Welcome to the Arctic: Drug Tests, Catalogs, & Winter Coats

Last week was exciting as I made two trips to a nearby prison in preparation to gain clearance to spend my practicum with the Education Justice Project.

The first of my two days was the formalities of being welcomed to a correctional facility, but I was able to see more of the facility than I had at the EJP’s open house. We saw the medical building, the outside the industry building, etc. We were shown around by the Chaplin, who I asked as many possible questions as we were being processed for finger prints & more to gain our final approval.

When asked what he liked about his job, he spoke about making a difference; when asked about the biggest challenge, he discussed not having enough time to accomplish all he wanted to. I was surprised to find out that his duties included collecting and maintaining numerous library collections: one of each major religion (Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and I believe one more) as well as a collection for a bible school that began teaching classes.

The following day I was able to see most of his collection as well as be in my first general population prison library (unlike the EJP’s library which is only for their students). The general library was by chance open when we were there for law research. It was busy! Patrons were filling out forms, looking at law books, library workers were busy helping others and putting books away, and the counselor (who is the interim-librarian) was helping a handful of patrons with their questions. The interim-librarian showed us around briefly and as he had to assist patrons, a library worker showed us how to check out books, what patrons were currently working on, what his role is at the library, and… his homemade sign welcoming patrons to the arctic, for the heat was being replaced and almost everyone was in the gloves!

My primary reason for visiting was to spend time with the EJP’s library manager to discuss what I could potentially do to help out in their library with their library workers.

I was able to show her the catalog I began working on in Microsoft Access to help their collection be searchable on computers with the restriction of having no Internet access. Their current system is using Microsoft Excel and primarily printed out copies of the catalog sorted by title, author, and subject headings. Below are some screen shots of my work in progress (1st picture of searching page, 2nd of data entry):

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While discussing the potential new catalog, I was shown the library workers’ list of their own subject headings they want to use that is more friendly to them than the Library of Congress’ subject headings. Sandy Bergman would be proud!

By the end of our visit, we decided that for my practicum I will assist in:

1.) Library instruction- will provided to each of the six classes within the spring semester for patrons to become familiar with resources & searching

2.) Create & maintain subject guides – create to support classes & popular topics

3.) Catalog support – help set realistic goal, assist in software research & recommendation (including making a catalog in Access); recommend how to catalog items that are not the traditional book

4.) Assist in making the space & collection more user friendly

5.) Documentation & training – documentation will be written for all essential library functions & library workers will assist in library instruction, subject guide creation, etc. for skill building

I’m very excited to continue working with the EJP, their library, and being able to work with their library workers… I can’t wait!

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