Is it necessary for an officer assigned to the library to care about rehabilitation or the library’s socialization mission in order for the library to thrive?

I’ve actually never thought of it that way.

Can you do your librarianship without the officer’s blessing? Yes. Can you be a competent prison employee? No.

You cannot waste your time running around a prison shouting to all and sundry “The work I do is important and necessary!” That’s a waste of time & energy.

You also shouldn’t squander your opportunities to remind your colleagues of your correctional function in the prison. In this respect, you’re not trying to ‘convert the heathen’; instead, you’re trying to educate the ignorant.

I’ve always seen a sweeping generalization from an officer — “Convicts never change” — as an opportunity to describe just what it is that I’m doing in that classroom when he goes home for the night. Most will listen if I start out by saying “I’m not trying to change your mind, but respect my experience, too,” then I blather on. When I finally shut up, if they don’t despise me, they usually respect me a little more. It’s a risk well worth taking. How else can they learn?

Ten years ago, I taught a class at our Training Academy called “Prison Law Libraries: Why They Are.” When I told her the course title, a friend of mine — who used to be a correctional librarian — said: “Oh, I get it: “Get Off the Law Librarian’s Back.” Ten years later that still makes me laugh, because instantly she understood that I got fed up with having to explain my reason-for-being so often, I created a program and made them come to me!

It most certainly IS important to show officers the respect they most certainly deserve.

It’s my experience that bad officers are also bad people. I’ve never yet seen a bad human being make an honest, caring, respectful, competent correctional officer. But s/he is there, and has to be dealt with. If you cannot avoid these people, learn something about them to like or admire. The only way to do this is to talk with them. Don’t avoid them, or see them as your enemy. Or, if you must: “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” If they truly want nothing to do with you, at least you know you’ve tried. It’s important that you make the attempt.

It’s also my experience that good officers are good people. Even the good officers may not see eye-to-eye with us but, because they’re good people, they will show us the respect we deserve.

A library officer who also believes in human redemption is the best of both worlds. I say that type of attitude makes a true ‘correctional’ officer, and mirrors my definition of a ‘correctional’ librarian.

The overwhelming majority of correctional officers are good people. I love the officers I work with. I owe them my living, I owe them my life, and I owe them my allegiance.