Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Literary Profiling

In September there was a discussion amongst my colleagues about a book that should possibly be added to our Materials Incompatible list due to violating the selection criteria by having lots of depictions of actions or conduct prohibited by law, namely pedophilia.  The cover flap of this book even says (and I paraphrase) "The main character of this story has a sexual penchant for fourteen year old boys!" Personally, I don't think reading books about someone who likes fourteen year old boys is any more likely to make you a pedophile than reading books about people who like S&M will make you a dominatrix, but policy is policy.
Where I take umbrage is that I received this book as a donation today. From Property. Which means that the Mail Room let it into the facility. The Mail Room, who is supposed to be the gate keeper of censorship. The Mail Room who also sends EVERY URBAN FICTION BOOK to the reading committee for "questionable content." The Mail Room who wants to censor a photograph of a teeny tiny side boob that is no bigger than my pinky nail in a 450 page magazine. They find the smallest side boob, BUT THEY MISS THE BOOK THAT SAYS "sex with fourteen year old boys inside!" RIGHT ON THE COVER???
Now here is where my delimma enters into the picture. Do I take it triumphantly down to the Mail Room and wave it in their faces and say "You philistines! Look, LOOK what you let in, when you freak out over every opaquely covered hard nipple in Vogue! Clearly you are profiling the books and magazines you send to the reading committee because you have NO IDEA WHAT TO LOOK FOR!" ?? Heck no I am not going to do that even though I want to really bad. Because if I do that, I think it will backfire and lead to the Mail Room censoring even more materials. It's a fine line in prison my future prison librarians. One must learn to pick one's battles and to defend the freedom to read in all forms even if that form happens to be the lack of attention to detail on the part of the censors.
Until next time!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lockdown, Day 792...I'm getting really tired of scooping butter...

Haha not really, but after 10 days of being locked down it sure seems like it!
Just a quick update for everyone: nobody has tested positive for norovirus so everyone is sick with something else.  Could be the flu, could be a case of She'ssicksoIwillpretendtobesicktoo-itis.  Regardless, this is the longest time in my tenure we have been locked down with no library services.
During this time I have run the gamut of odd jobs and I can now provide a definitive ranking of the jobs mentioned in the previous post.  My top favorite is Canteen. Librarians are perfect canteen workers because we have attention to detail and excellent organizational skills. My line of items filled: no mistakes. Plus, as always, they have snacks.
Laundry has moved up into my second favorite other job but mainly because the staff over there is amazing. It really helps when the staff you are helping expresses their gratitude and laundry staff definitely did while we were there.  Another reason laundry is great is because I wear a Fitbit now and in one day I walked 14,000 steps! I never realized how far you really go when you are just walking from dryer to folding table.  I was also able to teach the laundry staff some new folding methods including the Circle Fold (wrap clothes into a circle with your hands, throw in pile and fold the next one) and the Alternating Color Sheet Folding Pile.  Some might call that ADD.  I call it being creative! 
Finally the kitchen is my third place to work.  It definitely gave me a lot more respect for the huge amount of work that goes into feeding 1,000 people with workers who are not working there because they want to.
Now, luckily, we have escaped to a librarian conference so for the rest of the week we will be filling our brains with best practices and getting excited about our jobs again.  Until next time!

Monday, April 14, 2014

"And other duties as required"

Many of us have read this additional little caveat in our job description at one time or another.  The infamous catch-all so higher-ups can justify having you clean the bathroom, or go on a coffee run, or various other menial tasks that need to happen on a daily basis but are too detailed to go in the job description proper.  Today, my librarian skills were utilized for some other duties, as required.

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/day 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!