Today UW–Madison News published an article by Sean Kirkby featuring the work and success of the Jail Library Group, a student volunteer-run organization that serves the inmates in the Dane County’s Public Safety Building and City-County Building. JLG, as it is often known, is an excellent model of the unexpected actions librarians and libraries can take to better serve their community.
JLG has been part of UW–Madison’s School of Information and Library Studies since 1992, founded by Mike Exum (an education graduate student at the time) and Michele Besant, a SLIS Master’s student then but now a senior special librarian and associate director of SLIS.
Current students of SLIS continue the legacy, improving services and expanding the collection.
Collections are cultivated through donations, purchases made after fundraising, and even an Amazon wish list filled with most requested items. JLG helps to reveal the desire of inmates to keep reading and educating oneself, as well as reveals the goals of the inmates. Some of the most popular books requested are items we take for granted, like dictionaries, as well as SAT, ACT, and GED preparatory materials. “We have people who really want almanacs and books that you wouldn’t think of, and you’re always surprised,” says Erin Anthony, co-president of the Jail Library Group. “You find yourself surprised too by how much you become invested in trying to fill some of the requests. If someone asks for something really unique, you want to be able to fill it.”
Want to know more? Head over to the article on UW–Madison News.