#critlib: information resources and incarcerated people

This is the storify for the #critlib chat on information resources and incarcerated people moderated by @foureyedsoul & @B2PSeattle, which was held on 1/4/2016 at 2pm EST.

  1. I'm Ryan, an Instruction & Outreach Librarian at a community college in Boise, ID. I'm lucky to co-moderate today with @B2PSeattle #critlib
  2. Howdy #critlib. This is Jenna, displacedly tweeting (library swing space not yet ready for habitation) next to @PoorCharlotte.
  3. Hi #critlib, happy new year! I'm at a small academic library in the middle of Minnesota. Thrilled to have the fabulous @B2PSeattle join us!
  4. Hi #critlib, I'm an archivist at an academic lib, frmr public lib employee & general advocate for human rights of incarcerated folks.
  5. I wrote a paper in school on library programs for children of incarcerated people. #critlib
  6. @lisahubbell Great! I'd love to hear more about that. Supporting everyone affected by incarceration is important. #critlib
  7. My previous place of work also ran the Prison University Project at San Quentin. #critlib
  8. Hi, #critlib. Jaime, systems librarian in NYC. Dirty street librarian in my spare time.
  9. Hi #critlib - academic librarian in nyclurking today from work
  10. Howdy folks! I'm an outreach librarian on Long Island & do work w/out county jail. #critlib
  11. Hi #critlib! I'm an MLIS student and @B2PSeattle volunteer in Bellingham. The letters we get are frustrating/heartbreaking. Let's talk.
  12. Welcome, everyone. We're happy to be here with @foureyedsoul discussing (unfortunately) timely & urgent issues about incarceration. #critlib
  13. We used to send a lot of zines to incarcerated ppl, but asked off @amdial's resource list bc we cdn't easily handle the requests. #critlib
  14. @B2PSeattle @amdial Really, it was volume. The need is so great; it's hard to keep up! And yes, the restrictions are a b. #critlib
  15. @foureyedsoul Family literacy programs encourage visitation. Girl Scouts Beyond Bars runs mother-daughter programs onsite. #critlib
  16. @foureyedsoul Annie E. Casey Foundation supports a lot of good programs during incarceration and re-entry. #critlib
  17. Hi #critlib - going to try to follow along while working. I'm in Brooklyn, volunteered for years for books-to-prisoners projects.
  18. librarian in Ottawa, CA. Best ALA session ever attended was on how prisoners build relationships with their kids via reading. #critlib
  19. A little late to #critlib. Annie here, academic librarian in Chicago. Mostly lurking in today's chat but very interested.

