Our Return From OZ: or, “How can I ever thank you enough?”

(In which a two-page class exercise on using humor to diffuse stressful situations lends legitimacy to the showing of The Wizard of Oz to adult male prisoners in a medium-security walled facility….)

Last night, we completed a class exercise called “Popular Media and Its Uses in the Identification of Countervailing Humor Types.”  The countervailing humor types are constructive and destructive humor.  This particular use was in the form of a Blu-Ray disk.  And the specific medium used was an educational film for therapeutic purposes called The Wizard of Oz.

Prior to spinning the disk at 300 rpm, I distributed the above-mentioned exercise, containing 11 questions about how Dorothy & her companions use humor in dealing with the stressful situations they need to overcome.  I wasn’t sure how these men would take to answering questions while the lights were low and they were in the process of viewing a beloved movie that most of them haven’t seen since their childhoods.

But most complied, and some of their responses were spot-on, and even surprising.  One question reads:  “What do you consider to be the funniest spoken line in the film?  Does the line make you laugh out loud?  Is the humor constructive or destructive?”  One participant responded thus:  “The funniest line is when Dorothy says, ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’  It did not make me LOL.  The humor is destructive–shows her stupidity.”  This response made ME laugh out loud.  Stupid?  Dorothy?  Whaddaya DO with something like this?  The individual in question is from a country on the African continent, so the cultural gap may explain most of it.  But he reports that he’s lived here nearly twenty years, and he’s not even out of his 20s yet.  “Aw shucks, folks, I’m speechless!”  The following day, he tells me this was his first time seeing the movie.  That, in my view, explains it all.  We who have grown up with the film have emotionally invested in these characters.  What would we have thought of them if we were seeing the movie for the first time in our late 20s?  AND through the lens of a cultural gap?  Probably the same way as this young man.  We’d see Dorothy Gale as a stupid farm kid.  When I tell him, however, that Judy Garland was playing a character much younger than her actual age, that gives him pause.  “OK, now it all makes sense,” he says.  Finally.

To the question of How Uncle Henry uses humor when dealing with Miss Gulch at the farmhouse gate, one fellow writes: “She doesn’t find the humor amusing.  This is probably destructive, because the thrust of it is that she’s talking like a fool.”

The first question reads:  “Dorothy and her companions deal with considerable stress on their journey, yet manage to work in some coping humor along the way.  Name one scene where a character uses humor as a stress reliever.”  A student writes, “When it snows in the poppy field, the Lion awakens & says ‘Unusual weather we’re having.”  Another response: “When they meet the Lion and he’s bullying them, the Scarecrow cracks wise.”  Another:  “When the Lion has to lead the way into the Witch’s castle, he pretends to be all for it, but then asks the other two to ‘Talk me out of it!’  And then what I consider to be a strange response:  “The Wicked Witch of the West uses humor when she is stressed about the ruby slippers.  She laughs as she threatens Dorothy & her dog.”  WTF?   Another student responded, “When the Lion sings his song about his lack of courage, he calls himself ‘a sissy’ and ‘a mouse.’

About five minutes into the film, one prisoner in his 50s tells us: “This is the first time I’ve ever seen this.”  Incredulous, I ask, “How did you avoid it!”  He says, “I didn’t watch TV a lot!”  Tellingly, his was the loudest and most frequent laugh heard during the showing of the film.

The following day, my ILL clerk, who is a course participant, says: “Hey, I wanted to sincerely thank you for the film last night.  I haven’t seen that in ages.  It was good to see it again.  And I am impressed with Blu-Ray!  I have never seen such rich colors in a movie before!  That was somethin’ else!”

Praise, and for such a simple thing like showing a film, and introducing folks to new technology.  This job teaches me in many ways to never, never, ever take my freedom–and all concomitant blessings–for granted.

no place like it

Why we are prison Librarians

[…in which we begin what hopefully will become a regular series of vignettes serving to illustrate why we do what we do.  This 1st vignette is courtesy of the illustrious Velva Hampson, Senior Librarian, CSATF/SP Corcoran].

 

A ‘WHY’ FOR THE DAY

“I’m doing inmate book clubs, and they are a lot of work. Here’s one insight from level 2 GP that makes it all worth the effort.

When discussing Jeannette Walls’ father’s strengths and weaknesses as described in The Glass Castle, one inmate said: “He was there. Every time I talk to my kids on the phone, my son says: ‘You being here is more important than anything you thought you needed to do that got you incarcerated.’”

