Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Offender Lookup

Working in a library, one quickly gains a lot of familiarity with certain websites patrons need to access for academic, recreational, or employment purposes. There is, however, a particular website that is apparently most useful to many of our internet users, to the point where I've gained an intimate familiarity with its navigational workings.

I'm speaking, of course, of our state's Department of Corrections website, particularly the extremely popular "Offender Lookup" search engine. For several of our patrons, this tool functions as a sort of cyber-high school or -family reunion.

The library visitor (I can't call her a "patron" for reasons that will become clearer) who first introduced me to this website has returned several times, often bringing a few folks with her to re-visit old boyfriends, acquaintances and relatives through the miracle of the World Wide Web. Perhaps it was this sort of bringing together of families that Al Gore originally had in mind when he invented the internet.

In any case, this tool became especially useful when our inquisitive visitor was trying to acquire a new library card for herself. She brought me her ID and proof of address, but according to our records she already had 30 items checked out which were long overdue on her old card. She assured me, however, that the library card record I was looking at actually belonged to her twin sister, who had been incarcerated for some time. Apparently the twin sister burned down their house in a meth lab accident, incinerating those 30 highly flammable library items in the great inferno. She also helped clear up all of my confusion by explaining that her twin sister actually had the exact same first, middle, and last names as herself.

Using the "Offender Lookup" function, I was able to locate this twin sister who did indeed turn out to have the exact same first, middle and last names as well as a record of meth lab entrepenurialism and accidental ignition. Oddly, thanks to the thoughtfully provided mug shot, I found that this "evil twin" also managed to have acquired the exact same tattoos, facial scars, and missing teeth as the perfectly innocent "good twin" who stood before me.

Thanks to the comprehensive record keeping of the Department of Corrections website, I learned that the "evil twin" had actually just been released the week before. Fantastic! I suggested that the "good twin" might go ahead and locate her so we could mark these 30 lost books with our special "Burned in Meth Lab Fire" designation in the library catalog.


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