Post-vacation blues

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 by Desiree

I had a fabulous time on my vacation, and I don’t regret going for a minute.¬† But returning to work today was really depressing.

Before I left, I specifically asked my civilian staff to take care of a couple things – interlibrary loan and tracking/responding to kites – while I was away. They did neither. I have no idea how many kites came in, so my stats will be off for the month. There were 27 ILL books in a heap on the counter, waiting to be processed. ILLs that were due were returned, but the paperwork wasn’t processed. And I haven’t yet counted how many requests went unanswered.

For the last couple weeks, Miss L has been complaining to my boss and to human resources that I don’t let her see the kites that we get. Never mind that she picks up the mail everyday and can read every damn kite that comes in; oh no, I’m hiding them from her. I do require that they all get turned in to me so that I can keep track of how many requests the library responds to every month, but she can look at them any time she wants to. And then when I tell her that I want her to process them while I’m gone, she doesn’t do it! Argh!

But the worst part is that common sense didn’t prevail, after all. Silly me for thinking that it might. I had an email from the security major saying that after carefully considering (yeah, right) my proposal, he and the Warden decided that the libraries are not to accept donations from inmates.

I love my job, but the organizational culture in which I perform it is appalling.

I am officially looking for a new job.


Common sense prevails

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2010 by Desiree

Today my boss and I met with two of the prison’s attorneys, one grievance coordinator, the first-shift security Lieutenant and Captain, and the records department supervisor (still not sure why she was there) to discuss two library issues that have had me sleepless, stressed and disgruntled for the last few weeks.

First, we finally resolved the issue of the grievance an inmate filed against me because I removed some of the true crime books from the collection. I know, I know, I’m a librarian and I’m not supposed to remove materials from the library on the basis of content. But I’m not in a regular library and I don’t have regular patrons. I made a reasonable and justifiable decision to remove the most graphic and sensationalistic of the true crime novels, those that go into every gory detail of rapes, murders and child molestations.

The inmate filed the grievance several months ago, but because of various bits of bureaucratic red tape, it’s just now being dealt with. After several arguments with the grievance coordinator over the last several weeks, today’s meeting finally put the whole thing to bed, in my favor.

The other issue – whether or not the libraries should be accepting donations from inmates – has had me so riled up recently that I was seriously considering finding a new job. The libraries have taken donations the entire time I’ve worked at the prison, and to the best of my knowledge, for 30 years before I came along. But suddenly, about a month ago, security decided that no way, uh-uh, inmates cannot give their books away to benefit the libraries.

I estimate that inmate donations account for about $9000 worth of acquisitions yearly. There are numerous benefits to inmates, not the least of which is having a fresh supply of reading materials trickling into the collection on a regular basis. But hey, there’s no policy that says we can take donations, so that must mean that we can’t. Right? (Argh!)

Anyway, after presenting a cogent argument, presenting evidence and receiving unexpected back up from several people at the meeting, the security personnel asked me to write up a proposal for accepting donations “securely.” The Captain seems willing to work with me to get formal policy put in place on this.

Amazing. Common sense actually carried some weight today.

Library love story from an ex-offender

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2010 by Desiree

The Denver Public Library has a series of “library love stories” on YouTube. This one is from an ex-offender.

That’s why prison librarians do what we do.

NPR interview with prison library guru Glennor Shirley

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2010 by Desiree

Check out this NPR interview with Glennor Shirley, Library Coordinator for the Maryland Department of Corrections.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 by Desiree

I’m trying to find a balance between loving my job and hating all the bullshit associated with doing it.

On the love it side: I feel like there is a purpose to my life, I’m good at what I do, I’m proud that I’m directing a small system of libraries right out of grad school, I’m inspired to help people and I’m challenged in my work.

On the hate it side: I have correctional officers making decisions about how the program operates and telling my staff what to do, even though¬† it is not their place to do so. I have to defend legitimate decisions I’ve made about library operations to a grievance coordinator who insults my intelligence and treats me like I’m the criminal, all because he (the grievance coordinator) is afraid of being sued by the inmate who wants to smash my face in and sue me for discriminating against white people. Daily I’m surrounded by small-minded people (I’m not talking about inmates) who neither understand nor value what I do. And fine, they don’t know about or care about what I do – that doesn’t give them the right to tell me how to do it.

Looking at these lists, I realize that the hate-its are temporary, but the love-its will last (they’ve held strong so far). And while there will certainly be an unending list of hate-its after these have passed, the love-its will (hopefully) always be there.

But it’s hard to keep putting so much time and energy and care into it when most of what I get back is frustration, hassle and bullshit.

Where is the balance?

Professional networking

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2010 by Desiree

I’m finally making progress on my plan to form some kind of professional network for the correctional facility librarians in my state. Yesterday I spoke with several of them, and they all responded enthusiastically. There are so few of us, and we’re scattered so widely throughout the state. It’ll be good to have a mechanism in place for all of us to stay in contact.

Reluctant disciplinarian

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2010 by Desiree

I had to give Mr. G a written warning about his excessive use of sick leave today. Yuck. Discipline isn’t my thing.