Monday, April 14, 2014
Our facility is currently suffering from a norovirus outbreak. This is something that I have heard of happening at other facilities, but we had not been stricken prior to today. Since prison is such a contained environment, disease can spread virulently and quickly. (For more information, please refer to the previous blog posts "Staying Healthy in Prison, Parts 1 and 2.") Between last night and this morning, more than 100 offenders had come down with it. I hadn't heard about any staff yet, but one of my minions called off today so............
Whenever anything weird happens in prison, future prison librarians, everyone is expected to drop everything and help out in the areas of greatest need-typically kitchen or laundry. Today it was kitchen, since the kitchen workers were under quarantine. I made my way down into the chaos and helped out by wiping down one hot tray carrier. Since that was the last one that needed to be cleaned, I wandered aimlessly for a few minutes trying to find a place to be useful when one of the sergeants said, "You need something to do? Come with me!" She led me to the giant walk in cooler, showed me a huge baking rack full of butter cups and said "You are going to make some more of these." I then proceeded to scoop butter into tiny butter cups with a cute little mini-ice cream scooper for FOUR HOURS.
When you consider that my professional librarian salary is significantly higher than what the offenders make ($.60/hr vs. ~$25/hr) the state was definitely not getting a good deal for their money. However, when all of the cheap labor is laid up with vomiting and diarrhea, maybe not such a bad deal. I can tell you though, that I (and my admin sidekick who also got roped into scooping butter) made the best butter cups the kitchen staff had EVER SEEN IN THEIR LIVES. You do what you gotta do. And luckily, after we had scooped approximately 1,070 ounces of butter, we were relieved by offender kitchen staff who had been deemed healthy enough to work. It definitely gives me a greater appreciation of why people want to get out of the kitchen and come work in the library, that's for sure.
In the almost five years that I have worked as a prison librarian, I have preformed many "other duties as required." Here a list so you, dear readers, can make an informed decision as to whether or not you would be interested in our other duties you may (read: will) be required to do in addition to your daily library tasks:
- Canteen: This is by far the best job I have ever had during a lockdown. The Canteen staff was awesome, you could definitely tell they love their jobs. Basically, we just continued to fill the orders along the assembly line. 10 chicken ramens? Check! 2 beef sticks? Check! 1 packet jalapeno cheese spread? Nope, not on my line, pass it down! Plus, they had snacks because all the vendors give them free samples. If you are ever in a lockdown and they are taking volunteers for canteen, definitely hop up and go. You will not regret it.
- Laundry: Kind of boring, just folding sheets. Boring, that is, until you realize that all of the sheets have writing on them because the offenders write love letters to each other on their sheets. Interesting. I was also joking that on each sheet we should write "Folded with love by the Library." It was good times.
- Sweep Team: I have been on three sweep teams during lockdowns, which are basically teams of two people who go around look for people in places they shouldn't be. One time I was sweeping with the Hearings Lieutenant and we went in an office and he kicked under the desk without looking so I yelled "If you are hiding under your desk we are going to kick you in the FACE!" Luckily, the office was empty so we didn't have to answer to shift commander as to why we kicked someone in the face who was just hiding for a security monitoring exercise...
- Transport Driver: This wasn't really a lockdown, per se, but someone was in big trouble so I had to drive them back to Big Prison with one of the Recreation Staff. That was crazy, but at least the offender was well-behaved so I didn't have to drive all crazy like the Transporter.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring. The rumor is that this could last for a few days. If it does, I hope I can just do library work, but if not I am sure I will have more fun stories for you next time!
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Consultant: "Do you mean you are concerned because it goes against the grain of librarians' professional standards?"
Me: "Sure, that sounds good."
Consultant: "Well, I understand your feelings, but just remember that you must follow the policy even if you don't agree with it."
Me: *Uncharitable thoughts about how the Nazis also preached following policy when clearly it was not morally right.* "SIGH. FINE."
