Library services and incarceration

For Immediate Release
Fri, 11/19/2021


Rob Christopher

Marketing Coordinator

ALA Publishing & Media

American Library Association


CHICAGO — As part of our mission to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all library patrons, our profession needs to come to terms with the consequences of mass incarceration, which have saturated the everyday lives of people in the United States and heavily impacts Black, Indigenous, and people of color; LGBTQ people; and people who are in poverty. Jeanie Austin, a librarian with San Francisco Public Library's Jail and Reentry Services program, helms “Library Services and Incarceration: Recognizing Barriers, Strengthening Access,” an important new contribution to the discourse. Published by ALA Neal-Schuman, their book covers practical information about services in public and academic libraries, and libraries in juvenile detention centers, jails, and prisons, while contextualizing these services for LIS classrooms and interdisciplinary scholars. Powerfully rethinking the intersections between librarianship and carceral systems, while pointing the way towards different possibilities, this clear-eyed text:

  • begins with an overview of the convergence of library and information science and carceral systems within the United States, summarizing histories of information access and control such as book banning, and the ongoing work of incarcerated people and community members to gain more access to materials;
  • examines the range of carceral institutions and their forms, including juvenile detention, jails, immigration detention centers, adult prisons, and forms of electronic monitoring;
  • draws from research into the information practices of incarcerated people as well as individual accounts to examine the importance of information access while incarcerated;
  • shares valuable case studies of various library systems that are currently providing both direct and indirect services, including programming, book clubs, library spaces, roving book carts, and remote reference;
  • provides guidance on collection development tools and processes;
  • discusses methods for providing reentry support through library materials and programming, from customized signage and displays to raising public awareness of the realities of policing and incarceration;
  • gives advice on supporting community groups and providing outreach to transitional housing;
  • includes tips for building organizational support and getting started, with advice on approaching library management, creating procedures for challenges, ensuring patron privacy, and how to approach partners who are involved with overseeing the functioning of the carceral facility; and
  • concludes with a set of next steps, recommended reading, and points of reflection.

Examination copies are availablefor instructors who are interested in adopting this title for course use. An e-book edition of the text will be available shortly.

Austin earned their PhD in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They have provided library services in juvenile detention centers and jails, and researched library services in carceral facilities, for over a decade. Their work has been published in First MondayInternational Journal of InformationDiversity & Inclusion (IJIDI)Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, Libraries: Culture, History, and Society, and The Reference Librarian, among other venues.

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