Collection Development Project Goes into Circulation THIS WEEK!

I’ve posted a couple times about a purchased books project I’ve been working on… Expanding the Lifespan of Paperbacks in the Jail Library & Sooo Much Urban Fiction — So Close To Being Added To The Jail Libraries!!!

This week is the week that 64 books will be put into circulation at the two county jail libraries. Books were split 30 % and 70 % which was a close resemblance to the number of patrons each library receives on average per week.

These books will have statistics collected on them to determine the lifespan and circulation periods of the books (there are no due dates, just a limit of books). But more importantly, patrons will have more books in circulation that are frequently requested – Urban Fiction!

Last month, in preparation for the books to go into circulation I presented to the volunteer librarians so we could:

  1. Get excited about Urban Fiction and the project in general
  2. Learn an introductory level about Manga
  3. Be familiar about the process how we might be able to track statistics on these special project books that would be as painless as possible to patrons and volunteer librarians

Below is a Power Point that guided us through the conversation. There is no citations for many of the information in the slides, but the Urban Fiction Resources tab holds most of the titles that I used.

Here are some pictures of from the presentation:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What did other volunteer librarians think about the presentation and what came from our conversation?

When asked what volunteer librarians liked about Urban Fiction, they stated the following about the genre:

  • Urban Fiction gets people reading
  • Non-readers get interested in reading
  • Simple reading level with story line adults can relate to
  • Black characters and life
  • Patrons talk about books – recommend books to other readers & build community through books
  • Readers become writers
  • Urban Fiction is relatable

When asked what volunteer librarians liked about the project so far, they answered:

  • More Urban Fiction in the jail libraries
  • Statistics will be collected about circulation
  • Patron satisfaction
  • More reading

When asked what could be improved about the project, volunteer librarians expressed concerns about:

  • If patrons with requests for Urban Fiction will get their request filled first
  • If there should be a limit to Urban Fiction books checked out per patron
  • Anxiety about tallying the movement of these books (tracking the statistics) while completing other circulation tasks that need to be done
  • Requested list of books with notes for librarians has every book that has been purchased (ex: not just the 30% the one jail library has, but the full 100% for librarians’ reference)
  • Needing to be positive about collecting statistics with our patrons so they comply with returning their books and know that we are not trying to monitor their reading
  • How hectic will the first time at the library be, should the number of new books be limited per living quarter, the busier library must have three people working
  • After the first library week when the books with be distributed, there should be no circulation rules besides the rules that are already in place (primarily only having six books out at one time per patron)

Bringing Down the New Jim Crow – Radio Series

Today on Facebook, Michelle Alexander reminded us about the radio documentary series Bringing Down the New Jim Crow.

I did not realize that it was already out. They had been raising money this summer (Crowdfunded Radioshow to Illuminate the Intersection of Race and Incarceration) and they made their goal. We have some catching up to do, so gather your friends or set up your listening station as you do the dishes (my favorite!) and tune in!

The radio series “explores the intersection of the drug war, mass incarceration, and race in the contemporary U.S.”

There are three episodes out:

