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Books Behind Bars



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  • 1. D26 – Books Behind Bars: Community Development Librarianship in Prison Libraries
    Alternate title:
    "Mommy, can you read me some more music?"
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 2. Today’s Session
    • Backgrounder
    • 3. Our current projects and initiatives
    • 4. Community Librarianship / Public Library perspective
    • 5. Film
    • 6. Take home message / Tips
    • 7. How do we respond to the challenges and successes?
    • 8. Questions?
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 9. Background - Our Motivation
    Prisoner's Right to Read Statement (ALA 2010)
    Unfettered access to information is essential [to] those who wish to prosper within a democratic society [...] Suppression of ideas does not prepare the incarcerated for transition to freedom.
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 10. Background -  How We Got Started
    Relationship Building
    Building Relationships
    Book drive
    More Relationship Building
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 11. Background - Building the Committee
    We recognize we are not "expert" librarians - rather we are learners in an unfamiliar space
    We are careful about making assumptions and are conscious of our own (potential) biases
    Service and project planning for the prison library has been community-led and collaborative 
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 12. Background - About the EIFW
    Opened in 1995
    Federal correctional facility for federally sentenced women
    Houses minimum, medium and maximum security female inmates 
    Built to house 123 women
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 13. Background - About the Women
    82% have a history of sexual or physical abuse
    Aboriginal women represent over 30% of women behind bars  
    Over 80% of incarcerated women are serving time for poverty-related offences
    2/3 of the women are mothers
    66% do not have a high school diploma
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 14. Background - The Library
    The prison librarian was my first job and a title I was very proud to hold [...] I have always believed the women who are within the prison system are those who are in the most need of all the resources a library and community can and should provide.
    - Susanne, former inmate librarianEIFW Fireweed Library
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 15. Storybook Kits
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 16. Book Club
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 17. 11
    Blog []
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 18. Our Approach: Community Development Librarianship
    In a library context Community Development means building relationships with people that allow the library to go beyond a simple consultation and support process and expand into meaningful and inclusive collaborations.
    Community Development also emphasizes learning from the community and adapting library programs, services, and policies to meet the community's stated need.
    The Working Together Project, "Community Development"
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 19. Collaboration with Edmonton Public Library
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 20. Collaboration with Edmonton Public Library
    EPL corporate card expands book club kit borrowing.
    Support for reintegration.
    EPL-EIFW Book Borrowing Pilot ProjectInstitutional borrowing privileges and monthly Community Librarian visits to explore viability of an ongoing arrangement at EIFW (and evaluate possibility of expanding project to other correctional facilities).
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 21. Supporting Reintegration
    • Technology literacy identified as one of the key challenges facing women post-release.
    • 22. New volunteer group formed to explore projects that support technology literacy.
    • 23. Currently in conversation with EIFW, Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton and EPL to identify needs and form response.
    • 24.  Goals include developing and delivering instruction sessions with recommendations for best practices.
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 25. Rising to the Challenges
    • Do the best we can with our operations and procedures to prevent problems entering prison (e.g. itemize storybook project equipment, memos, etc.)
    • 26. Careful planning doesn't always work because security procedures are always changing (we aren't supposed to know what to expect)
    • 27. Communication and debriefing very important (we're learning as we go)
    • 28. Consultation with KarraTait, CSC Social Program Officer, and prison officials when there are issues
    • 29. Volunteer in pairs
    • 30. Treatment upon entry can be emotionally challenging but we are learning not to take it personally
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 31. Rising to the Challenges
    • Frequent staff changes and rule changes -- accept this for what it is and be patient.
    • 32. Understand the constraints of the prison organization and work within them.
    • 33. Communication -- learn who the right people are to speak to and what mode of communication is best (sometimes a phone call works better; sometimes email is better).
    • 34. Relationships we have built are key in getting through.
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 35. Rising to the Challenges
    Prison Policy
    • At odds with core values of librarianship (i.e. prison security/safety vs. intellectual freedom)
    • 36. Forces us to compromise (i.e. collection policy)
    • 37. Challenging policy not on the table (would put project at risk)
    • 38. Recognize that the mission of Correctional Service Canada-EIFW and ours are different but that as individuals we all care about these women
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 39. Rising to the Challenges
    • Storybook project, author visits, reintegration booklet, aboriginal collection, legal resources, technology resources, etc.
    • 40. Securing support at government level has been unsuccessful (fed. gov't has indicated that these programs already exist but they do not) 
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 41. Next Steps
    • What role can libraries in our community play?
    • 42. Mentor the newly released
    • 43. Provide technology/bibliographic instruction to the newly released
    • 44. Advocate for libraries and librarians in prisons
    • 45. Partner with GELA Prison project
    • 46. Provide funding assistance for this project
    • 47. Embark on similar projects (we can help by sharing our documentation, best practices, providing contacts, etc.)
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 48. Kirsten Wurmann, Librarian, Legal Resource Centre
    Liz Fulton Lyne, Manager of Library Operations & Services, Yellowhead Tribal College Library
    MashaRibich, Community Librarian, Abbottsfield Penny Mckee Branch, Edmonton Public Library
    Moyra Lang, Researcher & Consultant, University of Alberta
    Tanya Driechel, Community Programming Librarian, Legal Resource Centre
    Convenor Tara Forman, Early Literacy Librarian, Strathcona County Library 
    Technical supportJocelyn Badley, Virtual Services Librarian, Strathcona County Library
    Today's Presenters
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 49. Questions
    Some issues to think about:
    Are there other way for library workers and community partnerships to support this type of outreach service?
    Can you suggest other initiatives for the GELA Women's Prison Library and Reintegration Committee to pursue?
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project
  • 50. Many thanks to our partners and supporters:
    Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom (FLIF)University of Alberta BookstoresUpper Crust Café & Caterers
    For more information, check out our blog:
    GELA Women's PrisonLibrary & Reintegration Project