Running the Books: the Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

Running the Books is Avi Steinberg's memoir of his two years as a librarian at Boston's South Bay prison.  During his time there, he teaches creative writing classes, befriends inmates, starts feuds with corrections officers, and discovers countless "kites" — messages between inmates hidden within the pages of library books. 

The stories Steinberg tells are a mixture of grit and whimsy; the harsh realities of prison life rub up against the tragic and heartwarming, often in the same scenes. 

"Starting from my first week in prison, I'd noticed the phenomenon, though I wasn't sure what it was.  As I walked through the prison yard, I'd spied male inmates standing at their barred windows, furiously signaling skyward.  I followed the invisible trajectory of these messages and found their recipients standing in barred windows way up in the Tower — the women inmates.  Through the silent darkness of the prison night, there were at least five conversations soaring back and forth."

Avi Steinberg was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Boston and Cleveland.  Running the Books is his first book.

Published:  2010
Length:  393 pages
Set in:  Boston, Massachusetts, United States