This rural librarian is still very rural, but I am now serving as a prison librarian somewhere in Appalachia, USA. I have been trying to connect with other professional prison librarians and have had a tough time finding colleagues. The United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world and prison librarians have an important job. We need to connect, collaborate, and network so that we may share ideas and establish best practices while maintaining a safe and secure library environment.
Prison Librarian Challenges
I maintain that there is little difference between a public librarian and a prison librarian, but the prison librarian gets the short end of the professional librarian stick because we work with convicted criminals. Maybe the stigma of felons transfers to prison librarians? I have had the pleasure of working in academic and public libraries and this is my first prison library experience. My goals in my prison library are very much the same as my other library jobs-- collection development, developing programs, tracking statistics, and staying in touch with the needs of my patrons.
While I take risks by holding my position as prison librarian, I also contend that the opportunity for rewards is great. I have the unique opportunity to help people return to society as contributing and positive members. I try to cultivate a library collection that focuses on positive behavior and entrepreneurial skills. I try to create programs that entertain, empower, and educate my library patrons.
Prison Library Collective
I know there are other prison librarians out there, both professional and non-professional. Where are you? I would like to conduct an interview with you to find out what your unique challenges and rewards may be. Are you a prison librarian working in the United States? I would like to hear from you. You do not have to have a library degree to be a prison librarian. If you push a book cart in a jail, I would like to hear from you. If you would like to remain anonymous, that is OK, too. If there are enough of us, I recommend that we form a Prison Library Collective that is separate from the usual "Special Library" groups that we may often be lumped into. Prison libraries and librarians face unusual challenges and obstacles. Let's do this together. Please email me, or, look for the FaceBook group entitled Prison Librarians.