My Life as a Jailbrarian: Library Fight Club

As I promised in the last installment of “My Life as a Jailbrarian” today I will write about the fights I saw while working in the library. This is not going to be as exciting as it sounds. There were rarely fights in the library. I can really only remember two actual physical fights inside the library. There were numerous arguments that could have turned in to physical altercations had the officers not responded to my call and stopped it before it started, There were times that I was threatened, but that also never turned physical. I saw the aftermath of fights in other areas of the jail. I think the library had fewer fights because they didn’t want to lose library privileges. I had the law books, so they were nicer to me. So, now that I’ve told you that this post is boring – here are the two fights I remember.

The one common theme of both fights is that they started fast, with no warning. There were no arguments, no yelling, nothing that would indicate that something was about to happen. Just a sudden burst of violence.

Fight one was the oddest one. I was at my desk answering a question when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a chair raising up in the air. The library went from relative quiet to violence in the blink of an eye. People who had been sitting quietly were now in a physical altercation and one of them was about to go after the other one with a chair. I have no idea why or how it started. It’s possible that this was a continuation of an argument that happened in the housing unit. It’s possible there was a quiet argument I missed. All I know is that I had an inmate going after another one with a chair. Luckily, it was not my job to intervene. I called for officer assistance and they stopped it before anyone was injured.

The other fight also happened quickly, but I know the reason for behind it. The county jail is a co-ed facility. The library was one of the place in the jail where the female inmates were allowed to work.  At the time, I had a woman assigned to work in the library. Apparently, she was also writing notes to two different male inmates at the same time. These notes were not allowed, but they were passed all the time in a variety of ways.  One of the guys she was writing also had a job within the jail. One day he was cleaning the halls outside the library and the other guy was in the library looking at books.  I was at the desk helping someone find something in one of the law books. Suddenly, the guy cleaning the call charges in to the library and jumps the other guy. The officers arrived quickly again and broke up the fight before anything too extreme happened. It wasn’t until after the fight was over and I was cleaning up the library that I found the shank(homemade knife) that had been dropped when the officers arrived. Someone had been prepared to stab the other guy over a county jail pen pal.

That is the extent of real fights in the library. Not too exciting. There was plenty of yelling, plenty of me yelling over them to try to calm things down and plenty of times I felt the need to call the officers because it was past the point I felt I could intervene, but really only two real fights. It could have been much worse.

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My Life as a Jailbrarian: Life on the Inside Leads to Life Online

It’s been a while since I’ve written a “jailbrarian” post. It’s hard for me to decide where to start with my life in the county jail. As I mentioned in the last post, many days in jail are boring and uneventful and that is what you want. Boring and uneventful, coupled with the job being a very solitary job can make for a very long day.  At the beginning if my time as a jailbrarian I was in jail 8-4 four days a week. I only worked with other librarians one day a week. It was a very isolated life. There was also a lot of down time during periods when the inmates were locked down for count, lunch or emergency situations as well as times when only a couple of people attended library and sat and read magazines for an hour.  It was a small library, so tasks like shelving, weeding, etc didn’t take a lot of time.

All of this lead me to find ways to connect with other librarians, readers, and other random strangers. I joined email lists for librarians and book lovers. I joined one email list for book lovers that soon lead to me joining other outcasts in a new book lovers email list with fewer rules. This was The Book Barn and was my main escape from the monotony for a long time. I made several friends via the Barn and we are still friends today via Facebook. I even went to Pittsburgh for a weekend to meet some of them in person and survived. I joined bulletin boards, the best being the Christopher Moore board where I again made friends with whom I am still friends today.  I joined a site called FriendFeed that was eventually bought and killed by Facebook. It was my favorite social media site. There were a lot of librarians who posted regularly, so I felt more connected to the field.  It was perfect for actual conversation on a variety of topics. I’m still sad Facebook killed it. I did eventually join Facebook and Twitter as well, but they are not nearly as good as Friendeed. I actually started this blog with the thought that I would use it to post about library stuff, but decided early on that I didn’t really want to post about library stuff and also that I didn’t want to worry about what my employer thought about my thoughts on library stuff.

This may sound like I spent my time in jail doing everything but work, but I did all of this on breaks, at lunch and during times when I was watching two guys read magazines and couldn’t do anything else. It helped make a solitary librarian feel a little less alone.

Next time on My Life as a Jailbrarian perhaps I will talk about the handful of fights that occurred in the library.

