Reading Behind Bars: A Memoir of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian

Skyhorse. Jun. 2019. 224p. ISBN 9781510737068. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781510737082. BIOG
Grunenwald’s (Running with a Police Escort) new memoir provides detailed insight into the life of a prison librarian. Fresh out of library school and on the job market during the Great Recession, Grunenwald accepted the position of sole librarian at a minimum-security prison in Grafton, OH. Her account captures the rigor of prison life for both staff and inmates through examples of signing in and out of the library and calling ahead as inmates walk from the library to their dormitories. Grunenwald expresses her concerns about patron privacy, freedom of information, and collection management—all typical for other libraries, but that do not exist in a prison. In addition to demonstrating the importance of prison libraries, the book highlights the usefulness of education programs and legal documents inside the institutions. As the author works through implementing new cataloging and check-out systems, Ms. G, as she’s known inside, also runs into patron issues and administrative struggles. Grunenwald’s experiences demonstrate the many issues libraries often encounter, regardless of the population they serve.
VERDICT Recommended for those studying library and information science or who are interested in America’s prison system.

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