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Just in time for the holidays - Volunteering at PBP

I love volunteering, but I never know what exactly I can do.  I know I'm not qualified to be building anything, or cooking anything in mass quantities.   But recently, a fellow classmate advertised the opportunity to volunteer at the Prison Book Program, a local organization in Quincy, Massachusetts easily accessible on the Red Line.  I jumped at the chance, and spent several hours there last Thursday.

Located in the basement of the historic United First Parish Church (where John Adams, Abigail Adams, and John Quincy Adams are buried), the Prison Book Program sends out hundreds if not thousands of books to prisoners in United States penitentiaries and correctional facilities.  According to their website, PBP does what it does because they believe that "books are crucial to the political, spiritual, and educational development of all people... In a time of cuts in educational programs for prisons, we serve a vital purpose."


All of the books and packing materials are donated to this organization, but the cost of shipping is expensive.  Among the PBP's new and used books, they send prisoners across the country anything from dictionaries to novels, language learning books to basic legal information for prisoners via their "Legal Primer" document.  The library includes fiction and non-fiction regarding a diverse range of historical, religious, political, cultural, and LGBT-related subjects.  Volunteers do their best to match up handwritten requests from prisoners (and the requirements from the prisons) to items in their library, but because the organizations depend on donations, often the specific kind of book is not available.  For example, while I was wrapping up packages, I noticed that the book included did not directly correspond with the prisoner's letter.  He had asked for a book on Lakota culture, but a visit to the PBP library showed that the book selectors had chosen as best they could - the Native American literature and non-fiction sections did not offer such a specific resource.

Other than sending books, the PBP's mission specifically notes that they want to provide "a quality volunteer experience that introduces citizens to issues surrounding the American prison system and the role of education in reforming it."   They frequently host volunteer nights like the one I attended on the 20th of November, and have regular volunteer hours which can be found on their website here.  There is so much to be done, so if you can open a letter, wrap up a package, apply sticker stamps, or excel at book selection, you will easily find something helpful to do at the Prison Book Program.  They also have special opportunities for librarians and book store employees that are dedicated to better organizing their donations library.

If you are looking for a way to give back this holiday season, consider volunteering at the Prison Book Program or donating money or new or gently used books to their library.  You can find more information about their mission, their volunteer opportunities, and discover testimonials from prisoners who have benefitted from this organization on their website PrisonBookProgram.Org.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Since I started library school...

I've noticed that since I started library school, people have been posting an increasing number of library-related things on my Facebook page.  

People just like libraries, I guess.  When I was a lawyer, no one posted legal jokes on my Facebook page (actually, Facebook didn't exist when I went to law school).  Still, librarians are way more popular than lawyers, even with the whole librarian "shhhh" reputation.

Anyway, here's a sampling of things friends have posted for me. 

12 Children's Books with Non-Princess Female Protagonists

This type of list is big in the circles I run in, and now that I'm in library school, many of my friends think I've automatically read all of them.  I haven't, and I'm always thrilled to learn of another book that fits in this category. 

The Librarians TV Show

 I don't actually know much about this -- a TV show about superhero librarians?  Sounds good to me!  It premiers on December 7 -- I'll set the DVR now.

What Do You Do, Dear?

My librarian crush.  I wrote a whole post on her a few weeks ago.  SO glad a friend saw this and thought of me!

What have people wanted you to see since you started thinking about becoming a librarian?

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The Home Stretch

Classes end the first or second week of December (depending on whether or not the class started in the first or second week of September). This generally means that SLIS students are working on a final project for every class right about now. This isn't like undergrad. There is no big final examination. It's intense.

For one class I have to build a working website with five HTML pages and use CSS manipulation, which I'm sure is no big deal for some people, but it's a huge deal for me. For another class (Reference), I have to work with a group of four other people to create a 40-minute tutorial for a medical database called PubMed. I'm gearing up by watching video guides that PubMed currently has posted on its website. The shortest one is an hour, and it covers just one aspect of the site. It's going to be interesting to see how we condense all of this information into a manageable, cogent presentation. I also have a literature review due for my archives class. I didn't even know what a literature review was until two days ago when I started doing research. And I still don't know anything about Chicago Style (which I have to use for it), except that footnotes and endnotes are terrible and a sign that archival literature needs to evolve already and use APA. All the classes have other assignments due in addition to these, but these are the big ones that have me up late at night, hunched over my computer, losing sleep, hair, and tears.

So this is the glamorous life of an LIS graduate student. Really, it's better than this, but I feel like complaining right now, since all of my peers are too busy to distract me. And while I'm complaining I really should add that I'm learning a lot by doing these final projects--way more than I would cramming for some cumulative multiple-choice test. But that's the point. I know I'll be really proud (and relieved) when I've completed everything.

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