And the job hunt goes on

January 24, 2006

In the past three weeks I had a second interview at a job in a prison library that interested me and a telephone interview for an Archivist position at the library in the city I grew up.

Needless to say, the latter position appeals to me more even though it pays somewhat less. That library was the library I went to just about everyday after school. My school was located in the downtown area and we all spent time at that library during our lunch break and waiting for our parents to pick us up. This was the 70s, so I suspect options for after-school students to hang-out at the library are…. different. The old building, the Carnegie Library, was and is an incredible piece of architecture. Murals painted on the walls surround the old main reference reading room. I fell in love with libraries spending my time there, so for sentimental reasons I rather hope that position works out. However, it seems I am only being offered positions in the DC area. The two job offers I had were located there and although both were marvelous opportunities, the cost of living was prohibitive with a single-income family. Damn, I need to get these cats to find a job. As a good friend told me, some jobs are just 2-income jobs. It appears that way in the Northeast Corridor!

The murals in my library were painted by an artist during the 1920s who was commissioned by the library board. An incredibly impressive large, marble staircase is prominent when one walks in the reading room and the walls next to it are lined with the past directors of the library. In my dreams, that library is always "The Library". I've been to others in the U.S., Boston Public Library is beautiful and their special collections is incredible; The NYPL is great but….they aren't *my* library and this one was and still is, even though I live 3,000 miles away. Even when I go home to visit, I usually drop by to visit the library, just to say "hey".

Admittedly, I'm a library visitor to every place I visit. Museums are great and all but lead me to the local public library and I'm happy. One can discern quite a bit about a city or town from the public library it has. Public libraries are so fascinating to me. The way the are constructed, the technology they are using, the staff (always the staff), the books on their "new books" or "new arrivals" shelf can give one a sense of the city that few other public areas can offer. Have they remodeled to the point that the original (if there was one) is completely obliterated? Or have they modified the structures and kept those memories bibliophiles, libraryophiles (is that even a proper designation for someone crazy for libraries?) carry with them? Much can be learned about the priorities of a city or town by just examining the public library.

The other job, the prison library, does not have murals. In fact, it has extremely old computers, three I believe, and two typewriters. And, many law books. Were that job offered and I took it, I would enter my office each day by going through several locked checkpoints with guards outside my office constantly. Still, information access is so important and especially so, to my way of thinking, to those who have limited access to it, that this job is equally important to the preservation of archival materials.

Information literacy must be addressed in the prison population. Education must be offered and I believe Internet access should be allowed to offenders (there is none in the state this position is located). How can the recidivism rate be reduced if we lock our offenders up (primarily for drug and non-violent crimes) and then let them out without the tools to obtain employment in the 21st century "information age"? They are doomed, I am afraid, to menial jobs and low pay and no opportunities for advancement, for that "new lease" one hears so much about when ex-offenders leave institutions.

All the good intentions of AA and NA and job skills to learn how to write and read, although important, will be for low-paying jobs in most if not all cases. To succeed, these people need opportunities for education and for training. I know the arguments well. They did a crime, they must "pay". But who really pays? Society pays by the prevalence of repeat offenders. Their families pay by not having the opportunities that the those who attend school and acquire relevant skills, obtain. It's the revolving door scenario and people who are under-educated, living in areas not adequately funded for optimum or even better educational funding will often not have the incentive or acquire the motivation to raise themselves from the mire of America's warped self-sufficiency "Horatio Alger" mentality. Society blames the indivdidual and I believe it is society's fault, the government's fault, that so many socio-economic factors plague this particular population.

I said some of this in my interview and I suspect I came across as the bleeding heart liberal that I am.

So, I wait to hear if I will be offered either, both or neither of these two very different positions. That's the hard part but, it is part of the dance we do. I cannot imagine working in an environment that brings me as much personal satisfaction as a library–public, special collections, academic, prison, they all represent an essential part of the person I am or think I am.

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