Volume 29, Number 2, Summer 2007

Survey of California Prison Librarians Documents Working Conditions

Julia Schneider, California Institution for Women

A group of California prison librarians, concerned that the state is not providing the resources necessary for them to deliver on literacy mandates in severely overcrowded institutions, has sent out a survey to gauge the opinions of the state's prison librarians on their work and work conditions.

Based on a Gallup research tool, this survey looks at 12 basic indicators of job satisfaction:

  • Employees know what is expected of them.
  • Employees have the materials and equipment to deliver.
  • Employees receive recognition and praise for work well done.
  • Employees have someone in their workplace to encourage their development.
  • Employees feel their opinions count.
  • Employees have connections to the vision of the department.
  • Employees feel their co-workers are committed to doing good work.
  • Employees they feel they have a best friend at work.
  • Employees have someone who will talk to them about their progress.
  • Employees have opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Employees have the opportunity to do what they do best.
  • Employees have someone at work who cares about them as a person.
Preliminary results show a diverse set of circumstances for librarians working in the 33 state prisons, but a general dissatisfaction with poor supervisors and staffing (38 percent of librarian positions are vacant), pay, and allocation of resources. As Patrick Moloney, Senior Librarian at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, put it in a response letter to James Sterngold, author of a San Francisco Chronicle article entitled “Illiteracy Reinforces Prisoners' Captivity": “Massive amounts of time and resources are being poured into Bridging, a program most staff consider nothing more than political cover for inmate early release, while the traditional venue of learning and literacy, the library, is starved for staff, space and funds.”

Julia Schneider, Senior Librarian at the California Institution for Women, is compiling the results of this librarian survey. It is hoped that this will add more ammunition for a re-thinking of resource allocation and the role of the library within the department. For more information, contact Julia Schneider.