Today I was invited to Walpole Public Library to pick n’ choose through library sale leftovers. They’re weeding like mad because they need to transfer their collection in December to their newly-built library just down the street.
Interesting side note: the town of Walpole repeatedly voted down the construction of a new library. Finally it was put through on a third referendum, passing by a 20-vote margin. Actually, the previous referendums failed by the same ultra-slim margin (Walpole has 31,000 residents), which I think emboldened those who supported the idea of a new public library in the town. The current building was built 100 years ago and, while it has strengths, they’re overshadowed by mildew, terrible parking, and poor visibility in the community.
I spent four hours in a basement storage room going through items which have been donated to the sale of the Friends of the Walpole Library. I end up packing and setting aside eight boxes of hardcover fiction/non-fiction. Also, with the help of Reference Librarian Warren Smith, I am able to pack about 150 educational video tapes. These tapes will see library use, and will also be used on the prison’s education video channel.
Always, always, always, there is that cultural technological lag between what happens in the free world and prisons. This is quite necessary for the security and orderly running of these institutions. Inmates are frequently caught with cell phones now, and have crashed computer networks in the law library and other areas.
An important distinction: we’re not talking about a technological disparity based on economics, the kind you may find between affluent and destitute communities. Rather, the focus must be on the clientele and where they are physically situated in life. We are not serving the general public, we’re not serving children, and we are not serving the corporate world or Academia. We’re serving social deviants in a prison. These are people who Society has agreed live life the wrong way. Technology in the hands of many of these folks is a dangerous thing, especially in the context of a medium- or maximum-security prison.
What you have to remember about corrections is that you must not offer technology or services simply because you can, or because it’s the latest thing – you offer a service in a certain medium based upon the security concerns of the prison and of the Department. Security is serious business in a prison. Security trumps everything. And so it should.
As 2012 looms large–and while the free world discards their DVDs in favor of 3D Blu-Ray technology–we are excited to be getting 150 video tapes for the correctional Library.
This donation is particularly timely, because the Administration recently approved the design and installation of a prison-wide DVD/video system operated from our School building (it used to be operated from the Gym, of all places, but has been transferred to us). The Superintendent has given the Library its own VHS channel, so now we need to feed the monster week in and week out.
The inmates will be clamoring for us to buy and borrow videos, and that can be a Jurassic pain in the ass. Seldom content with being gifted with something new and useful or diverting, inmates are always pushing. Prison administrators have to reign in this behavior, just as a parent would check a teenage driver drunk with his new-found autonomy. That’s why you must be circumspect before saying “Yes,” forever weighing the apparent benefits with the agenda behind the request.
Well, inmates always have an agenda. This is because many prisoners who participate in jailhouse politics are controlling personalities. They manipulated people on the Outside, got caught, and continue their manipulating ways Inside. Manipulators are tiresome people, and must be checked often.
We are, however, grateful. And my classifier, cataloger, and bibliopegist now have something to keep them busy for the next several days.