A Library in a Different Setting

I loved today’s Washington Post article on Glennor Shirley and her work in Maryland prison libraries. It changed my viewpoint in a lot of ways. I think of prisons as very frightening places. No one would ever want family members in such places if they could possibly help it, which underscores the importance of encouraging someone to always travel the wise, loving, and encouraging road and to make good decisions. But then the person has to decide for himself or herself.

It struck me that inmates also see the library as a safe, welcoming place to learn things, read job preparation books, do legal research, or just enjoy good books. The article said that library days were very looked forward to. I can certainly relate.

I wonder how someone can get donations to prison libraries if he or she is not able to drive? Something to think about as I weed out my collection, which will take forever, it seems. The article also led me to a wonderful blog called Prison Librarian. Not only does it educate people about the field and the importance of prison libraries; I also found two new books to read at some point. The cycle never ends. 🙂

As I write this, I recall the work of an inmate in a Maryland correctional facility who was also a writer. His name was Larry, I think; that’s all I remember of his byline in the Washington Post from many years ago. He took writing classes in prison, and was lucky enough to be published several times there. A favorite was his essay about building a kite out of newspaper and wood in the prison yard and flying it. The last line was: “In the spring, I fly kites.”

I haven’t flown a kite since I was 7, and I loved it. The one I bought several years ago is still in storage. I will once again miss the Smithsonian Kite Festival. Oh well, perhaps next year…

I am pleased that I have seen increased media coverage of ways to help former inmates transition back into society. We all have challenges, but for them it’s an especially difficult journey.

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Filed under Everyday Goings-On, Favorite Essays

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