"Collision Course," Patricia Calhoun, February 14
I was disappointed by Collision, History Colorado's exhibit on the Sand Creek Massacre, simply because it seemed both over-produced and shallow. But now that I know the tribes themselves object to the display, I am doubly disappointed.
History Colorado Center
"The Lifers Books Club," Alan Prendergast, January 17
I am familiar with Karen Lausa's Books Beyond Bars. The program is truly a great one, so it's a shame she should work so hard to burn bridges with the staff at those prisons that could do the most to support her and her efforts. She mentions "a lending library, where some dullard in a blue uniform gives out 1969 issues of National Geographic. That's not library services."
No, it isn't. And it isn't what happens in Colorado prisons, either.
Every prison, even the smallest, with only 150 beds, is staffed full-time by trained, experienced, professional, dedicated library staff. Libraries are staffed evenings and weekends, which means when most people are out partying or relaxing at home with family and friends, a prison librarian is helping an inmate to find a resumé book, or encouraging a reluctant reader to make the jump from K'wan to Malcolm X.
Not only do these underpaid, undervalued staff serve and care for inmates on good days, when inmates are thoughtful, polite and appreciative, like the days they attend Lausa's program, but on bad days, when inmates are insulting them to their faces, and on very bad days, when inmates are threatening and aggressive.
These librarians wouldn't be caught dead with 1969 issues of National Geographic in their collections. They provide current and popular materials, including those borrowed from public libraries when necessary. They provide speakers and programs and contests, readers' advisories, reference, music and videos. They stand in the gap for intellectual freedom, and often swim upstream against pressure from the administration to censor materials unnecessarily. They do all this while simultaneously training teams of inmate workers to do the same: to hold a job, to work as a team, to value themselves, and to make choices they can be proud of.
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And, despite Lausa's assertion to the contrary, at least two of these libraries have established and well-attended book discussion groups.
I expect such an ignorant and cavalier attitude toward carefully crafted library services from a layperson, but not a fellow librarian.
Shame on Lausa for allowing an apparent hero complex to be an excuse for marginalizing and insulting these dedicated women and men. And shame on Westword for allowing quotation marks to excuse them from fact-checking.