Marybeth Zeman’s “Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian”

Jailhouse librarian pens book about dispensing prose in the pokey

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Kids need books, not jail.

That is the message author Marybeth Zeman is hoping to get across in her new nonfiction book “Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian.”

“I am trying to touch other people and inform them,” said Zeman, who lives in Fort Greene and works as a transitional counselor for incarcerated youngsters at the Nassau County Jail on Long Island. “People need to know about the system that these kids are caught up in.”

Zeman is technically a counselor, but she has a degree in library science and has become the jail’s de facto book minder. When she started working in the kiddie clink four years ago, the jail had very few books, so she filled a rolling cart with titles and started bringing it around to the pubescent inmates.

“It allowed me to make a new kind of connection between the students and myself,” she said. “They suddenly started coming to me and telling me all kinds of stories.”

After work, Zeman began writing down all the anecdotes she heard. Her husband, a former journalist, encouraged her to save all the material and compile it into a book.

“The majority of these stories are about teenage boys who made bad choices and they are thrown into a system that is not teaching them how to be better people,” she said.

The book includes 52 tales, including one about a teen who was trying to get out of lock-up for an afternoon to attend his brother’s funeral, another who sought to stay in jail long enough to take his high-school-equivalency test, and a third who was behind bars while his family’s home was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy.

She dedicated the tome to “all the boys who found their escape in books.”

Zeman will read from her book at the Brooklyn Heights branch library on May 13.

Marybeth Zeman reading from “Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian” at the Brooklyn Heights branch library [280 Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 623–7100.] Tuesday, May 13 at 6:15 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Ashamed from For Furfaro says:
I am embarrassed and ashamed that this reporter thinks its appropriate to get cute in a story about a woman trying to help kids caught in the justice system. "Kiddie klink", "pubescent inmates." Wow, what a genius you are! Can't wait for your kids to hit the system!
May 9, 2014, 2:05 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
^^^^^^^I hate to be the one to have to ask this, but have you, perhaps, in recent memory switched to Sanka by any chance? It's just something I've noticed and I hate to bring it up on the air like this.
May 9, 2014, 3:17 pm
Kate from Richmond Hill says:
I'm also shocked by "kiddie klink". Do you refer to Riker's that way? I suggest you go inside and you'll come out with a new life experience and different vocabulary. Thanks go out to all who work with incarcerated youth. The book sounds absolutely inspirational for demonstrating the resiliency of youth.
May 10, 2014, 6:38 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: