I read this short essay in the NYTimes magazine section. A little slice of life of a prison librarian, soon to be part of an upcoming book called “Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian” Enjoyed the anecdote and yet, oddly, felt weird about seeing the titles of the books listed. Old habits die hard.
Libraries are full of hints to lifeâ€™s great puzzles. For the mystery of which recently released, 5-foot-10 or so Latino man still owed two books, the prison library offered a name, and the two books he owed: â€œIntroduction to Astrologyâ€ and â€œThe Astrology of Human Relationships.â€ But regarding the mystery of what he discovered in his study of the cosmos, the prison library was completely silent.
There’s an interesting little article in the New York Times today about whether the prison reading list of a prisoner can be used against them in a trial. The case involves a 2007 home invasion and murder in Connecticut. The defense has indicated that the books that one of the accused men had checked out of the prison library prior to the crime were “criminally malevolent in the extreme.”
In a motion last month, the defense lawyers referred to â€œDepartment of Correction library books.â€ They noted that Mr. Hayes, who spent much of his life in Connecticut jails, had borrowed â€œone or more books of fiction whose plots can fairly be described as salacious and criminally malevolent in the extreme.â€ The lawyers were trying to block any reference to Mr. Hayesâ€™s prison reading before the Cheshire crime at his trial. They said a mention of the books would be â€œhighly inflammatory and very prejudicial to the defendant.â€
In a strange twist, there have been two books already published about the murders that residents are trying to have banned from the local library. More on this from Library Journal recounting a program from ALA Annual.
When I briefly had a job scoring essays for the California Achievement tests, I was always sadly surprised at how much trouble some people had with them. I read one essay that just said “I did not finish” and another that said “don’t fale me.” I was reminded about this when I looked at the image on Aaron Schmidt’s post about the Jail Finds Flickr group about the things that this person found in books or on the book cart at the jail where they volunteer.
Speaking of library activism and useful results, I was recently made aware of the Jail Library Group of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Library and Information Science. You can view their slideshow [with its familiar presentation format] to learn more about what they do, from a talk they gave at the WI Library Association conference last month.