IT’S ‘THE CRAP WE CAN’T GET RID OF’ SALE! Or, When the Public Library says “Jump!” you ask “How high?”

[In which it is driven home for the umpteenth time how, even in our Noble Profession, beggars must never be choosers….]



Yesterday I retrieved a voice mail from my local public library essentially saying, ‘Come get the leftovers from the book sale we just had.’ As every correctional Librarian knows, that’s a good deal. You’re not gonna get many keepers, but you’ll get enough stuff for your segregation and hospital Units to keep those inmates quiet for a few weeks. Since it’s good to keep these inmates constructively occupied, these kinds of donations are worth the time and effort.

I visited the library, spoke with the Director and thanked her for remembering us, then took away (3) boxes of reference/textbooks and a slew of unwanted paperback novels — the flotsam and jetsam of every three-day Friends of the Library book sale.

Now these books will be dropped off in the Mail Room and there they will sit for at least a week, while I complete & submit the requisite Authorization To Enter, patiently wait for the Deputy’s signature, and finally for the Mail Truck to get them inside.





Remember too that these books are subject to the same Department scrutiny as purchased material for the Lending Library, based on the language of “Security of Library Material” which is the December 2011 addendum to the Norfolk Procedural Statement relative to 103 CMR 478 “Library Services.” Using this language, any Mail Officer can object to any book in this donation and bring it to the attention of Security, even though the donation will have prior approval to enter.


Why? Well, the prior approval from the Deputy is an OK in substance to accept Lending Library material. Since she has no personal knowledge of what’s in the donation, her approval represents an agreement to accept the donation from a reputable source. Her approval also represents a vote of confidence that her Librarian has reviewed the material and confirms that it is in concert with the procedural language of the addendum.

But what happens when the Librarian makes a mistake? Enter the Mail Officer. S/he’s there representing the security side of prison operations, and sometimes is aware of events or other policy language of which the Librarian is not privy. Sometimes the Librarian reviews donated material along with the Mail Officer, and learns first-hand from the Officer what can’t come in and why.




Even with this scrutiny, something eventually slips past the safety nets. This often happens because of consistency–in other words, it’s not always the same Mail officers making these decisions. Sometimes the regular officers are ‘pulled’ to different areas of the prison, and replaced by other officers temporarily assigned to the Mail Room, officers who may not know the mail regulations as well as they need to.

So what if, down the road, an Administrator tells the Librarian that there’s something in the

Library that shouldn’t be there? Does the Librarian then argue “But the Mail Officers let it in here”? No. The Librarian removes the item. Contraband is contraband, and doesn’t magically become acceptable because it was mistakenly allowed in. That’s the logic of scoundrels, and also of the immature mind. “They let it in here, so I should be allowed to keep it!” It’s tiring, and tiresome.


We should receive the (3) boxes of donated material probably by the end of next week.

Thank God for Friends of the Library Three-Day book sales.

2 thoughts on “IT’S ‘THE CRAP WE CAN’T GET RID OF’ SALE! Or, When the Public Library says “Jump!” you ask “How high?”

  1. Are you allowed to sell the books that you cannot use in your library? I wonder if that would ever be an option, because then you could purchase what you really want (assuming the books that you are selling are any good).

  2. In our system, any donated books we can’t use are given to either the hospital, Segregation, or sent to another prison Library.

    But are you asking about contraband material? We wouldn’t be permitted or authorized to sell State property, which is what Library material is considered. If it’s in good condition, we offer it to the public libraries we work with. If it’s in poor condition, it gets destroyed and recycled.

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