Friday, January 30, 2015

Shiny new contact info

Greetings dear readers!

I wanted to let you know that I have set up an email address to correspond with this blog. The purpose of this is twofold: it allows me to keep this blog "anonym-ish" and also provides a different platform for readers who have questions about prison librarianship but don't want to leave them on the blog.

So, from now on, you can contact Mintern and me at

Until next time!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Today a patron checked out the book The Martian, which invariably led to a conversation about how space is portrayed in Sci-Fi.  One of our clerks is a huge sci-fi fan, so she has extensive experience with the genre:

Clerk #1: "I don't want to go to space!  It's all empty and scary and people get mutated there!"
Clerk #2: *Coming to the conversation late* "Where is this vacation place?  China??"


Until next time!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mintern meets OC

Hi readers!

In order to carry pepper spray on a daily basis at a prison in my state, you first have to be exposed to it. While it might initially sound really mean to make all DOC employees experience the cruel, blinding burn of pepper spray, the state requires exposure for legitimate reasons. First, the department of corrections wants to make sure that you aren’t allergic to the chemicals. Second, it is an absolute certainty that pepper spray is used in prison settings. Whether you are in the middle of the fray or you just accidentally walk through the outskirts of the mist, the department wants to ensure that you can operate effectively while experiencing the negative effects of the demon juice.

Now, I am not a huge fan of spicy foods. The mild sauce from Taco Bell has been known to make me tear up, so you can only imagine what a face full of OC did to me. All 100 of my classmates and I lined up single-file outside of a tiny, little brown shed. In groups of four, we entered the shed. Upon entering, our training instructors filled the shed with OC. It was stifling. My eyes instantly started tearing up, and I was involuntarily coughing left and right. While in the shed we had to shout loud, repetitive instructions to a fake offender as we aimed our own individual cans of OC at an outline of a person on one of the shed walls. After our training officers were satisfied with our performance, we rushed out of the shed and had to successfully demonstrate knee strikes on a training mat. Our instructors said that rubbing our eyes would make the burning worse, so I made sure not to touch any part of my face. While I didn’t get direct exposure, I got enough to know that any amount of pepper spray is bound to be a pretty unpleasant experience.

Until next time! Mintern, over and out.

P.S. Special note to all the guybrarian readers out there: A few dudes in my training class didn’t wash their hands after exposure… Let’s just say that they were in more than a little pain after our first restroom break following exposure.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

For your reading pleasure, a new blog from Mintern

Hello readers!

This was the best week of training ever! I got to meet one of the super awesome dogs that the Department of Corrections keeps on staff. There are nine dogs that work for the department. They travel from facility to facility to sniff out bombs and narcotics, and they follow the scent trails of escaped offenders! The dogs can pick up the trail of an escaped offender from miles away. That’s pretty amazing!

For the presentation today, one of the dog trainers stowed a little bit of marijuana in the purse of one of my fellow classmates. When the (cute but ferocious) dog was brought into the room it barked and barked until the dog trainer gave him some slack to hunt out the contraband. The doggy found it within minutes and quietly sat right next to the purse-in-question until the dog trainer discovered the drugs and gave the puppy his favorite chew toy as a prize.

The dog trainers said that anyone in the department of corrections is welcome to cross-train with them for a day. If I cross-train with the dog trainers, I would get to see the dog in action in a real prison and help make sure the dog stays on top of his game by doing drills. So my new mission in life is to think up an irrefutable reason that a prison librarian needs to cross-train with the narcotics doggy. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Mintern, over and out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Greetings, Readers!

Mintern and I spent the majority of last week re-arranging the office with the help of some awesome maintenance guys and our library muscles.  Today's laugh comes from the moment when we had my desk half-stuck in the doorway, all of our work in random piles and empty boxes that I save in case I need them strewn across the remainder of the office furniture and one maintenance guy trapped under the desk trying to unscrew the screws of the L shape so it would fit.

Me: "This is awesome!  I feel like I am on an episode of House Hunters: Renovation!"
Mintern: "Really??...I was going to say Hoarders..."

So I have a lot of empty boxes in the office.  Don't judge me! ;-)

Until next time!

Friday, January 23, 2015

And now, a blog from Mintern

Hi readers!

Mintern, here, reporting from basic training. Today was kind of a bummer. We spent all day learning about mental health awareness and learning trauma informed practices. A huge number of offenders in the prison system suffer from mental health issues. It’s important to acknowledge these issues and use fair, firm and consistent communication through an individualized approach in order to take the mental health of the offender into consideration during every single interaction.

We also talked about trauma informed practice. There is a large population of offenders who have experienced trauma in their lives. This means that the stressful prison environment is even more difficult. Anything could be a trigger that might cause the offender to be re-victimized. 

