Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Prison Librarian?

I am constantly amused at the look on people's face when I say I work with prisoners. Comments usually range from, "It must be quite challenging." to " They have all the time to read." Some people actually comment, "You are so good to be doing this." Grrrr... Smile... Grin...say it. "Oh I'm not good at all. It is my profession and the prisoners are like any other community library users- only they are behind the fence. " Shall I go on? "Well they don't have as much free time as you think. Inside the fence they work, go to school, to the health unit, commissary, social meetings like Veterans Groups, band practice, watch TV, play games in their units, exercise in the yard, go to religious services, and a variety of other activities. Like in the outside community, the library is one of their choices. We try to make our libraries inviting and non threatening, focussing on the benefits of getting the correct information.
In time the inmates trust the librarian, they become regular users. See photos of two of our libraries JCI in Jessup and MCIH in Hagerstown . Check out MD. Correctional Education Libraries web site for more information


Storywebber said...

I have applied to be a librarian in a Texas prison. Now that said, in talking to my friend about the research about working in a prison library, she said, "Well, I suppose they do need something to do with all that time on their hands." If I get the job, I wonder what my family will have to say? lol


brandyrose said...

Yeah, I've found it to be a real conversation-stopper when I say I work in a prison library at dinner parties :) People just don't know how to respond, especially when I say that I was scared at first, but now I'm not at all. Inmates really are just folks who've made some bad decisions, but at heart they are still people who need to read the paper and look up a diagnosis they've gotten. Or just need someone to talk about American Idol with!

lvalerio said...

Could you possibly give us an idea as to how to search for available positions? What is the job title usually listed as? I'm finishing up my MSIS and am very interested in working in this kind of setting but don't know how to start looking. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Peggy said...


To find out if there are vacancies in prison libraries you could look at the web site of Division of Corrections in the state of interest, you could also join the prison library listserv of American Librarian Association and post the question there.