Member moves from Northfield Public Library to DOC Library at Faribault
When the librarian job came up at the Department of Corrections (DOC) facility in Faribault, Local 1903 member Jamie Stanley said she thought, “Why not apply for it?”
Stanley had been a longtime librarian in Washington state and at the Northfield Public Library in Minnesota. She said she looked forward to “making a difference” with the incarcerated men as she did with the Northfield community.
Stanley said the Northfield library is better-funded and housed in an old Carnegie library building with brick and a large atrium. The Faribault correctional facilities are older and in poorer condition. The cinderblock library is in the Rogers Building on the lower level. It houses 13 computers, two for the library catalogue with the rest for the law library. Librarian Corine Neumann focuses on the law library, and Doreen Lazicki and six library clerks complete the team.
The Faribault correctional facility is a medium- and minimum-security prison holding up to 2,000 men, making it the largest in the DOC system.
Stanley said incarcerated people are required to have access to books: whether in segregation or in minimum security. Men send their requests in on yellow pieces of papers called kites. “The interests of the men are very broad. The men are very interested in crafting, fitness and cooking. I think the DOC understands that not all of the men are suited to education — some are more interested in occupational jobs like starting their own tree cutting business, drywalling or becoming a cook,” Stanley said.
“I’m really hoping that I can showcase the artwork and crafting so many men are passionate about. I would like the library space to be their space. I would like to showcase their work,” she added.
The prison population across the country is aging, creating another set of challenges and opportunities. According to Stanley, “Someone recently brought in a bunch of ‘readers/cheaters,’ over-the-counter reading glasses, that were very popular with the men. I reached out to my local Lions Club and they donated over 100 more pairs and most of the lower magnifications are now gone. Word spread throughout the facility that we had glasses in the library. Men were surprised that they could have them and not sign them out. How can you learn if you can’t see? How can you do anything if your vision is impaired?”
Stanley joined MAPE when she first joined state service last March. “I signed up immediately. It’s an advocacy group, of course, we need to advocate for ourselves! It’s very important that we support MAPE. A lot of people don’t know the benefits they reap from their union.”
Stanley says she would “definitely” tell others to investigate positions with the Department of Corrections, “There is a world of opportunity there; particularly for those people who may be mid-career. I would say don’t think twice about joining state service. This is why you become a librarian — you will have many opportunities to use your skills. You can truly make a difference. People shouldn’t hesitate to apply.”