Prison Librarianship

In anticipation of our event on February 26th, with the New York Public Library’s Correctional Services Department (RSVP HERE), I thought I would round up some resources for students who want to learn more about providing access and knowledge to people who are incarcerated.

The New York Public Library’s Correctional Services Department, who SILSSA will be working with, provides resources for people who are currently and formerly incarcerated. They offer:

  • Circulating book service weekly at five city jails. Each month, 800 to 1,200 people take advantage of circulating library services.
  • Daddy & Me, a book-recording project with detained parents. Incarcerated parents participate in early literacy workshops followed by a session where they create a recording of themselves reading a favorite book to their kids.
  • A weekly book club where incarcerated patrons and staff read and discuss a range of literature in federal prison.
  • Library orientations and library card registrations for men at state correctional facilities. Groups nearing release receive new library cards, information on programs and services at their neighboring libraries.

Fortunately, they are not the only program of their kind. In fact, there is a whole facet of librarianship devoted to providing services to incarcerated people. According to “ALA policy 8.2 (formerly 52.1), “The American Library Association encourages public libraries and systems to extend their services to residents of jails and other detention facilities within their taxing areas.”  Also, the Intellectual Freedom Committee has interpreted the Library Bill of Rights to include Prisoners’ Right to Read.” (ALA Prison Libraries)

To see all of the resources shared by the ALA about library services to incarcerated people and their families, visit the ALA’s Prison Libraries page.

Want to read even more about how librarians practice information justice by providing materials to incarcerated patrons? Check out any of these articles, blogs, and organizations below:

Exploring Prison Librarianship is a blog with articles on experiences of prison librarians, and helpful resources for people exploring this as a career path. Check out their resources page for articles, books, and more information about prison librarianship.

Read this article, on In the Library with the Lead Pipe about a volunteer-run prison library service in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Here’s a great round-up of some of the different prison library services offered around the country, from Library Journal.

If you want to read more about NYPL’s Correctional Services work and prison libraries, check out their blog!

Finally, if you are interested in other local organizations that work to provide access to resources for incarcerated people, check out Books Through Bars NYC.

Do you know of a reading, organization, or event that is related to these issues? Tell us about it in the comments!

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