Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Liberry Lady and the Case of the Bloody Book

One of the cardinal rules of prison is "If it's wet and it's not yours, don't touch it."  We have mentioned this before in this blog and today was a reminder of why it's true.  Today I was delivering books and a patron handed me a stack of returns.  He strategically handed them to me with the spine facing me so that I couldn't see the pages.  As I was placing them on the book cart, I happened to notice a large, dark stain on one of them.  The conversation went like this:

Me: "What happened to this book?"
Patron: "It was like that when I got it!"
Me: "No.  It wasn't.  We would not allow a book like this to circulate."
Patron: "Well, I didn't do it!"
Me: "Clearly, this is blood on this book."
Patron: "No it's not!"
Me: "Well then what is it?"
Patron: "I don't know."
Me: "Did you loan it to a friend?"
Patron: "No, I had it the whole time."

This back and forth is typical of library patrons in prison when they have damaged books.  Rarely does anyone admit that they damaged the book.  I can count on two fingers the number of times someone has admitted that they damaged a book in the four years I have been in prison.  This patron took it to a new level though because he wheeled his chair closer to me and proceeded to tell me how honest he is, and how last week he admitted that he had six books in his room even though we said he only had two checked out.  (*Note-this is a prime example of offender "honesty": telling you about how they did the right thing [letting us know when they had too many books] when they really did the wrong thing [stole them off the cart when we were busy helping other patrons.])  Then, when I told him that I appreciated his honesty in that situation but this is a completely different situation, he claimed that he shouldn't have to pay full price for a "used" book, and when I told him he was not paying for the book, but to think about it like restitution--if you break a window in prison, you pay to fix the window but you don't get to keep the broken glass.  To which he replied, "Yes you do!"  *facepalm*

I am tempted to take the book to the clinic and see if they can DNA test it, since everyone who comes through prison puts a DNA sample in the bank.  But I know that even if I showed him a report that said "THIS IS YOUR DNA" he would still deny it, because that's one thing to know about this patron group--they will look you in the eye and lie to your face.  If he had just said, "You know, I am a diabetic and sometimes my finger sticks bleed and I don't realize it.  I am really sorry I got blood on this book, what can I do to make it up to the library?"  I would probably have said, "You know, I appreciate your honesty, this time I will give you a warning and please be careful next time."  Honesty goes a long way with me.  I understand accidents happen when you're reading books.  I'm not immune- one time I got tomato from my salad on a book I was reading.  Granted, it was my book and not a library book but still.  When you're in prison, most books are not yours.  But the point is, accidents happen, and when patrons admit their mistakes I am more willing to work with them.  

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