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:

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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)

Sooo Much Urban Fiction — So Close To Being Added To The Jail Libraries!!!

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Months ago at a meeting of jail librarians, we began talking about the small number of urban fiction books in the jail libraries’ collections despite the very high number of requests from patrons asking for this genre.

From this meeting, a jail librarian asked the key members who oversaw the jail libraries for an in-house grant to purchase urban fiction despite the mission of the organization is to collect only donated books with the exception of dictionaries. And, we got permission to buy a considerable number of books. We were also asked to buy graphic novels; here we decided to buy only Manga (look for an other post as to why).

By consulting many books, blog posts, websites, and readers advisory brochures, I was able to come up with a collection development list for the jail librarians to approve. One of the most helpful sources were:

  1. Honig, Megan. Urban Grit: A Guide to Street Lit. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2011.
  2. Morris, Vanessa Irving. The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.
  3. Patron Input! I asked patrons at each library what titles they enjoy and would like to see at the library. One patron asked to go back to his cell to get a list he had already made for his own reference! He had a list in a small address book that was four pages long, in small print, and in alphabetical order. His list was so extensive that he let me borrow his notebook to copy the titles until the end of library hours and had our library assistant bring his notebook back to him. Asking this patron for input engaged the patron significantly to the project and he took more pride in the library, for he once checked-in on the project stating that he thought he had something to do with getting urban fiction into his library and he did. It is unfortunate that now that we are getting ready to have the books circulate, he has been sentenced and transferred out of jail and into a prison facility.

Now that we have some of our books we are labeling them with our sticker system  (you can see me starting to put some of the stickers on the books in the photo above). We do not separate Urban Fiction or  black authors from the libraries’ fiction sections like large book stores do, but we do add blue and white striped stickers in addition to stickers that display the genre (fiction, romance, etc) to distinguish black authors. This has been effective in helping patrons learn how to browse more effectively and search for items of their interest in their short time allowed in the library (usually 10 minutes or less) without having a library catalog.

After stickers are put on, we are attempting to expand the lifespan of our purchased books by wrapping the books in contact paper. See blog post Expanding Lifespan of Paperbacks in the Jail Library for more information and a tutorial video.

Once the purchased collection is prepped for the library, our plan to track the lifespan of the books will enter it’s final stages. Once those documents are complete I’ll share them with you all. Look for the catagory “Purchased Books Project 2012.”

Expanding Lifespan of Paperbacks in the Jail Library

Currently I’m working on a large project to improve our collections in our county jail libraries (I have soooo much Urban Fiction all over my living room) and I’ll post more about the project when were closer to implementing it.

Part of the project is to try to learn how to expand the lifespan of books in the library. Many school librarians have suggested that we use contact paper since we are only allowed to offer paperbacks.

Below is an awesome instructional video teaching how to place contact paper on paperbacks:

This technique has worked great so far. One thing that I found worked better was to fold and re-fold over a tiny part of a corner and rub it with your fingers in order to loosen the contact paper from the paper backing.

An unfortunate side of this is that our contact paper is easy to peel off. I could easily take a corner and peal it all the way across the cover. So, now we are looking at how we can place packing tape over the ends of the paper to seal the contact paper onto the inside cover or order the contact paper through Demco or Gaylord.

With a little bit of muscle… 3 full boxes of free books for the jail library!

This week my jail library mentor and I went to the community Restore to look for books for collection development. Restore lets the Books to Prisoners organization come in every once in a while to see if there are books we could use for the jail.

A little less then two hours of browsing through books, we left with 5 boxes!! We found popular fiction, mysteries, westerns, parenting books, books about religion, biographies, science fiction, non-fiction, humor, and I’m sure even more that I’m not remembering! We were so excited!

What happens to these books next? Stickers… lots and lots of stickers. A colored stickering system for shelving books gives quick reference to find books and for the trustee (a prisoner who helps out at the library) to reshelve the books after the have been checked back in. A piece of heavy duty tape seals the deal to help keep the stickers on. This doesn’t always work, because tape is sometimes a hot commodity at the jail and patrons remove the tape for their own use, so we sticker the books again!

Below you can see our workstation for our stickering process. In the picture, hard at work, is my jail mentor getting more stickers for the ready!

Some of the books that we got went to fulfill patrons’ requests of books they are wanting to read, and some of the books that are more targeted to a female audience went to the other jail where women are held at. And, here we go, 3 full boxes to bring to the jail library!

Between my mentor’s broken foot and my right hand on the mend, a little muscle work brought a great addition to our library that needed a some new reads to be added! After seeing everything that we got, we are so thankful for a group like Restore to let us look through what they have. Their kindness will bring a lot of happy patrons!

“Thank You For Being So Kind With Me…”

A couple weeks ago I started going to the thrift stores and used book stores to try to find some of the books the patrons are requesting but not receiving (because they are not being donated to the program that supplies the books to the jail library).