  20. Question 1
  21. Q1 How can we best negotiate the tension between prison restrictions and our commitment to fostering access to information? #critlib
  22. A1: In the day-to-day, you just gotta make sure you read them all, follow to the letter, so that what you send makes it inside. #critlib
  23. I teach a class @PrattInfoSchool w @Debbie_Rabina, students respond to Qs sent to NYPL letter service from incarcerated people. #critlib
  24. A1 Ideal to use existing advocacy resources (incl ALA statements) to negotiate policy w/ correctional admins. #critlib
  25. A1: I'll be interested to hear what solutions people have bc I've found restrictions to be inflexible (& arbitrary). #critlib
  26. Not really an A1, but there's a lot of discussion on this among prison librarians on ALA's prison-L list.  http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/prison-l  #critlib
  27. A1 In my experience w/ other service work in prisons, it's an iterative process of trust building w/ staff. Info is our tool. #critlib
  28. A1 But we should never forget that we are here to serve the incarcerated folks, not the institution. #critlib
  29. @foureyedsoul no idea how to answer but research on reading and recidivism would be a propos here. assuming reading reduces it. #critlib
  30. A1: From my experience...building relationships w/staff @ facility, persistance, and lots of patience. #critlib
  31. A1 We press for change when possible by speaking with DOC representatives. We have promising work going forward in PA in 2016. #critlib
  32. @violetbfox We've written a bit, working on study right now. For me, the # of info needs produced by incarceration is interesting. #critlib
  33. @violetbfox e.g., Qs abt health issues related to incarceration, home remedies for mold, physical therapy exercises, etc. #critlib
  34. Absolutely. Unfortunately, some staff seem inflexible. Withholding access to books tool for compliance. #critlib  https://twitter.com/Sam_Winn/status/684092439859212289 
  35. @jayeldee @foureyedsoul Lots of case studies on this very question + successful progs that could be presented to administrators. #critlib
  36. A1: As I develop relationships, I continue to be connected to the right ppl who make it easier to provide better servies to inmates #critlib
  37. A1 (2/2) How much are libraries able to schedule programs? Amy Cheney brought authors to visit Alameda County Juvenile Justice Ctr #critlib
  38. A1: Books are good place to start building rapport w those who're pro-prison. It's easier to make allies than w most other aspects. #critlib
  39. @violetbfox Also, so many directory/ready ref Qs. I really see what it means to not have internet access. Huge problem. #critlib
  40. @B2PSeattle the withholding of access infuriates me & is a battle that I fight regularly. #critlib
  41. Mental health needs pop up a lot. Meditation, stress relief, etc.--especially for those in solitary/seg #critlib  https://twitter.com/edrabinski/status/684093580382715905 
  42. Banned books lists--lists that prevent access for all inmates at a facility or state--are the worst. #critlib  https://twitter.com/alsnyder02/status/684094110173630464 
  43. A1: +Nice bourgie white ladies et al will support books where they wouldn't support food improvement, med care, banning solitary... #critlib
  44. A1 (ish) I feel like a Q here is also about battling burnout since the barriers to working w incarcerated ppl are so high & cruel. #critlib
  45. @alsnyder02 @B2PSeattle Related issue of arbitrary censorship + selection criteria, which some of our rec'd readings touched on... #critlib
  46. @alsnyder02 @B2PSeattle also seems like a re-victimization of prisoners, who are largely victims of structural violence. #critlib
  47. .@zinelib Especially since so many of us do the work outside of our paid jobs. #critlib
  48. @zinelib I love following @B2PSeattle et al. who often post letters of gratitude where you can hear how meaningful resources are. #critlib
  49. A1 We've found that prisons object to pictures more often than text, so we cut out any pictures the prisons may object to. #critlib

  50. Question 2
  51. Q2 What steps can we take to make prison libraries genuinely inclusive? #critlib
  52. A2 Know that needs of prisoners are specific: what fills those needs is not going to be generalizable from outside world. #critlib
  53. @rowmyboat never worked in a prison, but I used to build a collection for an environmental org with only review copies. idea? #critlib
  54. A2: Things we do to make libraries inclusive generally. Take jaundiced eye to our material, processes, etc, Listen for silences. #critlib
  55. A2: Prison libraries are notoriously bad. Old. Books no one actually wants to read. Poor condition. Must figure out needs, gaps. #critlib
  56. It would seem that the importance of what librarians provide would be amplified in prisons cause the stakes are so high #critlib
  57. A2 that's assuming there's an actual library.our county facilities aren't required. Men have nothing other than law materials 1/2 #critlib
  58. A2 women have an extrememly dingy room that I'm starting the process of rebuilding. Students have access to a book cart. #critlib
  59. @alsnyder02 A2 so glad you mentioned this disparity - I would love to see hard data on availability of literature to women vs. men #critlib
  60. @alsnyder02 B/c anecdotally I find that many ministries + service projects + literacy progs heavily focus on male institutions #critlib
  61. .@rowmyboat Library-as-dumping-ground syndrome... Needs-based assessment & critical collection development just as important here. #critlib
  62. Do all inmates have access, including solitary? (often a barrier purposefully created by prison systems) #critlib  https://twitter.com/alsnyder02/status/684096805194338304 
  63. @jayeldee @rowmyboat I know at least a few of those librarians carrying giant stax of preprint books at ALA conf. are prison libs. #critlib
  64. A2: LISTEN. High profile prisoners have wish lists online. Orgs receive requests. Prisoners will tell you what they want. #critlib
  65. A2: in NY, all state prisons have libraries w/librarians (often a high turnover) They are responsible for collection dev & programs #critlib
  66. .@B2PSeattle And pictures of a drawings at that. Not an actual human anywhere to be seen. #critlib
  67. @rowmyboat they LOVE telling you what they want. Every visit, I leave with a large wishlist. #critlib