  1. A Bitter Harvest: California, Marijuana, and the New Jim Crow
    A Bitter Harvest views Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” through the lens of California’s marijuana industry.
    Marijuana is the single largest agricultural commodity in California and it is the primary vehicle for the war on drugs’ racialized arrest and incarceration system, which has our prisons bursting at the seams nationwide. Great numbers of predominantly white men and women grow, harvest, and process marijuana in California for distribution throughout the United States. Local law enforcement and the communities they represent – communities whose economies are marijuana-dependent – benefit from letting this part of the illegal process go mostly undetected, while the crackdown happens almost exclusively in poor inner-city neighborhoods of color.
    Through interviews with Michelle Alexander, Stephen Gutwillig (Drug Policy Alliance), and Vincent Harding (renowned veteran of the African-American Freedom Movement), this program cracks open the question of why and how this discrepancy exists, and it explores some of its devastating consequences. It’s a show that grapples head on with the reality of white privilege in the United States.
  2. On the Other Side of the Myth: A Conversation with Michelle Alexander and Tim Wise
    This second installment in the series titled Bringing Down the New Jim Crow features the first ever dialog between legal scholar Michelle Alexander and anti-racism educator Tim Wise. An engaging, provocative interchange touching on the prison-industrial complex, white privilege, Trayvon Martin, and the unceasing quest for racial justice in the United States. Produced by Chris Moore-Backman, with music by Joe Henry.
  3. Children of the Same Sorrow: The U.S./Mexico Caravan for Peace Takes on the Drug War
    This moving and provocative documentary chronicles the historic journey of the “U.S./Mexico Caravan for Peace,” which from August 12th to September 12th, 2012, crossed the entire United States calling for an end to the war on drugs and bearing witness to the human rights nightmare unfolding in Mexico. Radio documentarian Chris Moore-Backman travelled with the caravan for 5 days, capturing the spirit and message of those on board, and examining the deep connection between the struggle for peace in Mexico and the struggle to end the racist system of mass incarceration in the United States. The show features a dialog between Michelle Alexander (author of “The New Jim Crow”) and Javier Sicilia (renowned Mexican poet and leader of the “Mexican Movement for Peace, with Justice and Dignity”). It also includes heartbreaking testimonies of mothers of victims of Mexico’s horrific drug war violence, and interviews with the U.S. and Mexican activists who launched this historic bi-national effort. A powerful testament to twin justice movements, which points to the crucial need for movement unity across races, and across borders.

Call for Submissions: Rethinking Prisons Conference 2013

Here is a call for submissions to a conference that might be of interest:

The Rethinking Prisons Conference 2013 will be held May 3 – 5, at Vanderbilt University,  in Nashville Tennessee.

This link brings you to their submission information.

At their conference, they aim to “The conference seeks to foster conversations between activists and scholars who share common concerns and bring different knowledge, methods, strategies and experience to the table” and  have the following points included in presentations and conversations:

(1) Intersections between the work of prison activists and research in political, literary, legal and social theory.
(2) Challenges faced by an activists seeking transformational alternatives to the U.S. prison system
(3) The promise and shortcomings of present death penalty and solitary confinement legislation
(4) The intersections of the U.S. prison system with race, gender, class, and sexuality.
(5) The intersections of the U.S. prison system with politics.

This conference is the final event of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Philosophy’s A Year of Rethinking Prisons, “an interdisciplinary series of events dedicated to rethinking criminality, incarceration, and state execution.”

Education Justice Project’s Open House

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Education Justice Project (EJP)’s open house at the Danville Correctional Center (DCC). It is at their EJP library in which I hope to be able to complete half of my practicum and spend 50 hours in my final semester working in their library.

There are two libraries in DCC, the EJP’s library (only EJP students have access to) and the prison library (the past librarian Liz Robson just retired – learn more about her at: Prison Reference Services On Little Finding – A Perspective From 20 Years Ago).

This visit was my first in a prison facility. Besides being in a rural part of the state and on a much larger scale, it felt similar to the jail setting setting. Most of our time was spent in the classrooms or the library. One of the other visitors stated at the end of our visit that he kept forgetting he was in a prison until he noticed that everyone’s shoes/shirts where the same color, a guard would past the door, etc. and these realizations would pull him back to reality to the space we were in.

We were able to visit two of the four four-credit classes that was in session that night. I sat in on a class about sustainability and one that had a new visiting scholar every week on various topics.

The classroom in which the sustainability class was held had more technology than I had expected to see. There was a projector, computer, speakers. Across the hall was a computer lab. Later I was told that the library also has to offer 10 laptops (out of 15, for 5 are not in working condition).

