Every two weeks I volunteer for 2 hours in the General Population Library at the Women’s Prison at Mitchellville. Being the only Sunday volunteer the library is not open on alternate Sundays. During the week the library is open typically 2 hours per day.
What do I do in the library? I ALWAYS ask the gal who has surfaced to know the most about the library and has assumed leadership what she wants me to do. She usually responds with “what do you want to do?” And I ALWAYS respond “whatever you want me to do!” And…she suggests rehelving books or assisting with checkout or reorganizing books shelves. This is their library….NOT mine…I am there so it can be open and to help!!! I am there to work along side of them!!
Assisting in the library has been an enjoyable experience for me. Although personal information is NOT exchanged between myself and the inmates a respectful relationship has been established with friendly and fun bantering exchanges.
For about the last 2 years the regular prison library had been housed in a room with a small amount of the prison’s books. The books were shelved against one wall and the check out process was right out of the 50’s. Nine days ago the new library opened in a new building that houses numerous others facilities….such as a gym, work out room, and classrooms. The setting up of the new library was completed by inmates ONLY and ONLY when a volunteer or supervisor was available to be in the library….hence a long drawn out process. However, the workers were tireless and determined to get the new library “set up!” It involved unpacking books, putting information into a new computer based check out system, reshelving books, etc. etc. A great deal of tiring work! But they were determined!
In the 9 days since reopening in a its new location over 900 books have been checked out…and this was accomplished with the library being open only a few hours a day. TODAY the library had almost 100 patrons in a two-hour period. It was a busy and neat day!
Volunteers are a BIG part of the numerous programs that the prison offers. I am happy, thankful and proud to be a part of these programs. ###