John Lennon as a prison Librarian: Or, A LUCKY MAN WHO MADE THE GRADE

Yesterday (Thursday the 21st), the student from San Fran stopped by to visit. He was waiting for me in the Lobby.  I recognized him by his Lennonesque spectacles.


He stayed for 4.5 hours, and needed to leave as he was given strict instructions to return his girlfriend’s car before sundown.  She lives in a part of the Commonwealth that until now I’d not heard of. Way Out West. (We eastern seaboard Massachusettsians are snobbish: anything further west than route 495 we don’t wanna hear about). I think he drove about 100 miles one-way.  We spent the time:

  • Answering his questions
  • Dealing with law library patrons
  • Examining books received for the humor-as-therapy course
  • Watching PowerPoint presentations created for the course
  • Discussing the ABLE MINDS consequential thinking seminar
  • Talking with some of my clerks

We ended the day by making a phone video out in front of the MCI-Norfolk sign, (a video that he promised to email me).

mci - norfolk

At one point, we stopped to answer the call, which is located upstairs in the teacher’s lounge. From that room, there are two large windows that give you a beautiful wide-screen prospect of the Norfolk quadrangle. He was enjoying this view when I emerged from the restroom. So we stood there for nearly 10 minutes, watching inmates walk the Quad while discussing the physical layout of the place. Then he asked, “Where’s their cafeteria?” something I wouldn’t have thought to bring up. The answer is–There ain’t one. Each housing unit has their own kitchen area, and enough tables to sit everyone (Units hold about 90 people). They bring the food from the “Mainline Kitchen,” wheeled on carts through a series of tunnels. They bring these carts up into each Unit via a dumbwaiter. This way, you avoid a gigantic cafeteria where inmates can meet with inmates from other Units, and you avoid enormous demonstrations and brawls between rival gangs and small fights that morph into riots. A very clever and forward-thinking design for 1926.


Anyway, we had as much fun as you can have locked inside an adult male medium-security penitentiary. He spent his first half-day in prison and, despite my best efforts to destroy his enthusiasm and altruistic ideals, he STILL wants to be a correctional Librarian.

A funny side note about the phrase ‘correctional library management.’ The distance learning Dean announced my course by that name on her blog, but didn’t define what it meant. When he saw the course title, the student confessed that he thought it meant a library manager’s disciplinary style, like bringing in a subordinate to your office to discuss ways in which his behavior in the library might be ‘corrected.’ I laughed, but agreed that a post with more background information about the course would have helped to clarify and might have enticed more folks to enroll. Never occurred to me that the adjective ‘correctional’ could mean anything other than ‘having to do with the Department of Correction.’

Before we left the school building, he asked me about how I set limits or professional boundaries. I discovered that the question was asked because he met my book binder and “I would have liked to have spent a little more time with him, as I’m a bookbinder, too.” I said I wish I’d known that, but he only had four hours and anyway he was the one who wanted to leave early to get GF’s car returned to her. I mean, he flew 2,200 miles, the least he coulda done was spend the day with us. But nooooooooooo….


There are many correctional Librarian job openings, so if he stays in The Golden Land & really wants the job, they’ll hire him. I do believe he’ll do just fine.  He’s kinda low-key & cautious, but probably I was too when I started. He’s got an active mind, and is keen to do programming, a discovery over which I rejoiced exceedingly, so he will keep himself busy and be an asset to the inmate population.

That’s only the second time I’ve had a student in, and the first time that I had one in BEFORE the course ran, which is a weird-but-enjoyable dynamic.