For the record, the fathers in the group were the ones who couldn’t be judgmental about the parents in that book, because they kept having to compare that to their example of being incarcerated for a large part of their children’s lives.”

*

Which puts me in mind of part of a much earlier post on Bill Cosby’s book Come On, People! On the Path From Victims to Victors:

“As long as fathers keep going to jail, kids will turn to the streets,” Abdul concludes. “Why? Because the father’s not there to watch TV with his kids, the father’s not there to listen to rap music with his kids, the father’s not there to teach the kids why the ‘N-word’ is degrading and hateful and hurtful. Kids miss that male guidance. Nothing can replace that.”

And a Child Shall Lead Them

Now Miguel sits up and raises his hand. All of 23 years old, Miguel grew up in Boston’s south end knowing poverty, racism, crime, a one-parent family, and street life. Since coming to prison, Miguel has turned himself around, parlaying his thug existence for a Boston University degree.  But right now, Abdul has lit a fire under him and he cannot sit still.

“I’ve been listening to people here, especially the OG’s, and I gotta say something to them. Here you sit, your second and third prison terms, a lot of you. Exactly who is raising your children? You talk about how important it is to be there for them, but you’re talking about it while you sit in jail.”

Gregg says, “Hold up, young brother. You don’t know all the facts. Don’t go judging what you don’t know.”

Miguel continues. “You’re here, not there– right or wrong?”

“That’s not the whole story,” Gregg shouts back.

“Right or wrong?”

Gregg sighs and turns his head.

“Kids need that male guidance, “Miguel continues. “They need limits, discipline. They need you at their bedside for that hug and good-night kiss, they need you for answers when life gets too hard, they need you to keep them from running to the streets. They don’t need your jailhouse letters, or copies of your program certificates, or promises over the phone. They need a father, and they need him there, not here. I never knew my father. I know what I’m talking about. I ran to the street because there was no man in my way to say ‘No.’ Now ‘cause my father wasn’t there, here I am sittin’ in jail with you.”

“You were the one who chose the street over your mother and family,” Gregg says. “Nobody shoved you out the door; you went willingly. Shoulder some of that blame, little man. You didn’t suddenly just wake up in a cell not knowing how you got here. You chose this.”

“Definitely. All my friends were doin’ it, so I wanted it, too. But if Pops had been around, maybe I wouldn’t have followed the crowd so easily. You only know what you see. When everyone’s doing it, how can you know it’s wrong?”

Come On, Convicts: On the Cosby Path From Prisoners to Citizens

 

‘Escape’ is a bad word

…but it gets your attention.

At least the folks at the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals in London must think so, judging by the title of this interesting March 23, 2015 post about prison Librarians.

“The Great Escape”

 

jonathan-robinson-quote

You Get What You Need

Today, I receive a PDF file in my work email containing a letter to an inmate in response to his complaint that more typewriters should be placed in the population law library.  No this may come as a shock, but I do not believe that this is a very professional way of communicating a change in service with your professional librarian.  Because I believe this, I am furious.  Dismissing the letter-writing impulse to the Superintendent, I feel that the direct way is best, and decide on the day following to call his secretary to make an appointment to meet & discuss this.

micromanagers

Next afternoon, while walking through our staff parking lot toward the front door–a walk of about 100 yards–it occurs to me that my input was in fact solicited by my boss.  Not only was it solicited, it had been mentioned more than once over the past two months.  It took a while for this to surface, because of the casual way in which these conversations were held, almost as an afterthought.  So it isn’t that the Librarian’s input was not sought; it was that a decision was made that did not jibe with the Librarian’s input.

So I have that to stew over.

But that’s much easier to deal with than having not been asked in the first place.  In this case, Administration does the professional thing and asks the front-line employee for input before weighing the alternatives.

Do I think that their decision caves in to the demands of a few loud-mouths?  Of course I do.  But you can’t always get what you want.  You can’t always get what you want.  You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometime, you just might find — you get what you need.

I need some sleep.

cant-always-get-what

Courage to Change the Things I Can

(In which a question which I’ve been asked many times is again posed: “How do you move from the prison-librarian demeanor to the Normal-Joe-living-life demeanor?”)

