Meghan's Reviews > Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

Running the Books by Avi Steinberg
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Nov 10, 2010

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bookshelves: memoir
Read on November 10, 2010

A young man adrift after graduating from college finds himself applying for and landing a job as a prison librarian and writing instructor in Boston. This memoir changes in tone as it progresses - it starts off with more humor (the authorial voice sometimes verging on annoying, for me), but then gets poignant. He does a good job describing the weird and unexpected details of working in a prison, from the rift between the guards and the staff providing social services to the weirdness of being out grocery shopping and running into ex-prisoners who have been released. I wanted more details of what the work was like and more details about the library's collection. At almost the very last chapter, he finally mentions how many books they have. How did they decide what to purchase? What cataloging system do they use? He mentions books often being stolen or confiscated - how do they decide what to replace? I would have almost preferred a book written by his coworker, who he describes as a painfully shy former NYPL librarian - it would have been interesting to hear more from the perspective of someone who had worked in a library before.

But, in general, I related to a lot of this. I have worked at a Books to Prisoners organization, and I have seen my share of letters from prisoners requesting books - so I was familiar with a lot of the requests he writes about, from Stephen King to legal forms to starting a business. I'm also familiar with that peculiar writing style of self-educated prisoners, which he captures in both their dialogue and with excerpts from kites (letters from prisoner to prisoner left in library books.)
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message 1: by Forest (new)

Forest Yay Meghan!! No plans to write my own book, but I can send you plenty of details. Look for a kite soon!

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