Libraries change lives and HMP Edinburgh: Simon Parker
Libraries change lives 08/10/10
• Edinburgh continuously listed for the “Change Lives” award, Simon has shortlisted Edinburgh
• Edinburgh’s libraries have worked so well because they have continually sought to consult,
inform and involve the community regarding the development of their library service.
• But how do you sustain projects with no money?
• In Simon’s role he was asked to get more involvement from volunteers in the community to
help with the library, not running it but helping in the library.
• Simon wanted to try and do something that would help all of the community like in the
Asylum seekers/engaging young people project.
• Also wanted to do something with social media to engage young people, videos uploaded
onto the young people site.
• Filmed on iphones as they have no money for equipment.
• Potential option – library building are not fully used and not in the right way, thought there
could be something with using the space in the library buildings
• Think of ways to get community partners into the libraries.
• John Coster – an ex-offender who wanted to start a community news agency for Leicester.
The news agency now covers young people, ex-offenders, LGBT, refugee & asylum etc.
Originally the young people’s news Agency (Wave) was the only one in the library but now
everything has moved in.
• Citizens Eye (http://www.citizenseye.org/) – wanted to create something that has an actual
outcome, something that people can see and say “that’s mine”
• Mark Clark – video about “Inside ‘n’ Out “ magazine (http://inomag.org/)
• Inomag – it was a website but they have now had 4 issues published
• Inside ‘n’ Out Magazine is a project set up in association with Citizens Eye Community News
• It focuses on those who have been to prison but are choosing a life away from crime and
offending behaviour. It showcases how individuals are achieving re-entry and contribution to
the community ‘outside’ as well as covering work produced and experiences gained on the
• It also covers issues of debate within the Criminal Justice System, and offers users links to
and information about other charities, public sector services and organisations that ex-
offenders may find useful in their rehabilitative efforts.
• Inside ‘n’ Out Magzine seeks to be an independent platform for those on both sides of
prison walls to share experiences, with the ideal of providing better understanding between
• The project also provides ex-offenders with volunteering opportunities during which they
can add to their skills and experience in the workplace, as a first step towards the
rehabilitative pathway of gaining employment.
• (Extract from http://inomag.org/)
• Magazine is sent to rehabilitation officers, public libraries, criminal justice centres – any
where that they can think of where ex-offenders might see the magazine.
• The magazine has had such a positive reaction that they can’t meet the demand for the
• Any ex-offenders wishing to help to get in contact with Mark
• How libraries have helped Inomag – the library service has been very keen to help as they
want to get to all communities and want the library to be seen as a community space and to
promote the service to ex-offenders.
• All sorts of people come into the library and having Inomag based there can help educate
people the real issues behind offending, prison and ex-offenders.
• Personally Mark thinks that all libraries should be involved with ex-offenders. There was a
lot of mistrust around Mark because he was an ex-offender but with the libraries help he has
managed to build up his reputation and trust through the magazine.
• John Coster – Video about Citizens Eye (http://www.citizenseye.org/)
• went to prison
• When he came out he wanted to create the community news agency.
• Started as a local voluntary news agency but has now grown into a partnership with the local
newspaper and he has just been put on retainer because of the popularity of Citizens Eye so
an opportunity for himself grew out of Citizens Eye
• Currently there are about 450 adult volunteers, and 375 are young people.
• 15 volunteer-run news agencies
• This is a positive service that he can do every day
• Library service is very good, the Citizens Eye is integrated into the community with
offices/computers in the library
• Kevin – was an ex-offender at HMP Edinburgh so experienced the library first-hand
• Library at HMP Edinburgh – not only a place where you could just borrow a book, you could
talk, relax, have a hot drink, write letters/emails to family, they have computer games
• Somewhere where you could ask for help
• Addresses everyday issues whether they were racial, addiction, literacy
• Kevin asked for help to arrange a Gambler’s Anonymous group
• Not everyone open to talking about literacy problems but in the library it helped to talk to
the offender assistants rather than the HMP staff
• People came in to help teach the staff how to recognise Dyslexia, how to make the
books/text easier to read
• Libraries in the community became a distraction from the problems of re-entering the
• Simon – asked a group of offenders what they thought about the library service in Edinburgh
– that it was the commitment of the Governor to get the library/education going but the ex-
offenders said that if it could be sorted out so that level of service was available everywhere,
it would be great.