For those who aren’t yet aware, prison employees have a higher rate of (fill in the blank with any social tragedy imaginable)__________________  than nearly any other helping profession.    Newsweek – “Prison Officers Need Help”

Thankfully, I go home to a loving family who really do understand what love is and, to prove it, they doggedly choose to put up with both the bad and the good in me.  I’ll never know why, but for this fact of my life I am blessed and grateful.  

I’ve found that the way you are inside is the way you are outside.  There’s no magic switch for this stuff.  So you try to treat inmates & employees the way you want to treat your family.  funny-feelings-on-off-switch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This very day, a fascinating thing happened between myself and an inmate who is uber-stressed about getting a reply brief submitted by his court deadline.  Because he was being verbally aggressive to people in the law library, I took him in my office, closed doors, and talked with him.  Within 60 seconds of explaining why he felt the entire world was conspiring against him, he started tearing up. 

I saw the tears & said “See that?  That’s exactly what you need.  Don’ be afraid to cry in here.  For your own sake, relax and let it come.”

He did.  He broke down & cried.  Through the tears, he talked about the pressures he’s under, and how he’s innocent of the crime he’s convicted of, and how he needs to get out.  Crying was exactly what he needed. 

(Researchers believe that crying may have a biochemical purpose.  Tears release stress hormones or toxins from the body, says Lauren Bylsma, a PhD student at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who has focused on crying in her research).   “Why We Cry: The Truth About Tearing Up”

We also discussed his notion that everyone was out to get him, as a way of pointing out to him that this kind of thinking only adds to the tension he feels. 

After our talk, I pointed toward the law library & said, “And don’t feel self-conscious about leaving this office with red eyes.”  He said something instructive: “Oh, I won’t.  I’m not proud.”  

That took guts, to let down in front of a staff member, and fearlessly show emotion in front of people who, in general, see crying as a weakness.

We shook hands.  He left feeling better and, hopefully, thinking a lot clearer.   I kid you not when I say:  it’s for moments like this that I do what I do.  

But to return to the original question.  The implication is:  if I can help an inmate through his stressful times, that means I still have enough humanity left to go home and be there when the people I love and who love me need me.serenity-prayer

Re-integration and the Grammar Nazis

(In which we find a brief rant about a grammatical pet peeve that only seems to happen in Corrections-Land….)

Doesn’t it frost you when Correctional administrators spell ‘re-integration’ without the hyphen? Mind you, these are educated people.  But they spell the word ‘reintegration.’  What they’re spelling is

reen*tuh*grey*shun

as in the word SKEIN .  Or, possibly:

rain*tuh*grey*shun

as in the word REINDEER.  or, probably:

rine*tuh*grey*shun

like the word STEIN.

The problem is, REEN*tegration, RAIN*tegration, and RINE*tegration are words which do not exist.

Hyphens are important. Add the hyphen, and you get:

REE*IN*TUH*GREY*SHUN

Re-integration.  Only the hyphen makes that possible and correct.

reintegration What’s so hard about re-integration?

Actually, we might very well ask that question of the ex-offenders who keep coming back.

They’ll tell you.  Or perhaps they, too, don’t know.

Counting Them Beans: Or, “Can we PLEASE toss these cassettes out?”

Today we start inventory. Because Monday was a Massachusetts holiday called “Patriot’s Day, we get beat out of a day. Poor planning by Yours Truly. At least SOME planning was involved.

We use no portable scanners. Kooky, right? Instead, we take our shelf list drawers to each section of the library, the old-fashioned way. Well, it keeps them off the street. It’s the one time in the year when your staff comes together as a team. It’s an interesting dynamic, seeing inmates from different departments (e.g., bookbinding and cataloging) working toward a common goal. It’s not perfect–what human endeavor is?–and sometimes opinions as to how something should be done leads to flaring tempers. We are, after all, talking about cranky old men here.

But by weeks’ end, the beans’ll be counted accurately, diligently, and relatively peaceably. I’ve never lost an inmate in an inventory to death or dismemberment. I’ve never even had anyone quit. These are good things.

inventory-barcode

After bean-counting, I have 30 days in which to submit the inventory report. This report usually constitutes 30 pages, half of which comprise statistics from the population law library. Although we don’t need to tally books which have been replaced by the Lexis system, we still need to account for physical equipment, hundreds of legal forms, and what seems on certain days like millions upon millions of regulations, policies, and procedures.

Once more, into the breach….

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.

