Saturday, September 18, 2010

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Ave Steinberg is a book I read and reviewed for the Amazon Vine Program. It is an interesting look into the life of those prison workers that feel caught in the cracks. They certainly aren't the inmates, but mostly they don't feel like part of the guard force either.


At one point in my nursing career, I worked three years as a prison nurse. Being a civilian employee at a jail or prison is a very unique experience so I looked forward to reading this book. This is an autobiographical work by Avi Steinberg who ended up working as a librarian in a large Boston prison when all his other job options had run out. He became one of several librarians who worked along with a trustee detail of prison inmates. While there he learned to walk carefully, and at times not so carefully, the tightrope between being friendly to the inmates as opposed to being friends with the inmates—there is a huge difference! He also had to learn how to deal with the prison staff of guards and other civilian employees in an institute that was state run with all the many nuances working a state funded job can throw at you.

He found that he had to learn many things that had nothing to do with librarianship. Learning what is contraband and what isn’t. Intercepting notes that the prisoners had left in books. Dealing with deaths of inmates he had come to care for. His story is told in a very humorous manner and yet was sensitive to his surroundings. While some parts of the book, I was honestly wondering where the guards were, I felt that the feelings about his work there was very real and honest. It is hard to see that nice friendly inmate face on a daily basis and yet know that you can’t trust him or be his friend. He even recalls being mugged by an inmate while out of work. That is always the strangest feeling when you bump into someone you only basically saw behind bars or finding yourself behind them in line at the movies. If you are interested in prison life from a different point of view, you should enjoy this book. I know I did.


  1. I won this book last month in a giveaway! I can't wait to read this one. Great review, thank you!

  2. Thanks for stopping in. I hope you enjoy the book!


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