Hello everyone! Tonight's topic is one that always makes me laugh and that is answering the follow-up questions you get when you tell people you are a prison librarian. I have covered this topic before in the post about fun with telling people you want to prison, and also how to make polite conversation about prison, but people seldom read blogs word for word, or if they do they might forget, so here it is again. :-)
Probably the most common question I get is: "So....how did you end up in prison?" The truth is, I ended up in prison completely by accident and it was all my best librarian friend's fault because she sent me the job link and said, "I think you should apply! I see this job open all the time!" Ha, that should have been our first sign! Anyway... I am glad I did end up there though because everything happens for a reason, and if I didn't go to prison I probably would have just kept bartending and wishing I had a job in my field, and I wouldn't have gotten this amazing life-changing experience and I would not have had enough character because when I was little and I didn't want to do something my mom would tell me I should do it anyway because "It builds character." When I got older I told her I had enough character, thankyouverymuch, but now that I am even older, I am finally at the age where I realize that my mom was right. :-)
The second most common question I get is, "Are you scared?" followed closely by, "Do you have a gun?" The answer to both is no. No, I am not scared because I have built a good rapport with staff and patrons and I have laid down the law enough times that people know I am not one of those staff that can be manipulated. And no, I don't have a gun because they are not allowed, and that would be so terrible if an inmate was able to take my gun away and shoot me with it. After switching to professional dress, I don't even carry a radio or OC anymore, and I am ok with that.
The next most popular question is, "Do you watch Orange is the New Black?" Also, no. I read the book and thought it was interesting, and I chose to ignore the part where Piper gives detailed instructions about how to steal chicken from the chow hall because I believe in intellectual freedom a little bit more than the restrictive censorship rules, but I watched one and a half episodes on Netflix and decided to stop because I didn't like the way staff was portrayed in the series. To be fair, one of the wardens I know actually met her and said the same thing about the series I did and he said she apologized and explained that it was the show producers making it like that for dramatic effect. The one thing I do like about that show though is that it humanizes the prison population, and reminds people on the outside that offenders are actually so much more than just their crime or their DOC number.
Whenever I meet non-prison librarians, they will ask what our collection looks like. Many people think offenders have different reading habits and are very surprised when they hear that prison library patrons' reading tastes are the same as yours and mine. We need to give them the opportunity to read for themselves, because if we censor all the things, how are they going to learn to make decisions for themselves about what is good for them? People naturally want to do what other people tell them they can't, so if a prison bans Robert Greene or Laurell K. Hamilton because they don't like the "unsavory" content, they are actually not doing their offenders any favors.
Until next time!