Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Au Revoir, Mintern!

Greetings dear readers!  I am pleased and also a little bit sad to report that Mintern has reached her MRD and will be leaving the world of prison librarianship for the fun and exciting world of life beyond bars in public librarianship!  She received an amazing new job opportunity (within walking distance from her apartment, woohoo!) and I am so proud of her!  I fondly remember the day I got my first inquiry email from Mintern asking about the possibility of doing her internship with me, and I am so glad I jumped through all the prison hoops to get her on board because in addition to having the most amazing staff person, I also made a life-long friend.

Now, just because she is out of prison doesn't mean you can't ask us your prison-related questions because we are still very involved and we have lots of friends that we left behind.  In fact, I see great potential for collaboration in our new positions, and we are still very interested in helping people find the resources they need to have success in their lives.  Best of luck to you in your new endeavor, Mintern!  After working in prison libraries, everything else will seem easy for you!

Until next time!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Vandalism (Warning: Graphic Content)

Well dear readers, I thought vandalism with human feces was something that was relegated to prison, but today I heard a story that shot that assumption straight to hell.

I have been sick for a week and not checking my work email so when I was at a meeting today I was curious about what incident report a neighboring branch manager was referring to when she was shaking her head at people. Turns out, last week a patron felt it necessary to defecate in the library restroom and then take his waste and write F*** N***** in capital letters on the floor. Clearly, this deranged individual didn't censor his sentiments as I have, but I guess he thought he would make an impression on the branch manager, who is black. I wish I had written her exact words down this morning because she handled it with elegance and a sense of humor when she said, "I've had 51 years of dealing with this skin color, but he wrote with his own feces that he picked out of the toilet. Who's the real winner here?"  I wish that they had DNA tested it though, so we could hold him accountable there would be some consequences for this person and his disgusting hate speech that has no place in this world. This country is facing some scary times because many people think this kind of thing is ok. We need to do everything in our power to lead by example and spread love to combat this vitriolic hate.

For some reason, male public library patrons have a huge problem using the toilet facilities appropriately. Maybe that's the same with male prison library patrons too...I don't know for sure...but it definitely seems to be a public library problem. They like to flush things that don't belong in the toilet and also LOVE putting tons of toilet paper in the bowl and then going...maybe to minimize the splashing? Who knows.  After dealing with my 75th exploding toilet the other day, I told my husband, "I am very mentally stable, but if I ever have a nervous breakdown it will be because of this men's restroom."

Now, there are prison library patrons who smear fecal matter in their cells, but you immediately know who they are and as much as it shouldn't be, that is something that is more "normal" behavior there. Luckily we never had it on library books at my library, although I did hear of one patron who took an urban fiction book and literally blew his nose in the middle and then put it in the book drop. This is when it's really important to remember the #1 Golden Prison Rule: If it's wet, and it's not yours, don't touch it.

So, loyal followers, if you are pursuing a library degree but have not yet had the pleasure of working in a library, just be advised that this is something that you may have to deal with. If you already work in libraries and you think, "Yes, this is something I see on a daily basis" then you have my solidarity and sympathy. Hopefully you feel that the work you do to bring information to the people and serving the undeserved is worth the drama, and if not, then there are many alternative careers you can do with your library degree and experience.

Until next time!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Awesome professional position, apply now!

Good morning dear readers! I wanted to let you know of a great professional prison librarian opportunity in Sterling, CO.

Details can be found here:

Now Colorado is interesting because they used to limit their applicants to residents. But, jobs in small towns like Sterling were going unfilled due to lack of qualified applicants so they changed their rules and now this is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door with one of the best prison library systems in the country.

The starting pay is pretty good, and the benefits are amazing, especially the retirement system. With that salary in a place where cost of living is minimal, you could probably buy a house if you wanted to. Now, there's not much to do out there and it's 2+ hours away from Denver and 3 or more from skiing, but in the prison librarian job market where it's nearly impossible to get a professional position, this is worth it.

Review my interview tips in previous blogs and let me know if you have questions. Good luck!

Friday, October 21, 2016's me.....

To quote the ubiquitous chanteuse Adele, "Hello from the other side!"  Greetings dear readers!  It's your friendly neighborhood prison-turned public librarian.  I bet you thought you'd never hear from me again, but here I am, and unlike Adele, I don't want to just sit and talk about how great things used to be because things are pretty awesome right now!  So, what have you all been up to since I wrote last?  I saw that we have 18 followers, which I am pretty sure is more than we had last time I checked.  (If anyone is fact-checking my blog in between debates and you're like, "Well, actually last time you had 20" then thank you 18 for sticking around! :-) )

So, I am back because I have been working on a presentation lately with a prison librarian in my great new state and we are going to collaborate at a conference about how public libraries can help patrons re-entering society after incarceration.  Because the topic of mass incarceration is being recognized as a serious issue lately-ish, people in positions to help other people are becoming more mindful of the need to help those whom society has forgotten about.

