The further adventures of a Library Science charlatan: OR, “What does ‘correctional’ mean, anyway?”

Here is a persistent and tiresome notion: Anecdotal evidence gathered from teaching cognitive skills courses and providing direct correctional information services is somehow invalid and meant to be discarded, at least in the mind of the Library ‘scientist.’

Studies have their place. So does personal in-the-trenches experience.

objectivityDirect personal experience is unabashed subjectivity. But it can and should be sensibly founded upon correctional theory. As imperfect and inconstant as criminal justice studies traditionally have been, they at least inform we correctional employees about what may in fact be the best way to habilitate and socialize Those In Need.

Studies are actually personal experience, contrived in such a way as to give the researcher and his champion the illusion of literal objectivity. Admittedly, that is a sweeping generalization, and perhaps a tad irresponsible. At the end of the day, however, the statement “the illusion of literal objectivity” is probably closer to the truth than an unquestioning belief in obtaining objectivity from human beings.

Consider that many more library science-based studies than corrections-based studies have been done on correctional library use. Consider too that many of these have been done by Librarians.

Until more studies are completed, a correctional emphasis on prison librarianship will remain for the most part empirical and anecdotal.

Personally, I am no enemy of the scientific method. It’s good for measuring things, and testing notions that seem to fit observable reality.

But I say “Beware” when the scientific method and only the scientific method is applied to the human animal. Because one of the things which sociology has taught us is what was ‘doctrine’ only a few decades or even years ago is suddenly ‘heresy’ this afternoon.

Somewhere in between the word ‘science’ in ‘Library Science’ and the word ‘correctional’ in ‘Correctional Librarianship,’ we may yet discover a useful footpath to guide the steps in our corrective work of the social outlaw.

For the correctional Librarian, where and when and how does the human heart come into play?


An interesting viewpoint (click on above), serving at once to bolster and counter my argument....