Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Mental Lapse

When I first became dissatisfied with my job in the prison, but before I started thinking about quitting, I considered going back to school. The idea came, sort of out of nowhere, while I was weeding books from the shelves. Weeding books is one of those mundane tasks that I actually really enjoyed. You pick up each book, and flip open the cover to see the last time it was checked out. Then you examine its physical condition. Deciding which books to remove is subjective and tricky in a small library. You don’t want to get rid of popular books, but on the other hand, there’s no reason to hold onto a book once everyone has read it. And books that have never gone out … is it because they haven’t been marketed properly, or are they really just not suitable for the population? On top of that, you might be a librarian with very specific ideas about what items a library needs to have in order to be a Library. That is why, in a tiny library, in a maximum-security prison filled mostly with black men in their early 20’s, you will find the complete Jane Austen.

Anyway, that’s what I was doing when I had my brilliant idea. I came across a prison studies book that hadn’t been issued in 2 years… and I thought, maybe I could use this place as a case study. I had a ‘captive’ audience that I could study and do my thesis on the uses of a prison library and finally get my Masters in Library Science. I was standing on a chair, dropping discarded books on the floor. That’s something else you get to do when you’re a librarian – you can ‘mistreat’ books. In the course of your daily duties, but especially during weeding season, you can drop the books on the floor, you can toss them across the room aiming for a box (usually you will miss, but when you make it, you can throw your arms in the air and shout Heeeyyyy!), you can write on the books and you can rip out pages. And you can do those things because you are The Librarian.

So I continued for most of the morning, working backwards in my mind from planning my Masters in Library Science thesis, to selecting programs, to wondering if I would have to pay foreign tuition after living in England for so long, to mentally composing my application and updating my resume. I flipped through a book and blew a bunch of dust straight into my eyes. I rubbed at them with the back of my hand and bemoaned the fact that I always seemed to develop conjunctivitis while weeding books and was that a side effect of being a librarian or being a prison librarian?

Which is when I remembered.

I already have a Masters Degree in Library Science.  

*This post was originally published at The Daily Theme on October 12, 2010

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