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?

I said in a comment yesterday that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. That’s not technically true. I want to be retired. That’s easy. I was asked if I had ever taken a career aptitude test, so I just took one. These are the jobs I was matched with  at last 4 stars with some thoughts on each.

our Top Matches

I have no musical talent, so while I might have the personality that fits being a musician, I do not have the skills.
Photo of Editor

JOURNALISM & WRITING
I can see this. I think I have the skills needed to be a decent editor. Now I just need someone to hire me.
Photo of Author

JOURNALISM & WRITING
I would love to be an author, but I don’t think I have it in me to write a book. I guess I could be a decent essay writer if I took the time to work on it.
Someone told me in college I should do this because I was a good listener. I did not listen to them and did not explore that career.
Photo of Journalist

JOURNALISM & WRITING
I think this one fits my writing skills more. I took a journalism class in college but did not pursue the career.
Photo of Copywriter

JOURNALISM & WRITING
I’m not sure what a copywriter does. I should probably find out.
Photo of Blogger

JOURNALISM & WRITING
I am already an unpaid one of these. Anyone want to pay me to do this?
Photo of Sociologist

SOCIAL SCIENCES
I did take some sociology classes in college and liked them. I could see this being a good fit.
Photo of Proofreader

JOURNALISM & WRITING
I’m really bad at proofing my own blog posts. I’m not sure this would work.
Interesting that librarian was way down the list as a three star match. I’m not looking for a career change. I’m too close to retirement for that. Maybe I should have done this when I was stuck in jail for 19 years.

College…Or Not

I recently read this article in the Washington Post –

Elitists, crybabies and junky degrees

A Trump supporter explains rising conservative anger at American universities.

I don’t agree with the people quoted that colleges are brainwashing young adults and turning them in to liberal elites, but I do agree with the premise that college is not for everyone. Some people should not go to college and that’s OK. Some people should go to college and that is also OK.

I am the only one of my siblings to graduate from college. It doesn’t make me better than them. It doesn’t make me smarter than them(that happened naturally). I am better looking than them, but college had nothing to do with that. I needed to go to college to get where I needed to be in life.  They didn’t need to go to college to get where they needed to be in life. Both situations are fine. We did what was best for us. That’s what everyone should do.

Both of my kids will attend college. I hope they will both graduate. They have aspirations for careers that require a college education and the aptitude to be successful in college. Some kids have aspire to careers where a degree is not necessary. Some kids are not in a place where they would be successful in college. This is all OK.  I think everyone deserves a chance to go to college. I think we should continue funding for grants to help those in need attend college. I just don’t think everyone should go to college.

We need people to become tradesmen. We still need plumber, carpenters, welders, auto mechanics, etc. These are good jobs. These are good jobs that do not require a college degree. Unfortunately, these are becoming jobs that are considered “lesser” and parents try to push kids away from them and in to college. There is no shame in these jobs. We should stop trying to force kids in to college just because we have all decided that everyone needs a college education.

We should let kids go in the direction that will allow them the most success. Why pressure a kid in to college if that is not where they will be successful? Why not guide kids toward the path in life that is best for them instead of the path that makes the parents feel good about themselves?

 

Living With a Ghost

There was a line in Grey’s Anatomy this week that prompted this post. I can’t recall exactly how it was phrased but the character says he “doesn’t want to live with a ghost — who he might have been if he had been brave enough to try.” That line struck a chord with me because I feel like that describes me in some way.

When I went away to college I went in thinking I wanted to be a teacher. I started on that track from the beginning of my college career and only once did I consider anything else. I took a journalism class with the thought of possibly changing my major. I liked the class, but I took the easy path of sticking with my major I chose as a high school kid. I muddled through my education classes and then, when I actually went to the classroom, I realized I hated teaching. My advisor saw that and advised that I change my major. I was working at the university library at the time and enjoyed it. It seemed the easy thing to do was to follow my advisor’s advice and work toward an MLS. I changed my major to communications and worked toward a BS for the sole purpose of going to graduate school for the MLS. I really enjoyed my communications classes. I mostly took classes in small group and mass communications. I especially liked my mass communication classes. I should have considered moving forward in that field, but, once again, I had tunnel vision and went straight on to the MLS program after graduation. While getting my master’s, I worked at a market research firm. I was very good at my job. I didn’t, however, consider that as a career either. I stayed focused on the library thing and when we moved to Maryland I applied for multiple library jobs. Now, here I am 23 years later working in a library in Maryland.

