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.

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.

Month Of Tater Day 2 – Electric Boogaloo

Only the second day of the month and I already have no clue where I’m going with the posts this month. I blame everyone who read yesterday’s post and didn’t give me a suggestion or ask a question. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!

I am one of the lucky people who got an email from Panera that I have a free bagel every day this month, so I stopped on the way to work and sat for a little bit, eating the free bagel, drinking coffee and reading a book. Every time I do this – or sit there for a while on my day off – I think about how nice it would be to be the people who are there with their laptops, working and drinking coffee. I want a job that allows me to work from Panera while drinking coffee. Why won’t someone pay me to drink coffee at Panera while writing mediocre blog posts? Why won’t someone pay me to read books and watch TV?  I want answers!

I’m also jealous of the retirees who gather every Friday at Panera. If I can’t have the above job, I want to retire early and go to Panera and have coffee mid-morning if I feel like it. Why can’t I retire early? It’s not fair!

So, basically, going to Panera makes me sad about the fact that I have a job and it is one that requires me to leave the house. Maybe I should stop going.

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.

My Life as a Jailbrarian: Seeking Parole

While my job at the state prison system provided a few interesting stories, there were two good reasons I needed a new job: my boss was a horrible person and the state job was contractual and provided no benefits.  After being rejected when I applied for the job I was already doing, I knew that I had no future with the organization. After working in the office with the person in charge of the organization, I knew I didn’t want a future there. So, it was time to seek parole and/or escape from prison.

I once again hit the job trail. I started actively seeking new employment. My horrible boss was very angry when she found out and called me in to an office to yell at me for looking for a new job without telling her. Apparently, I was being unfair to her by trying to escape the misery of working for her. This just made me look harder for a new job. I sent out a multitude of resumes. I got three interviews.

Interview 1: The memory of this one is very hazy. I think it was the American Psychology Association, but I could be wrong. I can say for sure that it was at a professional association in DC. It was a decent interview where they walked me around and introduced me to people in the office as part of the process. I remember it feeling like it was not a place I would fit. They must have felt the same way. I did not get an offer.

Interview 2: My second interview was at a private school north of Baltimore. It was a beautiful campus. It was a very good interview. I really felt like this was the place I would land. When I received the call from them, however, I discovered it would not be the place for me. I had applied to be the assistant librarian and the school felt that I would not be happy as the assistant and would leave the job quickly. I tried to convince them that this was not the case. They didn’t believe me. I wanted to point out that the librarian was old and that I could wait her out, but I felt that was a mistake. I did not get an offer.

Interview 3: My third interview was with a public library system. The position was for the local detention center. It was also the library system that had returned my unsolicited resume back to me stamped rejected. It was not a good sign. At the interview, while shaking hands, I noticed one person had the list of interviewees face up in front of them. I quickly took a sneak peek while shaking their hand and discovered I was competing with someone else from the state prison system. I seemed doomed to fail. The interview went well and I received a call from the library asking me to come to a second interview with the administration from the jail. This one did not go as well. I was 26 years old and looked much younger and am not exactly an imposing figure. The security supervisor at the jail was furious that they had chosen me and said I wouldn’t last. He was not shy about saying that with me in the room. He was completely against me being hired. The rest of the room was not quite as hostile, but they were not friendly. I was sure that I was headed back out on the job hunt again. Instead, as we walked to our cars, the library people told me that it didn’t matter what the jail thought I was their choice and the job was mine if I wanted it.  I was so desperate to get out of my current position that I readily agreed to go work at a place where the people in charge clearly did not want me. Spoiler alert: I outlasted every person in the room who said I wouldn’t last.

I was heading back to jail. I felt comfortable doing this because I was not intimidated by jail and also because I thought for sure I could work my way up and out of the jail before too long. I was so young and stupid.