Thursday, February 28, 2008

FAQs for Prison Librarians

Q. How do I get to be a prison librarian:

A. It is best to have an MLS, and have some experience working in a public library setting. This gives the librarian a flavor for the variety and complexity of information and leisure reading needs of inmates- no different from non incarcerated persons. The successful prison librarian is willing and comfortable working with persons from diverse ethnic, socio economic , and educational backgrounds.

Q. Is it safe?
A. More crimes take place in malls, in the homes, in parking lots etc. than in prisons. The media create a lot of sensation with the stories about prisons. Majority of the prisoners are respectful, and appreciative of the services that advance their knowledge and education, and help them to be more successful when they reenter society .

Q. What do prisoners read?
A. Reading habits are similar to the public. Depends on their education level. If the librarian markets books, they will read beyond only what they know when they arrive in prison. See Behind the Walls

Q. Is there an Association or groups of prison librarians ?

A. ASCLA is a division of American Librarian Association. The Library Services to Prisoners Forum( LSPF) is part of the Library Services to Special Populations, a section of ASCLA. There is an active list serv of ALA - If you have questions, place it on the list serv and you will be sure to get many answers. LSPF usually meet at the ALA midwinter and summer conferences.

Q. What is a good book to read to prepare me for working in a prison library.
A. Library Services to Incarcerated... by S. Clark and E. MacCreaigh and Games Criminals Play, by Allen and Bosta. Another practical guide is Down For The Count, by Brenda Vogel

Q. Do prisoners have access to the Internet?
A. In most prisons, inmates do not have direct access to the Internet. Although the two major legal database vendors have introduced legal products that offer online access only to the legal database, this is not available in most prison libraries. Where prison librarians have the Internet, institution rules often limit them to using it only when inmates are not around. Their information needs are not always answered right away, but written down for a next day answer. I have an article on the topic at ALA/OLOS

Q. Are all prison libraries law libraries?
A. No. It is constitutionally mandated that inmates must have access to the courts. States differ in their interpretation and implementation. Some establish law libraries, others have legal clinics, yet others use a combination of legal reference in the libraries in addition to using another provider of legal services.

Q. How can I find a job in a prison library
A. Check out the Division of Public Safety job site in your state. Some public libraries do outreach in their local detention centers. You may start there.


brandyrose said...

Thanks for the comment about safety; my family was really nervous for me when I started as a correctional librarian, and I really don't feel unsafe. Love your blog!

Peggy said...

Thanks Brandy. It is a pity that the media creates such a sensation when an incident occurs in the prison. I have had more incidents as a public librarian.

Viagra Without Prescription said...

I think that a job on a prison will of course have its consequences, but that its a great point that the media sometimes exaggerates many things.

Jewell Kathleen said...

I was wondering if you could help me with some information. I have an interview with a California Prison Library (women's facility) and was wondering if you could provide me with some interview tips. My email is
Thank you for any information you can provide.

Anonymous said...

I will have an interview with a California Prison Library. Could you please provide me some interview tips, or suggestions, or advices. My email is Your assistance will be appreciated.

Best regards,

Jie Li

brendan said...

I have a job interview with the Correctional Center in Virginia Beach. The position is that of Library Clerk. Could you help me with some information so that I can prepare for the interview?

My email is

Ariana Curiel said...

Tks very much for your post.

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