Thursday, October 16, 2014

Prison Librarians: helping people without all that pesky "technology"

Greetings readers! Today I was at a conference and we were listening to a presentation that featured digital initiatives and my colleague leaned over and asked me, "Are you sad that you are missing out on all that?"
I thought about it for a little bit because she was asking in all seriousness and then I replied, "No, because still I get to help people and that's what I really love to do." As a prison librarian, you will never be on the cutting-edge of technology. You will be lucky if you have Microsoft Office 2010. But this job is so much more about helping the people in-house that you really don't have time to wish for technology because you are too busy finding information so they can create a plan to be successful when they do get out, since 97% of them will one day.
Now don't get me wrong, I think digital initiatives and technology in the library are wonderful and I think prison really does people a disservice by locking them up for decades and then expecting them to do well in a fast-paced world that relies heavily on technology. I can't even tell you how many of my patrons avoid the OPAC because they have never used a computer mouse before. None of our patrons have legal* access to the internet. And don't even THINK of getting a 3D printer. I had to fight administration because they wanted to ban an article in Popular Science that said "Yes, people can make guns with 3D printers." It didn't have the code or anything. They just didn't want them to even THINK about it. (Side note- that's like the local school district trying to ban the teaching of history that includes stories of civil disobedience. Because if you don't tell kids about it they will never even think to do it? O_o)
Anyway, I'm happy to be at the conference for the next two days. I love being able to get together with like-minded people who are awesome and remind myself why I chose this field.
Until next time!
*The only way people get on the internet in prison is by having a cell phone smuggled in with internet service. One of my old clerks got into huge trouble one time because he had taken a selfie outside the prison gym wearing his prison greens and made it his MySpace profile pic but didn't think to make his account private. Yeah, the Intel officers saw that quickly and sent him down to the supermax before you could say "hashtag."

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