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Jeanie Austin & Melissa Villa-Nicholas Win Eighth Annual Library Juice Paper Contest

My article with Dr. Villa-Nicholas on by-mail reference services for incarcerated people and their role in teaching anti-racism to MLIS students has been recognized as the winner of the Eighth Annual Library Juice Paper Contest. Dr. Villa-Nicholas and I are honored to receive this award. We’re very grateful to the selection committee for valuing our work and for recognizing the humanity of incarcerated people.

Here is an excerpt of the press release —

Jeanie Austin & Melissa Villa-Nicholas’ paper, titled, “Information Provision and the Carceral State: Race and Reference beyond the Idea of the ‘Underserved,’” published in the journal The Reference Librarian, was judged by the award jury to be the best paper submitted in this year’s contest. The award jury said about their paper:

“Austin & Villa-Nicholas provide a timely, insightful exploration of the liberatory possibilities in providing high quality reference services to incarcerated people through projects like Reference by Mail. Both the text of their paper and the design of the Reference by Mail program aim to humanize incarcerated people, working to undo some of the harms and dehumanization performed by the U.S. carceral system. They highlight the tie of whiteness and racial oppression as an organizing factor in carceral systems, and problematize LIS’s normalization of the prison industrial system and library services as an extension of that system. The paper encourages the application of critical race theory and an explicitly anti-racist approach to LIS education; lenses that encourage LIS students and other participants to challenge white normativity and see the full social potential of people incarcerated in a system disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous, POC, and/or LGBTQ+ communities.”

The full press release is available here.

ALA Report on Libraries and Reentry

The American Library Association has published a report on how libraries support people who have been incarcerated after they are released from jails and prisons. The report features library services provided across the United States. It highlights innovative and needed programs that provide models for library systems considering how they can better support people impacted by policing and incarceration. From the press release:

“For incarcerated persons, books are windows into different worlds. For those formerly incarcerated, libraries are doors of opportunity,” said ALA Senior Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Alan Inouye. “Libraries not only provide books and internet connected devices, they offer staff to help reentering patrons use the technology and navigate the network of resources and information to help them get their bearing in a world vastly different than the one they came from.”

The full press release is available here.

For the full report, please see

Monica Cosby’s Essay on Reading in Prison

Monica Cosby has graciously given permission to share her powerful essay on the necessity of having access to books and other reading materials while incarcerated, which she describes as “a life-saving and life-giving gift.” Monica’s essay was published in the November 2017 issue of Bound Struggles, a publication through Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

Bound Struggles publishes content created by women who are incarcerated in the United States. Issues contain art, essays, poetry, and other media. Bound Struggles is available for purchase through the Chicago Books to Women in Prison online store.

Video: Alcatraz and Mass Incarceration

San Francisco Public Library hosted a conversation between Troy Williams and Jackson Lam on July 22, 2020.  The video below is  recording of that event.  In this video, Troy shares his own experiences of  incarceration and reentry and emphasizes the value of restorative justice in his life.

 

“Troy Williams, founder and director of Restorative Media and host of the Troy Williams Journal served 25 years in prison facilities. Williams along with a National Park Service Alcatraz park ranger will discuss mass incarceration in America. Learn how the history of incarceration at Alcatraz informs us about the state of incarceration today, with a special focus on incarceration and reentry during the current pandemic, protests and uprisings.”  (Description from San Francisco Public Library.)

Carceral Histories in the United States

I have been quietly working on a book about library services to people who are incarcerated, to be published by ALA in 2021. I am glad to stand with librarians who are doing the work to critically interrogate librarianship and the profession’s complicity with systems of policing, incarceration, and white supremacy.  Thanks to my editor and to ALA, I have the opportunity to offer a prepublication chapter of the book to the world.

You can access the chapter titled Carceral Histories in the United States at the link below. This chapter covers some of the early practices that led to present day carceral systems in the United States.  It specifically focuses on how librarians conceptualized providing information to incarcerated people in the period between the late 1800s until the early 1990s. This is the second chapter from my forthcoming book, Library Services and Incarceration: Recognizing Barriers, Strengthening Access (working title).

 

If you’ve viewed the timeline of services I previously posted on my blog, you’ll hopefully benefit from the expanded and revised timeline located at the end of this chapter.

Thank you for your interest in library services to people who are incarcerated.  I welcome any feedback and perspective that might improve the published edition of this chapter.