I find on the cataloging cart? Doctor Sleep! Huh. Imagine that! We were adding another copy and I didn't get a chance to print labels right away but someone probably wanted to check out the first copy so we had to approve it in the system which triggered the hold even though the book was not yet ready.

When I broke the good news to this clerk today ("Hey good news! Nobody hates you because your book is right here!") She swore up and down that she had seen that book actually on the hold shelf so she didn't understand how it could have gotten in the office. Now, loyal readers, there is always an explanation for anything that happens in the library and it is one of three things:

A. The clerk or patron has had their brain addled by drugs and their memory is not that great. (Side note A1- they could also be remembering something from a parallel universe as explained in this Buzzfeed article.)

B. Another clerk has it out for them and is pulling shenanigans.

or

C. The Library Ghost

Until next time!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Notes from Training

Good evening, dear readers and Happy Friday! Tonight's prison librarian story comes to you from the training room. One facet of work as a prison librarian is mandatory training. This usually looks like a bunch of people in a room and you may have a vague idea of who they are but you're not really sure because you are not used to seeing people in civilian clothes. Another benefit of training is usually you get out of work early, although try and avoid taking training classes from newbie instructors because they haven't grasped this concept and you will be stuck in training 1.5 hours after you expected to be there when you made important plans contingent on leaving early. But I digress...

I was going to blog about my awesome picture I drew in Motivational Interviewing that showed the library was like the auto parts and repair store because we give people the tools to make their cars/lives awesome until there was some major drama that completely changed my plan.

We were in a part of the class where we were talking about stress and the staff person sitting next to me told a story about how they were dealing with stress that included telling jokes "about black people." Not many people heard it and that wasn't even the point of the story, just a segue to the important part about how she was dealing with stress. Well, another staff person took it upon themselves to make sure an African-American person in the class knew what she said and that particular staff member BLEW UP and confronted the other staff person right in front of EVERYONE. The first one apologized for causing offence but the second one refused to let it go and kept yelling at her until the teacher interjected with "Ok let's move on."

This was something I've never experienced, but I think it should be addressed because you never know when you will run into a similar situation in your tenure as a prison librarian. Yes, the first staff could have been more sensitive to the racial makeup of the class but if the second staff was really offended, a better way to handle it would have been to confront that other staff member in private. Instead, she just looked like a rookie who lost her professionalism in response to unprofessional comments. And the unknown staff member who passed it along would have been smarter to keep their mouths shut and not cause drama.

So, future prison librarians, the morals of this story today are:
1. Don't say racist things at work.
2. If people offend you, it makes more of an impact to confront them in private and helps you maintain your professionalism.
3. Don't schedule training on a Friday expecting to get out early.

Until next time!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Crazy Prison Dreams- Patron Edition

Hello readers and happy November! As you know, I am now a solo librarian and I think the situation is stressing my clerks out a little bit as evidenced by this conversation I had with one of them while getting the book drop the other day:

Clerk: "I had a nightmare about you last night!"
Me: "Hmm that's weird. What happened?"
Clerk: "I dreamed that you got a part time job at the grocery store and you stopped showing up for library all the time. Then you made US go work at the grocery store too! I've never even worked at the grocery store!"
Me: "That sounds like it was pretty stressful! But you know, the library is kind of like a grocery store for the mind!"

The clerks crack me up.

And now here's your Prison Laugh o' the Day:
*Overhead at the book drop*
Clerk #1: "Ugh, someone must've peed in her cheerios..."
Clerk #2: "Well it wasn't me!"
Clerk #3: "I like cheerios!"

Until next time!