An interesting discussion has popped up on yalsa-lockdown, a listserve set up to discuss issues unique to librarians working with incarcerated youth. A few weeks ago librarians started discussing getting together at ALA and now a meetup is being planned for the Saturday evening of the ALA conference in New Orleans. This meetup is a great idea.
There have been some inspiring presentations on working with incarcerated youth at past ALA conferences. At every ALA that I am able to attend, I always look forward to attending presentations on serving this unique population. While incarcerated, teens, with the encouragement of staff and outreach librarians, often pick up books for recreational reading – sometimes for the first time their life. Most of the distractions of teen life are gone. There are no cell phones, friends, family, neighborhood drama, and limited television.
A big part of serving incarcerated youth is working within the rules and structure of the centers where the teens are held. I have personally helped in two different centers in two different states and the librarians in both locations have understood the huge importance of getting books into the hands of incarcerated youth. Currently, I am working in a new state and library system and have been working with the local detention center for a few years now. The teachers make sure to set aside time each class day for reading but overcoming obstacles to get students even more time with books has been a challenge that I am still working on.
I am sure there are other librarians who would be interested in this meetup. Please check out the new wiki at PBworks.com, libraryservicestoincarceratedyouth. On the wiki are links to booklists, articles, research, and a place to sign up if interested in attending the meetup in New Orleans this summer on Saturday, June 25th 8-9 PM.
Hope to see you there!