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!