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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.

Timeline Additions

I’ve spent most of this week in the American Library Association Archives, sifting through information about library services and incarceration. I started around 1950 and am moving my way forward to the present (sorry for the deep history buffs! Maybe I’ll return; or maybe that is a project for someone else!).

I’ve found some events that aren’t recorded in the timeline that will be published with my book. Here is a preliminary summary of a few, for the record:

  • A 1976 ALA Resolution on Service to Detention Facilities and Jails, which likely led to the formation of the National Institute on Improving Jail Library Services. The Resolution is available here.
  • A survey of library services to local institutions that took place through the late 1970s and was published by ALA in 1980.
  • A 1980 replication of a 1938 survey of library services in the federal Bureau of Prisons. Among other highlights, the survey report, which was made available in 1982, was condemned by the BOP for the “negative, belligerent” tone of recommendations.

As I continue to review the materials I’ve digitized on this trip, I’m hoping to find more information about the tensions between the American Correctional Association (ACA) and the American Library Association (ALA) regarding the inclusion of a Prisoners’ Right to Read statement in the 1980s version of the Library Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions. So far I’ve only located passing references to a “current controversy over accreditation standards of libraries in prisons.”

As a reminder, much of my interest in surveys aligns with the open survey on Library Services and Incarceration.

Update 1/9/22: Richard Miller’s 1982 article on institutional library standards briefly discusses the coordinated work of ACA and ALA on the 1975 Library Standards for Juvenile Correctional Institutions as “nothing short of a major coup, because a nonlibrary organization joined with ALA to issue library standards.” There is mention of the effort for a joint revision of the adult standards as, “bogged down when ACA decided to make changes in its accreditation process.” Miller expand on this–

Miller, R. T. (1982). Standards for library services to people in institutions. Library Trends, 31, 109–124.