In preparation for our presentation, I watched Ava DuVernay's documentary 13th because if I am going to recommend it to others, I should know what it's all about.  It's streaming on Netflix right now, and if you don't have Netflix, either get Netflix or watch it with someone who does.  The film is extremely well done and will make you mad as hell.  I had no idea that the 13th Amendment had a clause in it that allows slavery if you are convicted of a crime.  That revelation made me start thinking a lot, and I Googled the Black Lives Matter campaign, because all I knew about them was hearsay.  Black Lives Matter activists are featured prominently in the documentary, and their message is not that your life doesn't matter if you're not black, but that when we humanize this group that has been de-humanized for so long, we all win.

One part that struck a chord in their Guiding Principles under the Black Villages box was the commitment that they will " each other as extended families and 'villages' that collectively care for one another..."  If you are in my generation, you all heard "It takes a village to raise a child" while growing up and I know I enjoyed having neighbor moms around to go to if I crashed my bike, wanted to play, or needed a cookie (or two) if my single mom was at work.  Then, as I got older and made the decision to not have kids and didn't really have any little kids in my life, kids just became an annoying but necessary part of continuing the human race.

But then today it was 6 pm at the library and there were three young Latina girls who asked to use the phone to call their mom for a ride home, and the mom said she wouldn't be able to be there for 20 minutes.  That's a problem when the library is closed, so the Children's Librarian and I waited with them in the lobby so they wouldn't be unattended outside the library in the rain where who knows what terrible things could happen to them.  The librarian is awesome with kids (hence why she's a children's librarian) and they started telling silly jokes and riddles to pass the time.  I went outside of my comfort zone and told them the only joke I know:

Me: "How many librarians does it take to change a light bulb?"
Girl #1: "Ummm, three!"
Girl #2: "TEN!"
Girl #3: "Zero!"

I loved their enthusiasm and when I told them the answer, "I don't know, but I'll look it up for you!" they all laughed and it was awesome, because honestly, I try to not deal with the kids too much because I am used to adults, having come from an adult prison, and I don't want them to hate me because I don't know how to interact with them haha.  But this was a perfect example of what it means to have a village to care for you.  I can see how having three kids would be chaotic to say the least, and if you live in an area where the native language is not your first language, it can be even more difficult to navigate and learn the norms.  However, because she knew she could trust the library to entertain her kids and keep them safe while she shopped for groceries we were able to help her care for her family.  Now, granted, we talked to her when she got there so that this wouldn't become an all-the-time thing, but we were there when she needed us, and I hope that she felt like we cared for her and that her life and her children's lives are important, because that's the key to fixing everything in my opinion is to treat everyone like they matter, because they do.

Here is the link to the trailer for 13th:

Until next time!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Well, I've reached my MRD*...

*MRD = Mandatory Release Date: the date where an offender's sentence is complete and they must be kicked out of prison, or the joking reference to a prison staff person's quitting/retirement date

Greetings, Dear Readers!  It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian coming to you for the last time as a prison librarian.  Some really positive changes have happened in my life recently and my HB and I have made the big decision to pull up our roots, load up our dog, and move to a land far, far away where we have shiny new jobs.

It's weird thinking of myself as anything other than a prison librarian because I have spent so much time crafting that part of my identity.  Once I realized that getting a job outside of prison was not what the universe wanted for me at the time, I threw myself into being the best prison librarian I could be and I endeavored to be the role model and mentor that was not there when I ended up in prison six long years ago.  I must also admit that all the attention was fun when I was introduced as the prison librarian at cocktail parties, haha.

Landing my new job as a supervisor at a small public library was so whirlwind that it was hard to ignore the sign that it was time to turn to the next chapter in my life.  It also proved to me that my job application tips are on point, so pay attention and review all the posts about hiring tips, future prison librarians.  :-)

Spending six years in the unique, interesting, and oftentimes crazy environment that is a prison library changed me as a person.  I overcame some extremely difficult personal struggles and learned what it is that really brings me joy: helping people.  I know that I would not be where I am today without that amazing experience and the amazing people who mentored and challenged me along the way.

Leaving Mintern is the hardest part of this transition.  She is one of my favorite people in the entire world, and I have never laughed so hard at work before she came on board.  My dream is to poach her from prison and bring her with me into the public library world, because any library would be extremely lucky to have her on their staff.  I am truly blessed to know her.

I am intrigued to see how my prison skills will play out in the public library world, so I tagged this post Goodbye but it is more of a See You Later.  If any of you loyal readers have questions about being a prison librarian I am still more than happy to answer them for you.  And I am still going to be in contact with Mintern so if you really need a prison insider perspective, I can forward your questions.  If any situations are as hilarious, or are relevant to the blog, then I will still keep posting.

Thank you all so much, dear readers, for your continued support of this blog.  I wish you all the best of luck in your quest to become prison librarians.  It is indeed a noble profession and you will touch more lives than you ever thought possible.  The library patrons you meet in prison will try you and test you and make you so frustrated, but they will also be the most thankful patrons you will ever meet, and you will definitely make a positive impact on them and in the world.

Until next time!