Although we discussed mental health awareness and trauma informed practice for a full eight hours, we really only scratched the surface.  I got an overview of mental health issues like borderline personality and schizophrenia, and I received information about talking with rape survivors and victims of PTSD. But I barely feel prepared to take on the responsibility of providing resources to such a diverse population. In hindsight, I wish I had taken a more interdisciplinary approach to my Master’s degree. It definitely would have paid off to have a class under my belt like abnormal psychology or human behavior.

Mintern, over and out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mr. Dr. Street Thug Hustler meets Mintern. Again.

Hello readers, and Happy Tuesday!

You may remember the following  character from a few blogs back: Mr. Dr. Street Thug Hustler--the smooth-talkin' cat from the 'hood who has a doctorate in Streetology and a penchant for the ladies. Today he met Mintern (for the third time) and had a grand old time telling her all sorts of things while we did our Tuesday deliveries. Since I was busy helping patrons as well, I didn't get to hear the entire conversation but here are some snippets overheard and reported by Mintern.

M.D.S.T.H.: "Well hellllllllo there ladies! How you doin'."
Us: "We're good thanks, how are you?"
M.D.S.T.H.: "Oh you know. I been sickly lately. First time I've been up and about in DAYS."
(Note: he was up and about last week too. But we all know how prison time works and maybe he forgot that he was cruising around last week.)


M.D.S.T.H.: *to Mintern* "So. Wa's YOUR name?"
Mintern: "It's Ms. Mintern."
M.D.S.T.H.: "MINTERN! You know that's Irish!"
(Note: Mintern is not Irish.)

*Even Later*

M.D.S.T.H.: *To Mintern* "When are y'all goin' to start ILL'in' DVDs again? I went and got a new TV set up just so I could watch that new movie Lucy! I LOVE Scarlett Johansson! I jus' can't wait to see that new movie!"
(Note: The movie Lucy either just came to theaters or has not been released yet. It's going to be AT LEAST 18 months before we will be able to interlibrary loan it for him.)

This is just a snippet of our day, but you can see that this patron is indeed a high maintenance one. I am interested in hearing the stories from Mintern next week when I'm on vacation.

Until next time!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Yesterday while getting book drop, one of the United seargeants told me that the day before, she had stopped someone from putting dirty socks and hangers in the book drop. When she questioned the woman as to why she would do that, the reply was that her roommate had recently left and forgotten those items so she wanted to make sure they got to her.

Now, I pride myself on being able to get things places they should be from the book drop, but even my powers have limits haha.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, readers!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Things that make you go "Hmmm"

Greetings readers! It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian here with an interaction from yesterday's deliveries that just made me go "hmmmm."

Me: "I'm going to need you to turn that book in as well because it's overdue and on hold for someone else."

Patron: "No! That's not what the lady said last week!"

Me: "Mmm, I'm the only librarian and I don't remember saying that last week."

Patron: "Yes, you did!"

Me: "No, I didn't. Now may I please have the book?"

Patron: "Yeah, you were here last week and you had brown hair and were here with a man! You said I could keep it!"

(Note: there are no men that work in my library since Minion #1 switched facilities and I did have brown hair one time--about 4 years ago....)

It's amazing how time passes, or doesn't, in prison.

Until next time!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Conversation with a clerk about stolen library books:

Clerk: "I'm surprised THAT one's still here!"
Me: "Yeah, it seems like if they go on hold right away and stay on hold they usually stick around."
Clerk: "I bet that Abbie Hoffman book is the most stolen book in the world!"
Me: "Which one is that?"
Clerk: "Steal this Book! If you had that book, you could totally live on the street back in the 60's."
Me: "Interesting,  What's it about?"
Clerk: "How to live on the street!"

Ah, they crack me up!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

In prison, it's best to trust your instincts

Hello readers, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope 2015 is an amazing year for all of you, filled with many good things and new or continued prison library jobs.

Today, I would like to talk about your gut instinct, and when you should listen to it in prison, which is always.

Case in point:  A couple days ago we were winding up an extremely cold snap and the snow was rumored to stop right around the time I was supposed to get the book drop.  I told the clerks "If the sun comes out and it stops snowing, we will get the book drop."  They said ok and went off to be counted.  12:30 rolled around and it was actually starting to get sunny, but a few snow flakes were falling.  I started walking to get the cart and head out when a little voice in my head said, "Don't get the book drop today."  Since I had a lot of things to catch up on after the holiday, I used the 30 minutes to work on interlibrary loans and thought nothing more of it.

Around 1:30 that afternoon, the Chaplain's clerk came in to ask if she could borrow the cart.  I told her ok, but not even 5 minutes later she rushed back into the library sans cart with a horrified look on her face.  "You are going to be so mad at me, I am so sorry!" she gushed.  "Uh, why?"  "I BLEW UP A TIRE ON YOUR CART I AM SO SORRYYYYY!!!"  So, one of the tires had blown as soon as she put the weight on the cart.  Luckily it happened to her in upper programs rather than us while we were out in below 0 temps with a heavy load of books.  LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS.

Until next time!