Monday, November 30, 2015

New Maintenance record!

Hello loyal readers!  I hope this recent holiday found you all stuffed with turkey and enjoying football and your families, and if that's not how you celebrate then I hope whatever you did brought you great joy!

I am happy to report that the library has finally been painted!  And only seven months after I put in the work order!  Now, you may read that and think seven months?  Lady, you are loco!  But please note, future prison librarians, things in prison do not move fast at all.  Remember how I told you we still have Microsoft office 2003?  Yeah, 7 months is like the speed of light around here.

Although, to be fair, the maintenance guys are awesome, and all my other tickets get processed really fast.  Painting the library is hard work because you have to get lots of paint and move tons of books so they don't get paint splatter everywhere.  And they did an amazing job.  Mintern calls it "Buttercream."  I am going to call it "Ivory Castle."  Ha!

We are still working on an accent wall.  For some reason they just laugh hysterically when I tell them it needs to be purple...

Until next time!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wacky prison weather, part 3

Hello dear readers, and happy almost Thanksgiving!  This blog took me a while to write because it was so stressful, but I have finally processed it and can laugh at it now.

The past two summers have been insane in terms of weather that is not normal for this part of the country.  Tornadoes in Tornado Alley?  OK, fine.  Tornadoes in a place that never has tornadoes?  NOT OK.

To set the scene:

Mintern and I were alone in the library office, the patrons and clerks having returned to their units for the 4 o'clock count.  I, in my fancy new office fashioned from a hand-me-down cubicle wall with door and window, was looking at the emerald green clouds swirling over the greenbelt while Mintern slaved away at her never-ending stack of interlibrary loan requests.  The clouds started moving in a counter-clockwise circle reminiscent of the last time we had a funnel cloud directly outside the library.  This summer was different though, because we now have a video camera thanks to our Read to the Children program!

I grabbed the camera and began recording.  (Because I ended up making a video but I included identifying information that can't be edited out on my phone, I am not going to post it, but instead I will post a transcript so you can see what was going on.)

Opening credits slowly appear on a black screen...Birth of a Tornado....
Me: "Alright, I'm videotaping it.  We'll put it on a everyone the birth of the tornado!"
Me: *watches in awed silence for a few seconds*
Me: "Yeah those are definitely moving around in a circle."
Mintern: "Yeah they are!"
Me: "I wonder if we should call Master Control?"
Mintern: "Did you check the weather?"
Me: "I checked the news, and it just said flood warning."
Mintern: "That is super creepy!"
Me: "Yeah."
Me: "Maybe we should call S_____." (our boss)
Mintern: "S______!" (haha)
Me: "Maybe I should call my HB."
Me: *hands the camera to Mintern*
Me, in the background on the phone with my HB who has a degree in meterology: "Yeah the two times I have been here they have not done the tornado siren though...Ok you're saying we should probably get in the closet...well I can't drive, you can't drive in a tornado!...Well it's right outside the library...Ok thank you for the weather update..."

The video ends then, because I decided that I would go against HB's advice and make a run for it and try to get home before the tornado hit.  I told Mintern to get in the closet if it got worse and I headed towards the lobby.  As I was leaving, the Shift Commander and some of the yard staff were admiring the unusual atmospheric conditions from the ground but nobody seemed overly concerned.  I made it to the lobby just as the tornado sirens started blaring but I told the lobby officer I was going to make a run for it and to wish me luck...

Now, dear readers, hindsight is 20/20.  What happened next was the most stupidest thing I could have EVER done.  I got in my Jeep and started driving home, which, as luck would have it, was right towards the center of the tornado.

I got, maybe 300 yards away from the prison when the hail started.  All of a sudden, the air around me was slate grey and thick with rain pounding my Jeep sideways.  I pulled over because I realized it wasn't smart to be driving and started surveying my options.  Conditions got worse and worse, and it sounded like the hail was going to break the glass in the windows any minute.  The wind was howling, and I felt my Jeep rock a little bit.  Cars kept driving past me and I was thinking, ARE YOU GUYS CRAZY!! THE TORNADO IS RIGHT THERE!!!!"  (I found out later that the tornado did, in fact, touch down 1/4 mile from where I was...YIKES!!!)

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I knew I had to get out of there.  I didn't care that it was a one way street, every instinct in my body was telling me to MOVE.  I threw the Jeep in drive and made a U-turn.  Luckily, nobody was coming at that moment.  I drove the wrong way down the one way street, praying that nobody would hit me and hoping that anyone seeing me scared enough to flee like that would have second thoughts about driving into the raging fury that lay ahead.  I dodged one car by mere inches and then I was back on the two lane road, headed towards my safe haven of prison.

I pulled in the parking lot pursued by pelting rain and driving hail the size of golf balls.  One hit me in the ear as I ran towards the lobby.  Seeing me coming, the staff who were smart enough to stay inside opened the door and ushered me to safety.  Outside, the storm lasted for what seemed like hours, but 30 minutes later the wind died down and the sky cleared up.  I called Mintern to check on her, and she said HB had called and she told him I left and he was extremely worried.  I never take my cell phone to work because I don't want to fry its little phone brain in the hot car, so Mintern called HB and patched him through to the lobby so I could let him know I was ok.

When I left work, the road I normally take looked like Armageddon had hit.  The bridge over the stream was flooded (I forged on through, because Jeep, but don't you do that dear readers.  Aside from driving right into the tornado, driving through a flood is the second worst thing you can do) and giant tree branches were littering the road.  The street was a green carpet of leaves and you could not even see the asphalt.  All the shutters on the houses looked like someone had thrown baseballs at them and some of the siding looked the same.  I finally made it home safely, and I definitely learned a lesson because I have never been so scared in my entire life.

