Greetings Readers! As you may remember from my previous post, I was once a member of the Illustrious Brotherhood of Bartenders. Being a bartender was one of my favorite jobs of all time because I worked with a great group of people and it was nice to have cash all the time. However, I paid $60,000 for my education and as fun as it was, I a.)needed more money to pay off my ridiculous student loans and b.) actually wanted to work in my field as a librarian or archivist. So, when the opportunity to actually be a librarian came up, you can imagine why I switched jobs. That being said, I am SO GLAD that I had the experience bartending before I got to prison. Because there are so many benefits to working as a bartender before going to prison, I have made a list for your reading pleasure:
Why Everyone Who Wants to be a Prison Librarian Should be a Bartender First
1. When you work as a bartender, you get used to everyone looking at you all the time. In prison, everyone is also looking at you all the time. If you are shy and don't like people looking at you ALL THE TIME, you should probably consider a different career path.
2. When you are a bartender, everyone wants to make conversation with you. This is good because by being a good conversationalist you can make better tips. In prison, everyone also wants to make conversation with you, and you can use your skills gained from deflecting inappropriate comments from drunk patrons to deflect questions you don't want to answer from offender patrons. However, one thing to note--in prison you actually have to tell people they are being inappropriate because subtlety often doesn't work with them and also because you don't want them to think that if they keep asking you eventually will answer their questions. But the key is to tell them tactfully yet firmly, much like with a drunken customer who thinks that because you are a bartender that you are available for whatever customer services they want.
3. Bartending requires confidence. Prison librarianship requires confidence as well. If you are not confident in what you are doing, you will get eaten alive. These are both professions where you REALLY need to "Fake it until you make it."
4. Multi-tasking is a must when you are working a crazy busy bar on a Friday night. Nobody likes a bartender who makes one drink at a time. You need to be able to make six drinks while you close out a tab and order another couple's food and make change for the servers and open another bottle of wine because the last one only had half a glass in it. In a prison library, you need to be able to answer a reader's advisory question while you are getting an interlibrary loan CD from the office while you are checking on the status of someone else's interlibrary loan while you are getting the library clerks some projects to work on while you are making sure that those two girls in the corner aren't touching while you are also making sure that the 10,000 Dreams Interpreted that is supposed to stay on the Reference shelf doesn't walk out of the library in someone's pants. See what I mean? And that is me on a slow day.
5. Customer service. Before I got to prison, I thought that everyone should spend some time working in a restaurant so that they can have some empathy for restaurant workers. Now that I have been in prison, I still think that. But, while having good customer service skills will help you in any profession, it is especially helpful in prison when dealing with both offenders and staff. If you are always polite, smile at everyone, do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it, and treat everyone with kindness and respect you will not get shanked. Prison library patrons can really try your nerves, especially when you are new to them and they are still trying to figure you out. But if you always use your customer service skills and heap coals of fire on their head by being polite when they are screaming in your face they will change their attitudes and behave. And if they refuse to behave, you can have them escorted out just like you can if your bar has a bouncer.
6. "I don't know, but I will look it up for you!" While many associate this phrase with librarians, I actually learned it bartending, because what do you do when you have no idea what goes into an Alabama Slammer? You look it up in your bartender recipe guide! What do you do when you don't know what AR says offenders are not allowed to have mohawks? You look it up in your AR guide!
If you have these bartender skills, then good for you-you are halfway ready to be a prison librarian. If you don't, then I highly recommend getting a part time bartending job while you are putting yourself through library school. The skills you will learn as a bartender will not only benefit you in the professional world, you will also become one of your friends' favorite people because now you will know how to make all the cool drinks. :-)