1.) Moral outrage against the Nazis is completely ok, because that was horrendous. Censorship of female breasts...maybe not as much of a world crisis.
2.) I can only change what I can, and I must learn to accept those things that I cannot change. Also, I can control how I react to things, even if I don't control those things. BUT, luckily for me, the only constant in prison is change and maybe when there is a new regime there will be a new policy when they realize that there is such a thing (according to the Sex Offender Treatment mental health professionals) as healthy sexuality and the human body won't be seen as something that is dirty and should be covered up.
3.) While we TRY to run on a public library model, we are NOT a public library. It is still our responsibility to get to yes in a culture built on no, but we also need to realize when it is time to accept the no, at least for the time being.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Today while double checking the patrons' books, we discovered that someone had stolen twelve pages out of the book Choose to do Right: a Proven Path to Criminal Rehabilitation. This could be interpreted one of two ways:
1. This book is so full of amazing information that the patron simply HAD to keep the pages so they wouldn't forget what they learned.
2. This book does not work, because the patron reading it chose to destroy state property and steal the pages and not consider how it would affect anyone else.
Personally, I hope it is option number one. I used to take library theft really personally and it would make me very angry, but now my thoughts trend towards "Well, at least if it is stolen it is being read somewhere" which is much better than having something sit on the shelf not circulating.
Friday, March 14, 2014
The weather is turning nicer and the State Patrol will soon be putting out the "Look twice, save a life" motorcycle PSA's. With spring comes the reemergence of our previously mentioned group from the Things You Never Noticed Before Going to Prison post- Motorcycle Gangs. With this changing of the seasons, I begin to wonder where the motorcycle gangs went during the winter. Did they ride on south to a warmer climate? Did they hibernate in their man cave? Did they hop in their Prius to go to Home Depot for some Christmas lights? This is one of the Mysteries We May Never Know, that you would never have even known you didn't know if you weren't in prison.......
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Me: "Hmm, can you tell me more?"
Patron: "Yeah, it goes 'Four score and seven years ago...'"
Patron: "So, for lack of a better term, you're the Queen Librarian right?"
Staff overheard on the radio: "I need all available responders...there is an offender with a stick........and she is swinging the stick....DO NOT GO IN THERE!"
Patron: "You STILL don't have Muscle & Fitness yet?!?! I'm starting to atrophy!!!"
New patron, first day at the library: "This place has so many books!!!! This is the best day of my LIFE!!!!"
Monday, March 10, 2014
"Bring me my books biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!!!!!!! Bring me my books biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!!!!!! Bring me my books biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!"
Now normally I don't make any acknowledgement of such bad behavior, but it was so unexpected and ridiculous that I looked at the officer who was escorting me and just started laughing. "Seriously?" I said to her. "Yeah, they are all mean to your back but they will be all nice to your face," she replied. I guess this wasn't her first interaction with that guy that day, but she is right in that they really just want attention. Unfortunately, I didn't have books for him anyway, so I didn't even go over to that side because I figured to talk to him when I had no books would be playing into his game. What I would have said though, had I had something for him, would have been "Not with that attitude!"
Sometimes when you are working in a prison library, you deal with people who are losing it because they are locked down 23 hours a day. Don't take it personally if you get called a bitch, or any other colorful name. On a similar note, if that kind of stuff really offends you, or you have a sensitive personality, a different type of library might be up your alley.
On a happy book delivery note though, I was taking unit books to the people who have no library access the other day. I didn't have enough to leave more than one box per unit, but the offenders in every pod I went in greeted me with "OHMYGODTHEBOOKLADYISHEEEEEEEEEEEEERE!" and "Thank you so much for the books!" and "You are bringing more books?!?!? You are like a GOD in here!" And as I was walking back I decided that one way to bring joy back into my day is to take unit books to those guys because even though it is just something small, it brightened up their day and gave them something to combat the inherent boredom that is prison life. Sometimes it's the little things.