Op/Ed: In Washington State, “State, Local Libraries Rebuilding Lives After Prison”
From an Everett Herald Commentary by Washington Sec. of State, Steve Hobbs and Sara Jones, Washington State Librarian:
In 2016, Gov. Jay Inslee prompted state and local agencies to collaborate on improving outcomes for people re-entering society. The State Library’s Institutional Library Services — which has operated libraries in state correctional facilities for more than half a century — partnered with the DOC and public libraries to register people preparing to re-enter society for library cards with their local libraries before they are released.
This Institutional Library Services’ initiative encourages participating community libraries to provide prison librarians with physical library cards for inmates as they prepare for release to their home communities. The state library registers the patrons with the respective community library’s website and issues a library card. The patrons can use it upon release without having to contact or visit the library to set up an account.
All participating public libraries maintain patron confidentiality, which helps reduce any sense of stigma a patron may feel re-entering society.
Today, nine public libraries and library systems work closely with the Office of the Secretary of State to open their doors to former inmates and offer free, unfettered access to vital community resources. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with these libraries and their leadership, including Everett Public Library Director Abigail Cooley and Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson, to bring a world of imagination and lifelong learning to people who are formerly incarcerated. To date, the Institutional Library Services and our partner libraries have activated nearly 300 patron cards for people preparing to re-enter communities.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.