The hands of the clock do not move the same way for everyone. Since she entered prison, Joan has the feeling that there are times when they remain stopped and that time does not pass, but she knows that there are tricks to get them to spin at a faster speed. One of them is reading. “If you don’t sign up for activities you go crazy and pay triple punishment. There are people who have thrown in the towel and end up lying in the yard staring at nothing all day. I try to stay active and one of the ways is by reading,” she explains to The vanguard from the library at Can Brians 2, which looks like a school, due to its warmth and the orderly arrangement of the books. He went there to return the copy of The Divine Comedy and request The animal cemetery , by Stephen King. “Someone has it, so, in the meantime, I’ll take the one from Item . I loved the movie.”
He has always read. “I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the medication I take helps me concentrate, so I’m always reading. I was a polydrug addict and the first year I entered I was very bad. I messed up a lot and then they moved me to first grade, so I was alone in the cell for a lot of time and went out to the yard for a maximum of a couple of hours. It didn’t go badly for me, I preferred to get through it alone and to make everything progress faster I devoured books. In less than a year I read about 225. My favorite author is Dan Brown. Before entering here I was missing the The digital strength. I couldn’t find it in any library and how capricious fate is that I had to find it eight years later in Can Brians.”
“To make everything progress faster, I devoured books. In less than a year I read about 225,” says Joan
The General Organic Penitentiary Law (LOGP) includes the obligation to set up a library in each prison, in addition to “there being books appropriate to the cultural and professional needs of the inmates.” All nine Catalan prisons have one. “There are a total of ten, since Can Brians 1 has one for the men’s area and another for the women’s area,” explains Sergi, the center’s librarian, who does not give their surnames since “they are lost in here. Only the first name is given.” He is one of the few people who is not internal, as required by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and UNESCO. The orderlies who help him, however, are and work in exchange for a small remuneration.
“They do the most bibliographic tasks and I am in charge of the dynamization. I try to encourage more people to read. Today, the loan service is used regularly by 10% of the population. Of course, those who read do so a lot and regularly. Some have already exceeded 150 books so far this year. Recently we also have some volunteer assistants. One of them is helping me look for readings in Arabic since we have very few and there are many inmates who speak this language.”
In Can Brians 2 there are 1,459 inmates of 71 different nationalities. This forces us to adapt the catalog of readings, a dossier that, due to its thickness, is quite similar to the telephone directories that were popular in the 90s. Each prison has a similar one and next to each reading there is a flag drawn to indicate the language in the one that is available.
“Not all inmates know how to read and many others do not speak our language. We have recently had a budget that helps us buy new books, although it does not allow for press and magazines, which are also in high demand. All in all, it is progress since, until not so long ago, we lived only on donations. A large part is allocated to novels in the Spanish language, which is what is most in demand. Few books are lent in Catalan but it is something that is encouraged,” says the librarian.
The most read in the center this summer are “ The day sanity was lost , Hannibal , The pillars of the earth , Sad Wing and the Mortadelo and Filemón comics. Also the law books, the religious books, the driver’s license book and the philosophy books. Something very particular happens with this last theme and that is that they often disappear. There was a time when we had to exclude Nietzsche from the catalog because his books never came back.”
Regarding the preferred authors this 2023, two lead the ranking mangakas: Masami Kurumada and Eiichirō Oda, author of One Piece , one of the most requested sagas when the visits are children. Another peculiarity is the biographies of criminals, which “are highly requested. The one that succeeds the most is Pablo Escobar: My life and my prison. We have two copies and they are always on loan.”
In 2007, the Official College of Documentary Librarians of Catalonia developed guidelines to establish a common criterion in all libraries, including those in penitentiary centers. This meant that there were differences in the management and development of Catalan prisons with respect to those in the national territory, such as, for example, that they are integrated into the public reading system and are organized in a network.
“It is not a service that we use often since the downtown library is well stocked. But yes, in the case of the reading club that we do on Fridays, we borrow lots of books from the nearest public library, usually the one in Sant Esteve Sesrovires, since we may have a copy or two. Or, also, if an inmate asks for a book that we don’t have, we can request it,” says Sergi.
Nietzsche’s books tend to disappear and biographies like those of Pablo Escobar are in high demand
Before this step you could check to see if the book is not in any of the modules. Can Brians 2, like many other Spanish prisons, is divided into different buildings. Each one has a certain number of inmates who interact with each other and who have their own library, beyond the central one. These small temples are run internally.
“The variety is more limited, so it is always better to go to the headquarters. Although many people go there for the computers. They are one of the few things that connect us with reality. Much of the internet is blocked, but we can read the news and watch YouTube, so many relatives upload their videos there so that we can see how they are doing. In general, classmates prefer the Internet to books and many times it is because they do not have much variety in their language. But there are cases of people who did not have any reading habit and who here are encouraged, like a fellow Romanian, that finding books in their language was a way to remain linked to their land. Or among the Dominicans it triumphs The party of the goat “, not because they particularly like Vargas Llosa, but because it is set in their country,” confesses Jordi Eduard, who is in charge of one of these small libraries.
“Some inmates have exceeded 150 books so far this year,” says Sergi.
The area he is assigned to is one of the most organized and in part it is thanks to Jordi, his predecessor, one of the inmates who read the most and who was nominated this year for the ‘super reader’ contest, which awards each year on Sant Jordi to the users who request the most books. “When I arrived, it was chaos. People went to play cards, talk and sometimes even fight. It was difficult to clean up that space, but in the end I made them see that they could do all of this anywhere else. It wears out, of course, that’s why I passed the baton to my partner. But, at least, those who want to spend a while with their nose stuck in the pages can do so. Let’s hope it continues like this.”
The authors, a window to the world
Asha Miró remembers “with great affection” when she went to Can Brians 2 to talk about her book The daughter of the Ganges this past Sant Jordi. “It was an amazing experience. An opportunity for both me and the inmates, who were able to get to know India and other cultures. Authors and all those who come from abroad are, at the end of the day, a window to the world,” the author acknowledges. The vanguard.
The teaching profession is very involved with reading. Antonio, school orderly, explains to this newspaper that “different books are chosen and worked on throughout the year with different activities. One of them is for the writer to come. It is interesting because, since almost everyone has read it, the presentation is usually very entertaining.”
Miró agrees with him. “Everyone had a lot of questions and was interested in India and how the book came about. They even designed a giant cover for the book. When we finished, prizes were awarded to the users who read the most. There was music and everything, it was a happy afternoon. I realized that many of them realize that they did things they shouldn’t have and try to change.”
The next challenge? Sergi, the librarian, is clear: bring Eduardo Mendoza.