From Yvonne Zipp's Q & A with Avi Steinberg about his memoir, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian:
What would you say is the biggest difference between a prison library and a public library?See Avi Steinberg's list of what Lindsay Lohan should read in jail.
There's a much more communal sense around the prison library. It's like a community center.… People come there, not just for books, not just to get resources, and not even just to sit, but really to gather, to see other people, to feel there's some kind of continuity in their day....
What people read there and how it affects people's lives is very interesting and very important. But what's even more important is the conversations that happen around those books. The books literally create a space where people come together and tell their stories and share their own life experiences. You know, it's sort of like a live book. It's sort of like a book in real-time.... The drama happening in front of the bookshelves is as important as the drama in the bookshelves.
What were the most requested books, and were there differences in what male and female inmates requested?
The most popular genres were books on astrology and real estate.… I mention in the book that books on dream interpretation were often requested. This intrigued me – because of my yeshiva background, I always have the Torah and the ancient rabbinic texts in my mind. And of course, I remember that Joseph, who in the Bible was thrown into prison, becomes a dream interpreter.... So, I thought, there may be something about prison that lends itself to this desire for dream interpretation. As I described it, it's an “ancient prison literary genre.”
But mostly people asked for what they called...[read on]