FYI: The Public Libraries Podcast

FYI 024 Guest: Nicholas Higgins -- Library Service to Jails and Prisons

16:48 | Nov 17th, 2017

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We talk with Nicholas Higgins, director of Outreach Services at the Brooklyn (NY) Public Library. Higgins, author of the latest book in the PLA Quick Reads series, shares wisdom gleaned from his years of experience providing library service to incarc...Show More

mmApr 20th

"Living out the mission of the public library". I really enjoyed listen how the public library navigates a environment - the prison - that is completely opposite of theirs in values. Shows that public libraries can serve everyone. Key takeaways: - Public libraries espouse values of inclusion, access and diversity - not values of correctional system. Should not use words like "inmate", "prisoners", etc. because creates power dynamics that are in conflict with the values of libraries. - The library take great pride in bringing a sense of civility and humanity in a place that is opposite of that. - Encourages staff and volunteers to take time off if they become too stressed because it's a "heavy environment" - Key to developing collection is to ask people what to read and offer diverse collection. But if there is concern from administration, then his recommendation is to have a diverse committee from in and out of the system to determine collection. - Interesting question about censorship and glad to hear there's none. Apparently science, physics and chemistry books can be faced with objections by individual officers. - To mitigate loss of books, have donations and also consistency of developing relationships with people in jail. Do not take a punitive approach to book loss in the environment. Need to create sense of shared responsibility. Often, people who lost a book with donate one out of their person collection. Even if it's not a good book, the library will accept it because it's the gesture that counts. - The library trains parents who are in jail who have children to read and listen to audio recordings children books, then record it with their voice and send it to their children. Then library will host a family celebration day. - If you want to start a local prison library service, 90% of the work is developing relationships.