Monday, July 31, 2006

Marta is one of the excellent team who supports our Jails Program. One of her roles is filling requests. The meticulous matching of request slip to material has paid off!

We received an enthusiastic "thank you" for materials supplied to an inmate on the Max Side who is teaching social studies to a small class of inmates in his cell-block. "This hidden university...appreciates your concern of us not wasting quality time. That is essential in enlightenment of the mind. 'The mind is a terrible thing to waste' was the most powerful commercial ever made...." The Russian novelist, Dostoevsky, expressed the same thing after seeing all the vitality and intellectual capacity of the men incarcerated around him going to waste.

This guy likes to instruct the young about political issues. He doesn't shy away from controversy or complexity. Some months ago, he was exercising in the outer yard--each inmate gets some solo "solar" recharging--and I offered him a book about the "Authoritarian Personality."

I hope he continues to discover and share mental freedom with his "cellies." It is imperative in a jail--which teaches adaptation to order and routine--to knock the authoritarian monkey off our backs! Our aim should be to return citizens who understand self-control onto our streets, not automatons who merely follow orders. And thanks to great library service, we will.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

From Great Falls Tribune, a profile of the inmates and volunteer librarians who serve them at Cascade County Regional Jail. Fiction, fantasy and Western novels are particularly popular, but the population is hard on the books, sometimes even ripping out a page in the middle or the last page of a book (this happened to Harry Potter). One of the inmates repairs the thousands of books in the jail's library and fills the carts each week with special requests from other average of 25 book requests a week.

--posted on LISnews

dan's 2 cents:

Ah, book repair. "Mends" takes on a whole new meaning with jails paperbacks. I know the plummeting feeling when a Robert McCammon or Jackie Collins is missing the last few pages, usually snatched to scratch a phone message. Where will we find these world classics again???

Since many of our books are bought from used book stores or come to us after years of circulation in a branch, we do our darnedest to patch them up again. Industrial size scotch tape works best for surgery. Though heavy-duty staples might make our "fix" last longer, we can't risk sending thick metal staples into the jail since they can be fashioned into weapons.

Certain genres are always in short supply so we have a special procedure for turning hardback discards into paperbacks, complete with their original book jackets. It is named the "Krehbiel Krunch" after a former Jails Librarian. You have to crack the tough fibers that bind the cardboard cover to the spine, then rip like crazy. The discarded cover makes a satisfying clunk as it hits the garbage can! Large Print, African-American, Spanish materials and Dictionaries often undergo this procedure. Benefit: the life of the book is extended and the librarian's muscles get toughened up. Problem: how to sell the mended books to our inmates. They are the "wrong size" and often get passed over on the bookcart. Many inmates like the mass-market feel. Small stacks of same-sized paperbacks make better barbells after they are squeezed into old socks or knotted together with torn rubber gloves. Ah, the joy of book rescue and resuscitation! Our prized paperbacks with the snazziest covers also wind up as padding for bunk beds. We would prefer they snuggle up on the back of Catherine Coulter or Nora Roberts, which are always in abundant supply. But it's usually Patricia Cornwell or James Patterson. Go figure.

All things considered, we're glad to see that Montanans create as much work for their menders as Californians do.