In 1986, the late University of Pittsburgh professor Wendell Wray helped me secure a 9-month internship in prison library management at SCI-Pittsburgh under the tutelage of Stephen Mallinger. That strange, brief trip convinced me that corrections would allow me to help prisoners reject their criminality so they could shoe-horn some meaning and purpose into their broken lives. I still believe this. But I no longer count on it. I further nurtured the altruistic conceit that I could champion prisoners’ rights. After a few years in State service, it became clear that the only true way to accomplish this was to quit and join a prisoner’s advocacy group. I decided to remain in corrections, and see what good could be done from the inside.
Nearly three-and-a-half decades and four prisons later (SCI-Pittsburgh/ MCI-Walpole/ Old Colony Correctional Center/ MCI-Norfolk), more than just Time separates ‘now’ from those heady, idealistic days when my kindhearted inclination was to characterize prisoners as “Those poor, poor people!” Since then, I’ve witnessed enough orgies of self-righteousness in Poky libraries to compel even the most starry-eyed public defender to stab herself through the heart with her dog-eared, latte-stained copy of Gideon’s Trumpet.
As a rule (that, on occasion, I break), I do not attend conferences or seek membership in organizations. Although I do recommend the Correctional Educational Association and the American Correctional Association.
When talk shifts to service philosophy for the incarcerated, I champion the role of correctional employee with a Library science specialty. In these discussions, some correctional Librarians occasionally cannot come to grips with basing their Librarianship on correctional theory. Because I work from the premise that I’m a corrections employee first and a Librarian second, I have a difficult time understanding those who see themselves in the reverse.
Please use the links below to:
- Access a 1989 article about my SCI-Pittsburgh internship in prison library management
- Access my 1994 article written while a Librarian at Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, MA about our legal research course to prisoners.
- Access my textbook published in 2001 (now OOP, dammit) showing you how to deliver a legal research course to prisoners.
- Read a 2005 blog post about a tour of the MCI-Norfolk segregation and population libraries
- Access the Radical Reference page which describes the Critical Librarianship symposium in which I participated on November 17, 2012
- Access the video recording of the Critical Librarianship symposium
- Access my article published in 2015 by the Journal of Correctional Education entitled “Hobbits in the Hoosegow: Teaching Tolkienian Morality Behind the Wall”
- Read a little 2016 write-up on my participation in Project SET, a professional learning cohort created and delivered by the Massachusetts Library System
- Read the kindest comment I ever received about my SJSU course
- Just for fun, here’s another comment from the same person but in a different forum, under the heading “Influential Classes”
- Link to a brief article on my laughter-as-therapy program for prisoners presented at the 2017 New England Library Association conference
- Link to the conference brochure, 2017 Region 1 Correctional Education Association, my presentation on our LSTA project “‘Like a tranquilizer without side-effects’ Humor-as-Therapy in the Correctional Environment”(p. 40)
- Link to the Conference Program, 2018 Region 1 Correctional Education Association (Lancaster PA), my presentation called “Books Transforming Lives–ABLE MINDS Consequential Thinking”
- Link to a 2018 webinar given for Infopeople (Califa Group) entitled “I could really use a good laugh! HT Give a Laughter-as-Therapy Program”
- Link to an April 2020 webinar given for the Massachusetts Library system entitled “Healthful Laughter in Difficult Times”
- Access the 2020 syllabus to my San Jose State University course called “The Prison’s Library: Managing the Unimaginable”
- Access my 2020 SJSU lecturer page
- Read an annotation of an ASGCLA course (to be offered again in September 2020) called “The Prison’s Library as an Agent of Rehabilitative Change”
- Read an annotation of an ASGCLA webinar (to be offered September 2020) entitled “Please Make Me Laugh: Laughter Therapy in Your Library”
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