“They even let the Viagra book in!” Or, WORKIN’ FOR THE MAN EVERY NIGHT & DAY

[In which it pays to have a tightly-written Selection Policy & Acquisition Procedure, and preferably in the English language….]

Last Friday afternoon, we arrived in the Lending Library to (6) boxes of books c/o the NE Mobile Book Fair, faithfully delivered by the Property Department to the Library’s reference room. For the next two hours, we checked titles against the packing list, and assigned each item a Dewey number (Yes, we use Dewey, sue us) and a destination (PC Cabinet, Oversize Reference, Self-Help, etc.) 152 books received, along with 21 CDs and 1 DVD. Nothing was lost, nothing was stolen.

And this time out, no material was challenged.

One of my clerks balked at the health book entitled Viagra & the Quest for Potency. “Why would they let this in? Don’t they know we’re not supposed to engage in unauthorized sexual acts?” (Which is true, according to 103 CMR 430, “Disciplinary Proceedings.”)

“I didn’t buy it to encourage sexual acts, you dodo. Men happen to be interested in the drug and what it purports to do.”

“They’re interested in it, all right!”

“You can’t get the drug, so it’s informational only. It’s a reference work, for Pete’s sake.”

“You mean ‘For peter’s sake!’”

Incorrigible.

There were also more than a few juvenile comments from clerks about the title Great Speeches on Gay Rights. I’ll spare you these, which were mostly directed at each other. Mostly.

The same clerk balked at 63 Documents the Government Doesn’t Want You to Read.

 

“I can’t believe they let that in here!”

“Why wouldn’t they?”

“Because they’re the Government!”

“I’m the Government, too, and I bought the thing. Besides–Don’t look now– but the Governor signs your paycheck, too.”

“I don’t work for The Man; I work for myself!”

“That reminds me of my favorite Pride and Prejudice line: ‘You think that, Jane, if it gives you comfort.’ “

 

Surprise is also expressed by the same clerk – a voracious reader and dystopian prophet – over the title The New Jim Crow.

“You can’t tell me they know what this book says & they still let it in! “

“It’s a popular sociological text. What’s the problem?”

“Yeah well, it may be popular but it slams the government. Either they haven’t heard of it, or this is a mistake.”

“You must not know this but, by policy, the DOC can’t exclude political opinions that are critical of the government. Even if the Bundle Room officer read the thing and disagrees with it, it has to come in. And are you forgetting that we got this for one of the law clerks a few months ago through ILL?”

“I remember. I assumed they missed it because of normal DOC incompetence!”

Incorrigible.

I’M SPENDING YOUR MONEY (Part II)

[In which, armed with the filthy lucre of the taxpaying citizenry, we continue our mandate to socialize, rehabilitate, and otherwise prepare the incorrigible & recalcitrant for a free life of conformity and Squaresville….]

 

“Watch your language! Hold your tongue!”
Language Instruction DVDs, CDs, and VHS/cassette tapes are very popular for this inmate population. We keep monthly stats on what is used, how frequently it’s used, and in what medium it’s delivered. Surprisingly, not only are the cassettes still holding up, but inmates choose more of them over any other medium. But these days, for obvious reasons, purchases are confined to CD/DVD. This time, I find the following:

Barron’s Learn Spanish (4 CD)
Barron’s Learn French (4 CD)
Barron’s Learn German (4 CD)
Barron’s Learn Italian (4 CD)
Flash Forward Spanish Vocabulary (CD)
Flash Forward French Vocabulary (CD)
Pun Also Rises, The: How The Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, And Made Wordplay More Than Just Some Antics

Although we already own intermediate and advanced lessons on CD, it’s the beginner stuff on tape that we’ve needed to replace. These purchases now allow us to do that. It’s a great day for our Watch Your Language/ Hold Your Tongue program. The pun book will be added to the floor collection, where we have about 50 books on linguistics and wordplay. And since language instruction is mentioned in our 25% materials mandate, we’re on our way to 30% of the total purchase. And that’s good.

Health is Wealth, Especially in the Poky

Although to a large extent the type of health treatment which inmates receive is regulated by the State, inmates have some autonomy over their own health. And in some Departments, certain health information is not permitted to be offered through the Lending Library. We have never been permitted to offer the DSM, for example. And Gray’s Anatomy is also not permitted, in light of an attack at another prison where the perpetrator, when interviewed, admitted to finding information from this text in the Library that helped him commit the assault. So when it comes to health-related information, there may be specific security concerns of your Administration of which you must be aware.