I don’t hate being a librarian. I like my job and I’m at the very least adequate at doing said job(most of the time) but I think a lot of my dissatisfaction over the years has been the side effect of living with that ghost. The ghost of Alan who didn’t go in to college with an open mind. The ghost of Alan who didn’t at least take a 2nd journalism class. The ghost of Alan who didn’t consider a career in communications. The ghost of Alan who didn’t look in to market research careers in Maryland. The ghost of Alan who would never attempt to write more than a mediocre blog post. The ghost of Alan who has always done what is easy and safe.

I like my life. I just feel like I missed out on some opportunities by playing it safe. Learn a lesson from me. Don’t spend your life living with a ghost.

Tater’s Weekly Wrap Up 9/1/17

Dogs – I have a dog. I love my dog, but I don’t need to take my dog everywhere with me. I don’t understand why people want to take their dogs everywhere. There are dogs in bars, dogs at outdoor concerts, dogs on vacation and even a Ravens football practice where bringing your dog was encouraged. Why are we doing this? I barely want to take my kids places with me and I don’t have to pick up their poop with a plastic bag. Why would I want to take my dog? I don’t get it.

FLOTUS’s Shoes – I don’t care what shoes the First Lady chose to wear while walking from the White House to the plane to fly to Texas. I’m not a fan of Trump and think he is a disaster as president, but this need to pick on everything his family does is ridiculous. The shoes she wore on the plane mean absolutely nothing. There was an entire article about it in the Post. That’s really, really stupid. I know horrible people said horrible things about the Obama family when he was in office. That does not make it right to pick on the Trump family at all. Take the high road when it comes to the family.

Customer Service – Two instances this week of really bad customer service. My daughter and her friends went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s. The person at the window was not very friendly and when they got home they discovered that the box for the chicken nuggets was filled with tartar sauce packages instead of food. They had to go back to get the nuggets and apparently got free apple pies in apology. Had I been there, the entire order would have been refunded. I’m also once again dealing with poor delivery service with the Washington Post. I still like to read the print edition, but will likely switch to digital because the carrier does not care if I get my paper on time. Delivery is getting more and more inconsistent lately. This happened last year and no one cared until I tracked down the head of customer care on Twitter. Once he was involved it got better. It looks like I might need to talk to him again. Good customer service can be hard to find.

Mini-Career Rant – I managed a one person branch of a library for 19 years. It was in jail, but I still managed it. I did all of the day today, supervised volunteers(inmates) and purchased the collection. No one seems to consider that real management because I didn’t officially supervise a staff and didn’t write evaluations. Somehow writing evaluation is now equated with management and leadership. You can teach anyone to write a decent evaluation. Real leadership is much harder.

My Life as a Jailbrarian: Getting to Know the County Jail

We have now reached the point in the story where I have started working at the place where I would spend my next 19 years. The stories from here will not necessarily be in chronological order. This is mainly due to the fact that I am old and forgetful and won’t remember when a lot of them took place. Some posts might be a collection of stories from various time periods. I really won’t know until I decide to write them. This post is just some general information about the facility to give you a picture.

The county jail has a variety of inmates. There are people who are sentenced to a short amount of time for less serious charges. There are people who are awaiting trial for various charges. There are both male and female inmates. There are wok release inmates. There are ICE detainees(this was not the case when I started the job).  Basically, you can have inmates with charges as small as petty theft all the way up to first degree murder.

You enter the jail through a lobby with an enclosed officer’s station. To enter the secure part of the facility, you go through two secured doors to another officer’s post and a metal detector. They will check you for contraband and then you are free to move about the facility.  I won’t go into detail about the inside of the facility. I don’t want any of you to use the information to try to facilitate a prison break.  I will just say that it is a very secure facility. I would go through several locked doors, controlled centrally, to get to the library. The library was on the same hallway as several of the housing units. For most of my time there my next door neighbor was the women’s housing unit. They were very loud. Each day was set aside for specific units to visit the library. Some days I had more of the lower level crime/sentenced inmates visit the library. Some days I had the pre-trial/serious crime types visit the library. Many times the petty criminals were more annoying than the ones facing serious charges.

I will try to tell some of the more interesting stories from my time there, but I have to confess that many days were boring and uneventful. When you work in jail, boring and uneventful is what you want.