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.

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.

Essay on Information Access

My essay on information access in carceral institutions is now available online through Feminist Media Studies. Here’s the abstract:

Policing and incarceration are feminist issues that stand to be interrogated through examinations of carceral practices. This essay positions the management and withholding of information and the observation of communications as instances of carceral specific practices that shape possibilities for incarcerated people and their communities. The author draws from their experience as a librarian in carceral facilities to outline how State-enacted violence occurs through the regulation and management of information access. As carceral facilities utilize third-party ICT providers, it is difficult to ascertain what information is or is not available. The introduction of new and evolving ICTs has led to increased opportunities for the State to monitor people who are incarcerated and their communities, positioning incarcerated people and their networks not only as sources of information but as data to train technologies of policing and surveillance. Instances of resistance to these practices reveal some ways that people who are not incarcerated can act in solidarity with people who are incarcerated and people who are subject to State surveillance.

You can access the full essay at

Austin, J. (2020). Information access within carceral institutions. Feminist Media Studies. DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2020.1786933

Open Access Article: Information Provision and the Carceral State

The Reference Librarian and Taylor & Francis will be providing free access to the article I recently published with Dr. Melissa Villa-Nicholas.  You can access the article at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02763877.2019.1645077 through December 31, 2019.

Title:  Information Provision and the Carceral State: Race and Reference beyond the Idea of the “Underserved”

Abstract: This article addresses an approach to library services for people who are incarcerated that meets the situated information needs and desires of people within jails and prisons. By creating a flow of information between LIS students and individuals who are incarcerated through a Reference by Mail program, resources available to incarcerated people are increased while students engage in a humanizing and self-reflexive project, with the understanding that the regulation of information within jails and prisons has lasting effects for the life chances of incarcerated people.