The Value of Prison Libraries

A small item on the CBC Books website caught my attention the other day. Entitled The life of a prison librarian, it describes the unique experience of Québec-born writer Jean Charbonneau who has been working as a prison librarian in Maryland:

It would be a strange experience for most, but Charbonneau found a calling right away.

“I had the feeling that what was I doing there as a librarian was important,” he said in The Current’s [a CBC radio show] documentary “Shelf Life,” adding, “I don’t how many inmates have told me that they have never read a book before they were incarcerated. They had no idea about books and literature and now they’re hooked.”

 “As I discovered a new world in prison they discovered a new world in the library through literature and reading and that made me feel part of something useful.”

This reminds me of a text I helped co-write in 2010 on Best practices for demonstrating the value of your library services . It was for the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL).

My co-author and I had asked CALL members to contribute any methods they had developed to prove the value of their library. Prison libraries are truly unique, I realized, when one CALL member who works in a Canadian jail sent in the following testimonial:

It has been noted on a number of occasions, when prison riots occur, that the library and the school are left alone and not trashed. I believe that this shows that these entities are seen as highly valuable resources even by a rampaging clientele.

How’s that for proving your clients love ya?

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