Last week when I visited my family back home I brought back 3 bags of books to donate to the jail library – books back home were 1/2 the price of used books here in town! One of them was on the history of Latin and South America – I knew exactly who would like this book. He used to be the only Spanish reader in the jail that I had seen visit the library and I would save Spanish magazines (often mistaken for magazines in English, because they look just like Time, People, ect. until you sit down to read them) and new books for him. Large Spanish books would be used as seats and would be ruined my numerous bottoms needing a seat by the telephone (stools were newly added, so books are not used anymore!).

This morning while volunteering at the jail library, I got a surprise drawing from the patron who did indeed want to read the Latin and South America history book. I was touched that he took the time to express his thanks. He told me that he was half way done with the book and that it was filled with so much information.

Words from Past Prison Librarians: Brenda Vogel

Here we continue our journey on looking into the perspectives of retired prison librarians. We previously looked at Frances Saniford and  Glennor Shirley. Our final retired librarian we will look at is Brenda Vogel.

Brenda Vogel, famous in the prison library world for Down for the Count: A Prison Library Handbook and The Prison Library Primer: A Program for the Twenty-First Century, was the coordinator of Maryland Correctional Education Libraries for 26 years.

Vogel calls the prison library “[a] curious mismatch, a triumph of good over evil, when it works” (xiii).

In “A Retired Prison Librarian’s Dream,” Vogel tells us that she still dreams about prison libraries, [l]ike a cigarette smoker who quits, not because you want to but because it’s time, you never get it out of your head” (xi).

In this piece, I like Vogel’s perspective on highly stolen books, partly because most of the dialogue is either to not stock the highly thefted books anymore or that it happens, so get over it:

Did you ever think of buying multiple copies of them so reading them wouldn’t be exclusive? So their value in the ‘marketplace’ would go down? [….] What if you had a procedure that would keep books from being stolen – like random shake-down of patrons by a CO as they left the library? The officer can check to see if the book is date-stamped. (xii)

Vogel offers a piece of advise before readers move from her retired librarians’ dream into her book, The Prison Library Primer:

And it only works under the heroic leadership of a librarian who is passionate, imaginative, cunning, conniving, creative, and convincing, a librarian who knows the course and stays the course and who keeps the library true to form in sight of the madness, corruption, and cynicism of the environment. (xiii)


Vogel, Brenda. The Prison Library Primer: A Program for the Twenty-First Century. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2009.

  • You can find a large portion of this book on Google Books.

Resources for Aspiring Prison Librarians

Today I came across two great resources made by and for Library and Information Science students who might be interested in perusing a career in prison librarianship. Here they are!

  1. Prison Libraries: An Annotated Bibliography
    • by Sharon Bailey, Kim Parry,  and Emily Thompson
    • Oct. 24, 2011
    • This annotation provides an overview and sections on prison library services and programming, access to information and the digital divide, collection development, and their own search strategies.
  2. Books Behind Bars: Is Correctional Librarianship a Job for You? – A pathfinder for librarians and library science students interested in exploring library services to the incarcerated as a profession
    • by Justine Johnson
    • December 2009
    • This pathfinder’s intention is on the historical and current placement of LIS and the connection between the PIC and libraries as institutions. It offers sections on general sources, history of correctional library services, correctional library programing, profiles of correctional librarians, juvenile populations, and professional resources.

Urban Fiction: Part II – Resources On-line

As I try to explore Urban Fiction, I have found my self in multiple fits of frustration trying to find sources that I want… sources that are academic, critical, for librarians, or anything pertaining to Urban Lit. Recently I’ve came across some on-line sources that have proved very helpful in getting to where I want to be! Here are just a couple of excellent Urban Fiction Sources that are available on line:

WorldCat Genres: Urban Fiction

  • WorldCat has introduced an ‘experimental’ feature on their website that allows for an alternative method to browse library collections – this is their Genres section.
  • Here you can explore: authors, books, movies, subjects, places, and a teen section (there is a list dedicated to Urban Fiction and teens).
  • FYI: If you are not familiar with WorldCat, one of the coolest features is that once you are looking at an items’ page you can see where the closest book is to you by entering your zip code!
  • At first I thought that there were only ten books featured on this site, but there is 550+! In case you are also confused on how to explore this longer list, you can find it under their “Books” section through “Explore More Books.” [**See image  immediately below.**]

Urban Fiction/Street Lit/Hip Hop Fiction Resources for Librarians

  • In wiki style, this site provides booklists, social media, review & discussion sites, bestseller lists, articles, other wikis, power-points, pod-casts, and more.
  • One could spend hours exploring links on this site… and the links on those subsequent pages.
  • You can join the community of librarians to improve the site by adding information / links that will serve the community looking for Urban Lit resources.

Street Fiction

  • Holy Smokes! This site blows me away… I can’t believe it took me this long to stumble upon it!
  • Not only does this site feature Street Fiction, but sub-genres that are not frequently highlighted: Urban Nonfiction, Urban Christian Fiction, and Teen Urban Fiction. The majority of what is offered for each of these are reviews and purchase.
  • An additional unique feature is their section for LIBRARIANS (!!) that includes articles, booklists, books on Urban Fiction, history of Urban Fiction, and more.
  • One can also browse by author, place, and topic.

Street Lit Collection Development Resources