Blog

Banned Books Week

From PEN America: “Over the course of the past year, PEN America’s Right to Read in American Prisons Project focused on ways prisons and jails across the country restricted access to literature and educational materials through book censorship and state book ban lists. During PEN America’s recognition of Banned Books Week, we are excited to share several essays written by incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and allied people on the crucial role of books in their lives.”

The series is available at https://pen.org/pen_tags/pjw-bbw-2022/.

Augusta Baker Lecture

It was an honor to be this year’s Augusta Baker lecturer, and to have my work set within her tradition of advocacy and truth-telling. Her lifelong commitment to Black representation invited Library Science to reflect on its own shortcomings while also building resources, practices, and spaces for real people along the way. I hope that my own efforts can follow her lead in making actual change in the world, and can truly increase library services and information access within carceral facilities.

Here is a recording of my lecture–

My slides and a few other resources, along with the recording, are available here.

I am extremely grateful to Dr. Nicole A. Cooke, the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair at the University of South Carolina, for inviting me, the coordination and events team at USC who have made this event possible (go #TeamBaker!), and the staff at ALA Editions for their promotion of this event.

History of Services

The 1982 Library Services in Federal Prisons survey is a treasure trove! (This survey was conducted by the Federal Prisons Committee of the Library Services to Prisoners Section of the American Library Association.) In addition to an analysis of contemporaneous library services in federal prisons, it includes a comprehensive history of library services in federal prisons. That history led me to these 1933 passages–

Excerpted from Jones, E. K. (1933). Institution Libraries Round Table. Bulletin of the American Library Association, 27(13), 706–715.

These types of discoveries help me to position my own work within the larger, often difficult to locate, scope of library services for people who are incarcerated. They also attest to the great need for more services. The new millennium imagined in 1933 has not yet arrived.

Despite this, there is a renewed energy within the profession and among LIS students for attention to library services for people who have been incarcerated. Change may still be on the horizon.

Many thanks to the American Library Association Archives for making this research possible.