Words from Past Prison Librarians: Glennor Shirley

Here we continue our journey on looking into the perspectives of retired prison librarians. We previous looked at Frances Saniford and now we move to Glennor Shirley.

Shirley retired in September 2011 after being a  prison librarian in Maryland for over 20 years. She has a popular blog that she still writes for called Prison Librarian.

After coming to Maryland from Jamaica in 1980, where she was also a librarian, Shirley began her work in the prison library as a part-time night job to make ends meet; this job eventually turned into her career, which she considers a “happy accident” (Haldeman). She states , “I am basically a person who believes in justice and what is right. I saw these needs behind bars” (Rosenwald “Glennor”).

Shirley claims “that her time as a prison librarian has been the most rewarding portion of her career” (Haldeman).

Why should non-imprisoned support prison libraries and reading behind bars? Shirley was not foreign to this question: “She was often asked why taxpayer money should be used to make a prisoner’s life more rewarding. Her standard answer: She wants to help them become taxpayers again. Without an education, she’d say, that’s impossible” (Rosenwald “Maryland’s”).

A card from one of her patrons from the day Shirley retired:

With deepest thanks and gratitude on your retirement from decades of advocacy on behalf of tens of thousands of Maryland prisoners. We will forever miss your enthusiasm of library services and especially your gorgeous smile. (Rosenwald “Maryland’s”)


Haldeman, Annette, ed. “Glennor Shirley Retires.” The Crab: A Quarterly Publication of the Maryland Library Association. 42.2 (Winter 2012). 23-4.

  • If you follow the link to find a list of her writing on page 24.

Rosenwald, Michael. “Glennor Shirley, head librarian for Md. prisons, believes in books behind bars.” Washington Post 25 May 2011.

  • If you follow this link, you can also watch a video of Shirley speak.

Rosenwald, Michael. “Maryland’s beloved prison librarian retires.” Washington Post 9 Sept. 2011.


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