Beyond the orderly running of the prison, health information is offered and prisoners do seek it out. Needless to say (but perhaps not), I buy as much as I can which is specific to the men in my population. This is what I find in both retail and remainder sections:

Dr. Katz’s GT Prostate Health
Men’s Health Big Book Of Food & Nutrition
Why Men Die First: HT Lengthen Your Lifespan
Irritable Bowel Syndrome And Stress Management
Alzheimer’s Disease: Guide For Families And Caregivers
Crohn’s Disease And Ulcerative Colitis
Migraine Brains & Bodies
Good Health For African-Americans
Why Women Live Longer Than Men
Viagra & The Quest For Potency
Every Heart Attack Is Preventable
Men’s Club: HT Lose Your Prostate Without Losing Your Sense Of Humor
Hepatitis C Help Book
Men’s Health GT Peak Conditioning
Banish Your Belly: Ultimate Guide For Achieving A Lean, Strong Body Now
Curing Multiple Sclerosis

I know inmates who suffer with both IBS and migraines, so I seek out this material. Hepatitis C affects the lives of many incarcerated people, so I try updating our holdings for that material. One of my long-time law library patrons has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, so I found something for him….In preparation for this book trip, I took a look at our existing health holdings, and was shocked to find only about 125 titles. I thought there should have been at least a few shelves more. When I mentioned this to one of my circulation clerks, he smiled and said, “Bill, there’s stuff that goes on here that you don’t know about. Guys find a health book that can help them, and they keep it. I don’t agree with that, in fact I think it’s a dirt-bag thing to do, because then someone else can’t use it. But that’s the reality here.”

I’ve often wondered if health material, when offered through the correctional Library, should be considered part of the Self-Help genre? I’m just sayin’.

 

 

“What the hell does E=MC squared mean, anyway?” the con asked unabashedly for everyone in the correctional Library to hear….

Because Librarian internet usage is limited to legal research questions (due to something that happened about a year ago related to security) — we don’t have access to current journal articles. The Library is limited to the currency of the science information it can offer, as we can only rely on books and DVDs. Currently we have about (6) shelves of science books, but it’s been a while since I got a large infusion of titles. I decide that this needs to be rectified:

For The Love Of Physics
Mathematical Games & HT Play Them
Evolution Isn’t What It Used To Be
Genesis: What Does It Mean To Be Human?
(actually, this is fiction, but I found it with their science books, which means they also thought it was nonfiction, which means we were both fooled….)
Garden Of Unearthly Delights: Bioengineering & The Future Of Food
Geek Logik: 50 Foolproof Equations For Everyday Life
Inside The Human Genome
How Far Is Up? Measuring The Size Of The Universe
Astro Turf: The Private Life Of Rocket Science
Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering And Cloning Will Transform The American Family
Weighing The Soul: Scientific Discovery From The Brilliant To The Bizarre
Genethics: The Clash Between The New Genetics And Human Values
Math Doesn’t Suck
Separate Creation: Biological Origins Of Sexual Orientation
Fly: The Unsung Hero Of 20th Century Science
Brief History Of Time: A Reader Companion
Hubble Space Telescope
Night Sky Identifiers
Friendly GT The Universe
Unnatural Selection: Promise & Power Of Human Gene Research
How Life Begins
Do Fish Feel Pain?
Annus Mirabiliis: 1905, Albert Einstein, And The Theory Of Relativity (W/DVD)

Most of these are remainder titles, mainly because remainders stretch that budget, but also because I got 0 title requests for this material this time out which, BTW, is odd. I’ve learned that our population’s intellectual curiosity weighs in heavily with all forms of math, physics, astronomy, and current science trends like cloning, the human genome project and its implications, bioengineering and bioethics, Frankenfood, and the creationism/ Darwinism debate. Science books are stolen with something approaching regularity which, at once, is a testament to their incorrigible ways AND to my impeccable and well-informed tastes in science matters (probably a lot less of one and a little more of the other….)

 

 

“I know it says ‘NOT TO BE TAKEN FROM THE LIBRARY,’ but can I have it for a week?”

