Here’s something else we need to do while we’re out here — we’re gonna honor some written inmate requests that we’ve got stashed in our trusty 10×13 manila clasp envelope we’ve brought with us for just such a moment.
You cannot ignore inmate requests for reading material, and I think I may have given several students the impression that I do. I do not. It’s truly fun and personally rewarding providing requested reading for those who appreciate your efforts. It’s the Acquisitions Librarian coming out in you. Plus — unlike most men, apparently — I love to shop, and I love to shop for BOOKS. (Once you Kindle-worshipers finally manage to destroy the publishing world, we book-lovers are going to come and get every one of you).
It’s satisfying when you’re able to match a request with a purchase. And it’s doubly so when you see the prisoner following through and checking out the book. Your time’s been well-spent, and now some of his time can be well-spent in reading something he enjoys — within the limits of what the public and corrections deem appropriate.
Since you’ve read these notes beforehand, you have a pretty good idea of what you need to look for. Let’s start with this one…A poetry lover wants a specific translation of Chaucer. I remember saying to this guy:
“Look, Bud — this is jail, not Yale. You get what we give ya.”
He replied, “So far, you’ve given me 15 years, and a migraine.” Ingrate!
- Anyway, we’re now in the poetry section, and it’s clear that they don’t have the Chaucer he’s looking for BUT — they do have a nice little Perennial Library hardcover called The Poetry of Chaucer, and I toss that in the cart ’cause it’s in great shape and they only want ten bucks for it, meaning we’ll get it for $7. Such a bargain! Since we only have his Canterbury Tales, this’ll improve our poetry holdings. Of course, this choice doesn’t fill the request, but you can’t have everything. Plus, there’s always ILL.
- One of my clerks who’s a horror/sci-fi nut wants me to look for some Robert McCammon. I turn my cart down the 10-unit Science Fiction/Fantasy aisle, where these Shire-folk have placed hard covers first, followed by paperbacks (alpha by author). No effort is made to separate sci-fi from fantasy, but who cares because we’ve got the author’s name. And we discover that there’s no McCammon. OK, knowing they don’t have a separate horror section, I turn to the paperback fiction wall and head for the “M” section. And that’s where we find several — Bethany’s Sin, Swan Song, Boy’s Life, and Stinger, all paperbacks, all in great shape, and all stuff we don’t have.
- Since my clerk is also a Harlan Ellison freak, I return to the sci-fi/fantasy aisle & pick up a trade paper copy of Medea: Harlan’s World. Because it’s more than a little shelf-worn, our book binder will put a hard cover on it to make it more shelf-worthy.
- Knowing that these have been missing since last inventory, one of my circulation clerks asked me to keep an eye out for The Godfather and volume two of Wouk’s War and Remembrance, but I can’t find either in HC/PB
- Another clerk asks for Thomas Pynchon & Margaret Atwood, and I find Vineland and The Handmaid’s Tale, both in HC for a measly $10 each
- A patron asks for something on back pain and I find a trade paper with a 2003 edition statement; this is “recent” for our collection, so I toss it in the cart
- A regular law library patron asks for “Books on World War II from the Japanese perspective.” He’s given me a list of about 10 titles to look for, titles that he’s copied out of a recent Edward R. Hamilton catalog. I hand the list to Jack Boland, proprietor, and tell him “Any help is appreciated.” About 10 minutes later, Jack returns and reports that he has none of the requested titles, nor anything else that will help fill the request
- A fellow asks that we replace our missing copy of Guns, Germs and Steel, and I find a nice trade paper copy for $8.50 in the History aisle
- Another inmate needs some biographical material on poet Christina Rosetti for a college report he’s doing. We have her poetry, but no biography, so I check both HC/ trade paper biography aisles, and find some biographical notes in a trade paper poetry collection
- Finally, one of my inmate authors (a good writer who’s never been published but keeps trying) asks for a Stephen King book he’s read about called On Writing: Learning to Write Fiction. I find it in the Grammar & Journalism section, and it’s a whopping $20 for a flimsy trade paperback.
See, because we’re never given a lot of money for these book buys, I try getting the most bang for the buck, which is why I’m in a used bookstore instead of a multinational chain or mom-n-pop retail. So I try avoiding any title over $15, unless I’m convinced we really need it. Well, we don’t need this King book, but the writer would definitely get his money’s worth out of it, plus we have a sizable literary criticism section in the Reference Room. So that’s where this title will go.
That being the end of the “special requests,” I turn now to the other mandated categories on the list.