By Erica MacCreaigh, Senior Library Consultant, Colorado State Library
With more than 1% of the American adult population currently behind bars and increasing acknowledgement by lawmakers that recidivism must be curtailed, there are more opportunities than ever for librarians to serve the most chronically underserved library patrons in the country—prisoners. Rallying the troops with a call to service and a message of inspiration, Colorado State Library Senior Consultant, Erica MacCreaigh, presented “Do You Belong in Jail? Careers in Correctional Libraries” to an audience of more than 50 people at the ALA conference on July 11. Opening with the salvo that many librarians belong in prison—they just don’t know it, yet—MacCreaigh exposed the realities of life and work behind bars, dispelled myths about incarcerated offenders, spotlighted the crisis of mass incarceration in America, and presented a profile of personal and professional traits that make for successful correctional librarianship. Audience members participated in a lively Q&A session and long-time veteran correctional librarians Glennor Shirley and Vibeke Lehmann were on hand to share combined decades of expertise.
In the post-workshop evaluation, several attendees expressed interest in correctional librarianship as a career. One stated, “Thank you for sharing this—especially to those of us who would never have considered this career otherwise.” Librarians already working with offenders commended the program as “insightful” and “informative” and one wrote, “It made me proud to be a jail librarian.”
“Do You Belong in Jail?” is currently under revision for public viewing on the Colorado State Library’s website and should be available online in late Fall 2009.