The 2nd class I observed is a Discovery class where each week is a different them and guest lecturer. The week’s theme I was able to see was hip-hop feminism with scholar, Ruth Brown, Ph, D. The students explored her work Wish to Live: The Hip-hop Feminism Pedagogy Reader.

After this class I asked a gentleman to catch me up to speed on what happened in the first half of the class, for I saw mostly Q and A. He had read Wish to Live three times, asked specifically to have Ruth Brown come to their class, and he wants a degree in Women’s Studies. Over the summer they had a gender/women’s studies reading group that has now formed into a feminist club! A feminist club in a men’s prison! This student was so excited and enthralled in the topic of Women’s Studies and had so much to say that I barely got a word in! 🙂 He shared parts of his life experience, especially how women’s studies opened his eyes in part because he has two daughters and how he wants his girls to be treated. Knowing what he wanted for his girls led him to examine how he treats all women, which then led him to examine patriarchy, the oppression of women, & intersections of race and class.

So, later in the week when I was at a book sale that profited an organization that helps prisoners have access to books, I scooped up all of the books on women, girls, and race that were contemporary. One that I got that I hope they will enjoy is YELL-Oh Girls! Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American.

When I went to pay for the books I found, the librarian working the sales table said, “Looks like you have some heavy reading.” I told her that they were not for me, they were for the EJP’s library for the feminist club to read. The librarian’s response was something along the lines of: “Well, who do they put in that club? All of the wife beaters?” and then went on to say something else about turning men into women.

What!?!? I was super upset that I didn’t know how to respond. I felt that her response devalued the students’ interests and experiences.

My experience so far with the EJP so far has showed me that their program offers a space where critical and free thought is welcomed and encouraged, a space of growth, and a space where students behind bars’ lives and voices are not only heard but are deeply valued.

I hope that my work fosters a similar environment and my patrons will know that they are valued.

Interested in being a guest blogger?

Hey everyone!

Are you interested in guest blogging for Exploring Prison Librarianship?

When I started this blog I defined its function as “a place of sharing what I am learning about the PIC, prison librarianship, and prisoners as readers/writers.”

Interested in sharing your experience, thoughts, frustrations, vision, etc. about prison librarianship or reading/writing in prison?

Feel free to e-mail me if you are interested at

Follow Up to Banned Books Week

Last night I was able to follow up with a couple of patrons who read  banned books to celebrate Banned Books Week.

One woman returned Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  I asked her if she liked the book, she nodded her head. I asked her if she thought the book should be banned and she told me of course not and that she thought it should be taught in literary classes.

An other patron was  a gentleman who had read a Goosebumps book. I asked him if it was to scary for him. He smirked and said no. I then asked if he thought the series should be banned for being to scary for young readers. He continued smirking and said no again. I think he got more of a kick out of me suggesting that he could be scared by the series.

It was fun to be able to follow up with patrons after they read banned books and were interested in a small library display. I’ve also been trying more purposefully to show that the library values patrons, their reading choices, and their voices. This was one attempt foster an environment that could make patrons feel valued and heard with what resources the jail library already has.

Banned Books Week Display

This last Monday we celebrated Banned Books Week at the jail library. We hung up posters, made bookmarks, and displayed banned books that were in the jail library’s collection.

We put out multiple copies of the following banned books that we could locate (we had about 10 minutes to set up the display);  15% of books from the display were checked out.

  • There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Goosebumps series
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • The Bible
  • Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The first group of women were especially excited to learn about banned books and see what has been banned. Many patrons told us what books they had read that were banned, that they read one of the books in school, or that they were shocked that certain books were on the table. The patrons also reflected on their children’s reading and development if theses books were not available in their school to the extent that they were going to make sure their children were able to read the books they had read when they were school.

One patron was not interested in checking out a banned book, but before he left he told us that he reads a banned book every night (referring to the Bible).

Even though every patron did not show lots of interest, patrons did learn about the library-related topic, censorship, and questioned reasons as to why books are banned.