But, all's well that ends well and what doesn't kill makes you stronger, and I will never scoff at the forces of nature again.

Until next time!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Prison in the News

Hello there readers! I was just perusing Buzzfeed and I came across this article about the tablets that have popped up in many facilities across the nation:

Apps For Inmates

While the article does make good points about teaching offenders about technology, I would like to add a side note that 3.5 seconds after they were introduced at one of our facilities, some staff members had smuggled in micro SD cards full of porn. *sigh*

Until next time!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Team Library just keeps finding pills!

Hello readers!  Do you remember when Team Library found pills in the fiber pills bottle during a shakedown, and when Mintern found the pill she thought was a Skittle in the hallway?  Well I found another pill the other day, so we could practically have a library pharmacy if we didn't take them all to the clinic!

The other day I was walking into the library and my eye was admiring our fancy new furniture when my brain sent off the warning signal that something wasn't right with the scene.  I stopped for a half second and realized what it was: A PILL!  There was small, round, white pill that was sitting under the chair, like it had fallen out of someone's pocket while they were enjoying the comfort you can't find anywhere except the library.

I picked it up in a glove because this drill becomes rote after a while and I wrote my incident report and took it to the clinic.  The nurse identified it as Wellbutrin, which is a prescription anti-depressant that should have been swallowed in Med Line, but instead was smuggled out somehow and was probably bartered for stolen library materials....but I digress.  My ears heard "Wellbutrin," but my brain heard "Ibuprofin," (the same active ingredient in Advil) and so I told the nurse she could just throw it away.  As luck would have it, the Shift Commander was standing right next to me and she interrupted the exchange with, "OR YOU COULD HAVE THE SHIFT COMMANDER TAKE A PICTURE OF IT TO SUBMIT WITH YOUR REPORT LIKE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO!" but she said it with a smile so I didn't take any offense.  It just so happened that she had her new work cell phone there with a camera so she snapped a quick photo and I didn't even have to go to the Evidence Room.  Problem solved, and relatively quickly too!

Until next time!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day, but then also some thoughts

Patron overheard talking to her friend in the library:
"Oh no, unlike everyone else in here, I am actually guilty..."

That is one of the stereotypes of prison-that everyone inside thinks they are not guilty and are there because of The Man, or whatever.  When I first heard this patron say that, I laughed to myself but then it made me reflect on what I have observed during my six years behind the walls.  Many of my patrons are in prison because of substance abuse.  Now, I am not a mental health professional, but I have spent many hours observing and interacting with my patrons on a professionally personal level (i.e. they feel comfortable enough with me to let their guard down and share things and I direct them to library resources to help them with their information needs related to what they want to work on at the time) and I see lots of patterns.

In my opinion, substance abuse is self-medicating the deeper problem of people having pain in their lives that they find it difficult to overcome.  Working in prison has made me realize how extremely blessed I am to have come from a stable and loving home, and even though my parents divorced when I was young, they were mature enough to not let their problems bleed over into my life and they were both involved with raising me and I feel like I turned out pretty good.  However, many of my patrons had parents who abused them, took drugs in front of them when they were kids, and/or were in prison themselves, among many other things.  It's easy to sit up on a high horse and judge people who have fallen so far down that they hit rock bottom and kept digging, but how can you really know that if you had been faced with the same situations you wouldn't have turned out the same way?

One of the saddest stories I heard about one of my patrons was the girl who was 22 years old, in prison for many years, and her mom used to sell her to men to rape for drug money.  If that wasn't bad enough, she saw her brother murdered in front of her in their living room.  When I first met her, she was one of the most disrespectful people I had ever encountered and I could tell she was full of hate.  She spent more time locked up in segregation than she did in the library for the first couple years I knew her.  But then, things began to change, and she would say hello back when I said hi in the yard.  She started coming to the library more, and then one day she was showing the library clerks how to make 3D origami stars.  Stories like that really underscore the notion that you should be kind to everyone because you don't know the personal battles that people are fighting.

One of the favorite lines that the patrons say is "Oh, staff.  They are just like us, the only difference is, they haven't been caught yet."  Unfortunately, that is sometimes true.  When I first started I had an officer friend who was awesome, and then one day she wasn't at work anymore.  Turned out, she had a hot UA, or in laymen's terms, she had to take a drug test and failed.  It's really hard to maintain any credibility when you tell people not to do something and then turn around and get caught doing the same thing.

Until next time!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reader Appreciation

Greetings, dear readers!  It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian here with a very important message:

THANK YOU!!!!!! :-)

I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to read my blog, especially when there are many blogs out there in the world to read.  When I first started this blog oh-so-many years ago, I was super excited when I got 5 views in a week, and most of those were probably my mom, haha.  Now, I am pleased to report that this blog has more than 19,700 views!  Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that this little coping mechanism blog that I started to help people learn what it was really like being a prison librarian would appeal to so many people.  Also, I have FIFTEEN followers!  That's more people than my prison library employs!  Simply amazing.  Thank you all so much.

Because you make reading my blog a priority, I am going to make writing more blog posts a priority too.  So, for the next month, I promise that I will post new blogs at least two times per week.  Also, I have been getting many emails to my email address, so it seems to be a great way to connect with you about questions specific to your situation.  Keep them coming, I want to answer questions YOU want to know about!

Until next time, which won't be as long as last time!