Thursday, July 17, 2014

Prison library tips for getting hired- Part II

Greetings, future prison librarians!

I wanted to talk a little bit more on tips for getting hired because that seems to be a popular topic and as I am now a "hiring supervisor" and no longer a "new professional" I think I have good things to add to the conversation.

When I was in library school, the question, "Why do you want to be a librarian?" came up quite often.  The vast majority of the new little MLIS candidates responded "Because I like books!"  Now, if this describes you, don't feel bad.  When I was first contemplating librarianship, that was one of the things that drew me to the profession.  My grandma was a prolific reader who didn't like to read used books, so I grew up going to her house all the time and being surrounded by books.  I'm talking thousands of books on every topic under the sun AND I could borrow whatever I wanted!  It was a bibliophile's heaven.  I liked books.  However, as you will find out if you are still new to the profession-being a librarian is about SO MUCH MORE than liking books.

When contemplating a career in prison libraries, you will be asked "Why on earth would you want to work in prison??" by your friends and family and "So, what makes you interested in prison librarianship?" by me when I am interviewing you.  Now, don't parrot these words back to me just because you really want the job, but if your feelings align with what I am saying and you just didn't have the words yet, that's ok.  I was nervous during my interview so I don't even remember what I said when asked why I wanted to work there.  Maybe they didn't even ask, I can't remember haha.  But here goes:

1. "I want to serve an underserved population."  To me, this is the prison library equivalent of "Because I like books."  It has promise, and is the right idea, but could be developed into so much more.

2. "I want to bring knowledge and information to people who oftentimes don't know how to use valuable, free resources."  A huge part of prison librarianship is library instruction, although usually it is not done in a formal, classroom setting like you would find in an academic library, but rather on the fly during a crazy busy library hour.

3. "Serving people is my passion, and I think the patrons would benefit from my desire and ability to share my knowledge."  Librarianship is a service profession which is why, in my opinion, people who have backgrounds in food service do very well in prison libraries.  If helping people does not make you feel a warm, fuzzy joyful feeling inside, then maybe you want to consider a different career path.

4. "Difficult people don't scare me and I enjoy a challenge." Patrons in prison can be extremely challenging.  They can be self-absorbed, narcissistic, rude, and downright mean.  Nobody enjoys being treated like crap so don't say "I enjoy working with difficult people" but if you can show me that you understand it's going to be a hard environment to work in and you are not one to run from a challenge, you will definitely score points with me.  Also, you need to understand that, as a prison librarian, not everyone is going to love you automatically just because you are the librarian.  You have to work hard and establish yourself as someone who is firm, fair, and consistent before you can enjoy the peace of the respect you have earned.

What other reasons do you have, dear readers, for wanting to work in prison?  

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