Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome to prison! Let the fun begin!

Greetings, dear readers, it's your friendly neighboorhood prison librarian! I am starting this blog in response to the multitude of requests for information I've seen over the past three years about what it's like to be a prison librarian. This blog will tell you everything you need to know, and I hope that it will be useful to those thinking about going into the Red-Headed Step-Child subset of special libraries.

Let me begin by telling you a little bit about me and my backround and why I am qualified to speak on this topic. I fell into prison libraries completely by accident, and also by Recession. I had a great job in archives, but alas, it was a grant-funded position and when the grant ended we were done with the work so there was no need to renew it, and *bam* we were all unemployed. My HB and I decided to move back to our favorite state, and one of my fellow librarian friends said "Hey, they are hiring in prison! You should apply!" Because it was either that or bartend for the rest of my life (don't get me wrong, bartending is awesome, but when you have a Master's Degree, you want to work in your field) I decided to give it a go. This was in November. Finally, six months later I was starting Basic Training. Lesson #1-bureaucracy is not fast.

Now I have been in prison for three years, and have seen many things I never dreamed I would ever see. When people ask me how I like working in prison, my two pat answers depending on my mood are "It's the most interesting job I've ever had." and "I miss the days when I didn't know what went on behind prison walls." A prison is like a mini-city with some crazy twists on what you would find on the outside. For example, we have a post office, and the post officers are allowed, nay, mandated, to open offender mail and read it. We have a library that on the one hand wants people to have the freedom to read and intellectual freedom, yet we have to censor materials that could be construed as security threats and pornography. We have a cosmetology department, but even those teachers are expected to heed the call of duty and shake down the facility to look for drugs and weapons. We have cops, but they do not carry firearms. The more popular you are behind bars, the worse it is because it probably means that you are doing things for the offenders that you are not supposed to be doing. I always tell people "It's ok, I'm used to being the one that nobody likes" because I always make people follow the rules.

So, it's going to be a fun ride. I hope you enjoy this blog. I have lots of funny and crazy stories that I will be sharing, so make sure you follow me. If I can help even one person with their career decision to either go to prison or stay out of prison then I will be happy. Until next time!

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