Prison libraries change lives

15.35 – Wednesday 4th July

This session, run jointly by CILIP’s Prison Libraries Group and Community, Diversity & Equality Group, will look at work in prison libraries that has changed lives. As well as brief presentations, there will be an opportunity to discuss with Group members the wide range of work that Prison Libraries undertake.

Libraries change lives: Cognitive stimulation therapy at HMP Norwich Library

The Library at HMP Norwich, in association with the Norwich Forget me Nots, has been running a ground breaking programme of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) for five and a half years. This group therapy for people with memory loss and dementia enhances cognition, mood, wellbeing and social engagement. It has been transformative for the group of vulnerable and socially isolated older prisoners who attend. This project was awarded the CILIP Libraries Change Lives award of 2017. This short presentation discusses the CST project and reflects on the experience and impacts of winning Libraries Change Lives.

Gemma Williams, Librarian, HMP Norwich
Gemma Williams has been the librarian at HMP Norwich for five and a half years. A former Mental Health nurse, Gemma has a special interest in person-centred dementia care and is a member of Norfolk Library and Information Service’s Dementia Friendly Libraries Group. She has a passion for libraries as community spaces that support wellbeing.

Book bench out on temporary release 

This session is an introduction to working in a High Security Prison: the everyday challenges and the complications for activities and events. It will consider the development of partnership working in a High Security Prison and working with multiple partners. Examining both the national and local goals, the session will show how this project has led to other partnership working and community involvement.

Bridget McKeown, Prison Librarian, HMP Manchester
Bridget previously worked in early years, with children and their families both in nursery settings and in the community. This led her to working in libraries as part of a wider Sure Start team offering direct support to disadvantaged families. She promoted language and literacy and making books, rhymes and talking to children a natural and everyday part of life. She ran library and community sessions and helped to deliver the Book Start Program. When the Prison Library post came up, it was something that she had seen advertised previously but had been unable to apply so when it came up again she jumped at it and was successful. And she loves it! She is an integral part of the team, works with a volunteer on the Shannon Trust Turning Pages Reading Program and is involved daily with the running of the library and meeting the men’s needs in this setting.


How prison libraries can change lives

Linda will be sharing the individual writings of three prisoners whose lives have been changed by reading and the prison library.

Linda Collins, Prison Librarian
After an extended career in both public libraries in a range of diverse roles including Local History, Childrens and Cultural Diversity and the School Library Service for Portsmouth CC and Hampshire CC,  Linda applied for the post of Prison Librarian at HMP Ford in West Sussex. The last two years have been a very interesting and varied experience. Linda feels fortunate that Ford is an Open Prison so that her library service can be easily accessed. She is looking forward to sharing her experience of a wonderful, and shewould say unique opportunity to affect a positive influence upon the lives of her readers.

Books unlocked

Alan will look back on the history of Books Unlocked in Staffordshire Prisons. From its humble beginnings as a chance to establish a reading group comprising only Young Offenders, to getting National Prison Radio involved, taking the project in to seven prisons and then involving the local community including schools, workplaces and public libraries.

Alan Smith, Prison Library Service Advisor, Staffordshire County Council Prison Library Service

Alan is an author working part-time for the Prison Library Service in Staffordshire. He has been part of the PLS for 11 years and has taken part in a number of projects that have gained national recognition. In 2011 Alan appeared on C4’s The Secret Millionaire alongside Dragon’s Den star Piers Linney looking at his work in HMYOI Brinsford. Alan has been interviewed by BBC Radio 4 and The Bookseller regarding his work in prisons. Alan has won the Margret Watson Award and the CILIP award of Excellence for the projects he has overseen in Staffordshire. He created the ‘Community Model’ of Books Unlocked in Staffordshire which is now being rolled out nationally.

Session Chair: John Vincent

John has worked in the public sector since the 1960s, primarily for Hertfordshire, Lambeth and Enfield library services. In 1997, he was invited to become part of the team that produced the UK’s first review of public libraries and social exclusion (from which The Network originated).

John now runs courses and lectures, writes, produces regular newsletters and ebulletins, and lobbies for greater awareness of the role that libraries, archives, museums, and the cultural & heritage sector play in contributing to social justice. He is particularly interested in supporting the work that libraries do with young people in care, with LGBTQ people, and with ‘new arrivals’ to the UK.

In September 2010, the book he co-wrote with John Pateman, ‘Public libraries and social justice’, was published by Ashgate (now Routledge); and, in January 2014, he published ‘LGBT people and the UK cultural sector’ . In 2014, John was given a CILIP CDEG Special Diversity Award, and, in September 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of CILIP.