When the Lending Librarian retired in 1994, I was suddenly handed the responsibility of supervising that Library, the law Library, the segregation law Library, and the libraries in the Hospital Services Unit. Accordingly, I noticed (but I won’t tell you how long it took) that I couldn’t be everywhere at once. I had to decide and quickly what I was going to do about the Reference Room collection, as inmates were stealing from it left and right. I decided to make the collection circulating; it was either that or risk losing a nicely-built collection of useful titles. Also, we expanded the subjects that we keep in the former Librarians’ locked “PC Reference Cabinet” (it actually stands for ‘Protective custody,’ but we tell people that it means ‘Padlocked cabinet’….) These are the reference titles that piqued my interest:

Billboard Book Of Top 40 Hits
Love That Dirty Water! The Standells and the Improbable Red Sox Victory Anthem
Book Of African-American Quotations
Great Speeches On Gay Rights
Great Speeches By African-Americans
Rights Of Man (Thomas Paine)
Six Great Dialogues (Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Symposium, The Republic)
Complete Idiot’s GT Starting Your Own Business
Videohound Golden Movie Retriever 2012
Leonard Maltin’s 2012 Movie Guide

I say “…piqued my interest” but, of course, that interest is necessarily tempered by the information requests of Library users. We have many musicians hanging around the place (including Your Beleaguered Instructor), so the song guides and directories see tons of use, especially our Billboard Book of Top Pop Singles by the illustrious and prolific Joel Whitburn. Movie fanatics abound, too, so we have every English-language movie guide imaginable (just not updated at the same time, alas….) We also nurture a kind of fetish for quotation books; at present, the collection numbers 43 and growing. Well, we’re rarely stumped by the “Who was it who said….?” query. Small business start-up guides are extremely popular. Not sure why? But I have some theories! Between the oversize reference shelf, PC cabinet, Ready Reference cabinet, Reference Room, and BIP/encyclopedia wall, we have about 1,300 reference books, not including Spanish-language references (100) and reference on other media (100). Not bad for such a small space, and considering that we’re limited mostly to books.

 

 

 

“God brought me to jail and said ‘Now do I have your attention?’”

Some inmates are believers. They fight for their right to practice their faith as they see fit. Could some of this righteousness be disingenuous and deceptive? Probably. But my impression is that people who seek out religious and faith information in prison do so from a genuine desire to know and apply. This impression comes from observing the material they seek, the interlibrary loans they request, the purchase requests they make, and the reference questions they ask. This impression also comes from the discussions I’ve had with inmates in my office or out on the Library floor. The Library has about 200 books, DVDs, and VHS on the major faith systems.

Why Can’t We Be Good?
Confessions Of St. Augustine
Varieties Of Religious Experience
CS Lewis Signature Classics (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem Of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed, The Abolition Of Man)
Prayer For People Who Think Too Much: A GT Everyday, Anywhere Prayer From The World’s Faith Traditions
Touched By God: Black Gospel Greats Share Their Stories About Finding God

For inmates who reject faith, you provide contemporary atheist nonfiction, fiction, and books/DVDs presenting the omnipresent(!) Creationism/Darwin debates. It impresses me that atheism is a type of faith or belief, and it’s interesting that in the Dewey scheme (yes, we use Dewey, sue us) atheism is classed under 291. New books in this vein include:

God & The New Physics
Mind Of God, The: Scientific Basis For A Rational World

36 arguments for the existence of God
Rock Of Ages: Science & Religion In The Fullness Of Life

I also bought Darwin’s Sacred Cause and was tempted to include it here, but it belongs elsewhere. Perhaps with biographies, memoir, and autobiography:

Autobiography Of Mark Twain (Volume One)
Memories Of John Lennon
Jeannie Out Of The Bottle
Finding It: And Satisfying My Hunger For Life Without Opening The Fridge
Gladys Knight: Between Each Line Of Pain & Glory
Rickles’ Book
Bedwetter: Stories Of Courage, Redemption, & Pee
Tracy Morgan: I Am The New Black
Darwin’s Sacred Cause

…And my newest favorite title (I’m a title buyer): Another Bullshit Night In Suck City

 

 

The remainder of the book buy breaks down into sports:
Knuckler (memoir of a former Red Sox pitcher)
Ones Who Hit Hardest, The
100 Things Patriots Fans Should Know

…and poetry:
Blake’s Selected Poems
Contemporary Irish Poetry
Best American Poetry 2010
Catching Life By The Throat: HT Read A Poem And Why

 

Next, we’ll talk about picking up the books, getting them to the prison, getting them inside, getting them processed, getting them on the shelves, and getting them ‘advertised.’