New Article and Survey Launch

Chelsea Jordan-Makely and I have been collaborating to locate information about academic, public, and special library services for people who are incarcerated or in reentry. Today, our article summarizing these services–Outside and In: Services for People Impacted by Incarceration–went live through the Library Journal website. It will also be available in print later this month.

We doubt that we’ve located everything, and can’t wait to find out about other libraries providing books, programs, or other library services for people who are incarcerated or in reentry. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the Library Research Service at Colorado State Library to create a survey about this type of service!

Academic, special, and public librarians and staff are encouraged to respond.

You can access the survey at Library Services and Incarceration.

Cover Reveal!

My forthcoming book, Library services and incarceration: Recognizing barriers, strengthening access (published by ALA), is now available to pre-order. The book will be available in summer 2021. You can order it directly from ALA at https://www.alastore.ala.org/lsai.

I’m so thankful to the ALA team for this beautiful cover and for making the book a reality. Special thanks to Rachel Chance, my acquisitions editor, for her endless support for the book and for library services to people inside of immigrant detention centers, jails, juvenile detentions, and prisons.

An in-progress chapter from this book is available (for free!) here.

Voices for Information Equity

The Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island is inaugurating its new Equity, Diverse Communities, and Critical Librarianship track with a lecture series that is open to the public. I’m very pleased to present alongside so many brilliant, talented scholars! Please see the full series in the flier below –

Open Access: Article with Books to Prisoners

I’ve recently worked with Books to Prisoners volunteers to explore how prison censorship practices shape the information requests made by people who are incarcerated, the value of Books to Prisoners programs, and how Books to Prisoners’ efforts can guide LIS in advocating for information access for people who are incarcerated. Our article, Systemic Oppression and the Contested Ground of Information Access for Incarcerated People, is now available through the open access publisher Open Information Science. It is part of a special issue on race and racism in information studies, edited by Dr. Villa-Nicholas and Dr. LaTesha Velez.

The article is available at https://www.degruyter.tools/document/doi/10.1515/opis-2020-0013/html.

While many Books to Prisoners groups have curtailed or limited their operations during the pandemic, dedicated volunteers continue to send books, process donations, and host webinars. Please visit this list to locate a Books to Prisoners group near you.

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.