  68. Question 3
  69. Q3 In what ways can we support prisoners even if we aren’t working inside of a prison library? #critlib
  70. So frustrating b/c people want to build skills, pass time, express themselves...but figure drawing banned! #critlib  https://twitter.com/rowmyboat/status/684097794286694400 
  71. A3. Remember that most people will get out one day! Your public library patrons, your students - some have been incarcerated. #critlib
  72. A3. Offer tech instruction, career search resources, etc., with the understanding that some have been locked up for months/years. #critlib
  73. A3 Volunteering with your closest Books/Pages to Prisoners is a great start. ie Midwest Pages to Prisoners:  http://pagestoprisoners.org/  #critlib
  74. Q3: For those with wishlists, send something! Give $ & material to orgs that do the work. #critlib
  75. A3 One tangent - we can examine how our access policies affect recently incarcerated. [1] #critlib
  76. A3: Talk about it to anyone who will listen. Slip it into convo everywhere. Talk about state of prison libraries, shitty regs. #critlib
  77. A3 Ex - for public serving libs, do we accept DOC badges as photo ID? May be only form someone has. #critlib
  78. A3.1 I'm blanking on the specific name, but MP2P had another project aimed at info & letters to queer prisoners—helps inclusivity. #critlib
  79. A3: Weasel books & postage out of your tepid liberal friends & relatives. #critlib
  80. A3 Support your local public library - it's where many go upon release to look for jobs, social services, safe place, #critlib
  81. @InfAgit Volunteer with re-entry programs, coach recently released re public transportation, job search, what not to download. #critlib
  82. a3 Try to connect w/the librarians who are working in or with the facilities to see what they need & how you can help. #critlib
  83. A3 and do we train our staff to treat these patrons w/ inherent dignity? Can we work with est. reentry progs + orgs? #critlib
  84. A3: what about teaching a class inside? Many non-profits that need teachers or they need help bldg access to info on syllabi. #critlib
  85. A3 If living near a books-to-prisons program, give time, books from wish list, or postage stamps. If living elsewhere be a pen pal. #critlib
  86. A3: where I live: "Prison Letters" Ottawa-based collective of academics and students who promote prisoners’ access to information #critlib
  87. A3 A place for lib school curriculum, such as Pratt class @edrabinski mentioned & bringing prison libs in to talk about their work. #critlib
  88. Hence why it's so important for public lib staff to examine policies that might exclude unnecessarily #critlib  https://twitter.com/alsnyder02/status/684099267875700736 

  89. Question 4
  90. Q4 Give that 95% of people incarcerated will eventually be released, how can we, as info professionals, help individuals re-enter? #critlib
  91. A3/A4 Also support programs and materials for children and families of incarcerated. #critlib
  92. A3/A4 Community colleges—for associates or prof/technical degrees—are a place reentering folks might head. Keep them in mind! #critlib
  93. A4 Public libs need to reduce barriers to access. Provide job & tech training. have appropriate community connections for referals. #critlib
  94. A4 Research and tell prisoners about resources they can access immediately upon re-entry, e.g., nearby addiction recovery meetings. #critlib
  95. I know this is HUGE but educating re: injustice (poverty, racism, low education) which leads 2 substandard life/crime is important #critlib
  96. A4 One of the brightest & most committed students I encountered as an adjunct had recently reentered. He made that class 10x better #critlib
  97. A4 Work with churches and other strong communities on reintegration programs to support recently released and their families. #critlib
  98. A4 i regularly talk up my work at the jail w/the goal of breaking the stigma & talking about challenges ppl face. awareness is key #critlib

  99. Question 5
  100. Q5 Given high levels of frustration and stress, how can prison librarians (and others working in related fields) prevent burnout? #critlib
  101. q5 Selfcare is really important. I have a support network that I lean & force myself to step out as needed. #critlib
  102. A5: That is the question, isn't it? Because it's designed to burn us out. The system doesn't want us to be able to do what we do. #critlib
  103. a5 Practicing patience is my sanity saver. I can't make changes overnight but I'm slowly chipping away & making a difference #critlib
  104. A5 Some books-to-prisons volunteers avoid burnout by limiting themselves to a subset of prisoners, e.g., only addicts in recovery. #critlib

  105. Resources
  106. Time for #critlib pitches & relevant links to local projects you know about. Thanks for participating today & doing the hard work elsewhere.
  107. Worth reading while we wait on ?s to drop - ALA Council's statement on prisoners' right to read #critlib  http://www.ifmanual.org/prisoners 
  108. #critlib Highly recommend reading Running the Books by Avi Steinberg. Interesting account as a prison librarian #prisonlibrarianship