Early History of Jail/Prison Library Services

For librarians following the prison strike of 2018 (and for those who are not yet doing this), R.J. Rubin’s U.S. prison library services and their theoretical bases is essential reading for background perspective on how librarians have historically thought through library services in jails and prisons.  Published in 1973, it is a signpost into how library services came to exist in jail in prisons, librarians’ belief in their own theoretical and professional expertise, and how short a time there have been librarian-led services in jails and prisons in the United States. You can access the full text at

Rubin, R. J. (1973). U.S. prison library services and their theoretical bases. Occasional Papers, No. 110.

Dream Revisions – Section 3

As mentioned in this post, here is a revised version of Section 3 of the Standards.


3.1     The responsibility for the administration of the library shall be determined in cooperation with the governing agency or agencies.

3.1.1    Library administration that involves partnerships with public and/or community libraries will utilize the standards of access in place through the partnering library;

3.2     The librarian is responsible for managing the facility’s library, library staff, collection, and services.

3.2.1   The librarian shall operate the library as an integral element in meeting the vision of the OJJDP (stated in 2.1) to reduce the time of encounter between youth and juvenile facilities. The librarian shall work closely with teachers to ensure that the library provides resources that support the curriculum. The librarian will actively seek out and support programming that reflects the purpose of library services in the facility, including writing workshops, educational advancement, visiting authors, etc.

3.2.2   The librarian shall regularly participate and interact with all facility components in planning and developing the facility’s programs, including programs provided by outside parties.

3.2.3   The library shall actively support the vision of the OJJDP (stated in 2.1) and the facility’s own efforts to support this vision through the library’s materials, services, and philosophy; and shall provide research and reference assistance to the youth and young adults held in the facility and, in program-related matters, to the staff.

3.2.4   The librarian shall ensure that the library is responsive to the needs of the detained or incarcerated or incarcerated youth as ascertained by and including, but not limited to: person-to-person discussions; group discussions; analysis of user data, output measures, surveys, needs assessments, advisory committees, available data on youth incarceration, available data on the technological needs of young adults and participation in workshops and conferences.

3.3       In the case that the library administrator (librarian) is employed by an outside agency and is not a staff member of the residential facility, the librarian should report to his or her immediate supervisor at the outside agency (e.g. public library, state library system, academic administration, public school system, etc.).

3.4       In the case that the library administrator (librarian) is employed by the residential facility, the library shall be on the same administrative level as other program services departments within that facility.

3.4.1   The librarian shall, when applicable, report to a program manager.

3.4.2   When it is not possible for the library to be its own department, the librarian shall report to the facility’s education administrator.

Dream Revisions – Section 2

As mentioned in the last post, here is a dream revision of Section 2 of the Library Standards for Juvenile Correctional Facilities.




2.1     The library in the juvenile correctional facility shall support, broaden and strengthen the stated goals of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) for youth and young adults. This shall be done in accord with the stated vision of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), which states “The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) envisions a nation where our children are healthy, educated, and free from violence. If they come into contact with the juvenile justice system, the contact should be rare, fair, and beneficial to them.” The library in the juvenile detention center shall offer a variety of services, materials, and programs similar to libraries serving the general public, as well as curricula support materials, services specifically related to the experiences and desires of youth and young adults held in detention, and legal resources. The library shall:

2.1.1   Serve all youth and young adults within the juvenile detention center or other residential center; Provide services to youth and young adult residents who are restricted to their living units (e.g. infirmary, lock-up, maximum security units), including access to technology;

2.1.2   Provide to facility staff program-related services which contribute to their professional development (e.g. reference and research assistance, professional collections, etc. These may include newsletters, journals, books, manuals, curriculum frameworks, and DVDs as well as other applicable technologies); The library will provide materials and services that supplement and support other programs held at the juvenile detention center, including college preparation and GED programs, and programs administered by outside organizations (writing programs, drawing programs, etc.);

2.1.3   Cooperate with other libraries and community organizations to supplement local collections and services. Cooperation may include interlibrary loan, membership in a regional cooperative, sharing of staff experience, connecting youth with community organizations and public libraries to support youth as they are released from the juvenile detention center, participation in organizations specifically focused on youth, juvenile detention, or adult incarceration, and youth access to technology.

2.1.4    Create collection development policies that actively advocate for the representation of incarcerated youth and their experiences and interests

2.1.5   Endorse and uphold the principles espoused by the following American Library Association documents (which may be obtained from the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom): Library Bill of Rights (1939; amended 1944, 1948,1961, 1967, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996); Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (1972,; amended 1981; 1991, 2004); Resolution on Prisoners’ Right to Read (1982) Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records (1971; revised 1975, 1986) Freedom to Read Statement (1953; amended 1972, 1991, 2000, 2004)