“During lockdown, I am really missing my sessions volunteering in the prison libraries. One morning a week under normal circumstances, I go into one of the three libraries to support the Library Officers and Orderlies in keeping things ship-shape by tidying and ordering the shelves, and to encourage prisoners to borrow books.
I love reading and using libraries myself, so it gives me a lot of satisfaction to have the opportunity to help newly arrived people in prison to navigate the shelves and to suggest authors and titles, if asked. The libraries are stocked by the prison, but we can also access books from Cambridgeshire Libraries. If a prisoner cannot find the title that they are looking for, then it can be ordered in.
One of the positive aspects of having the libraries in prison is that they offer a small area of ‘normality’ within an otherwise closed environment. A library visit also offers the chance for a little peace and quiet to people in prison. For those who wish to carry out legal research concerning their own cases, the libraries carry a stock of reference books for this purpose. The prison libraries are the base for the Storybook Dads and Storybook Mums scheme and also for other initiatives, for example The Shannon Trust, which teaches non-readers to read.
I am motivated, also, by the hope that people in prison who have enjoyed their experience of the prison library, and who perhaps previously had not accessed the public library system, will want to engage with it when they are released.”