Saturday, November 24, 2007

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography Part 3 of 3

This post is part of a series exploring prisoners as a user group with distinct information needs. The next segments are an annotated bibliography with applied search strategies. Please click below to read further:

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography
Part 1
Part 2

Lithgow, S., & Hepworth, J. B. (1993). Performance measurement in prison libraries: research methods, problems, and perspectives. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 25(2), 61-9.

University of Wales’ Department of Information Science and Library Studies conducted a research project to develop and test a series of performance indicators for use in evaluating prison libraries to improve their effectiveness and efficiency, through a literature survey and a pilot study. The study assessed the current practices of prison libraries, including structured interviews with inmates and staff, opinion leader interviews, test site selection, observation and monitoring. Inmate interviews of a minimum of 10% of the population were conducted at two women’s prisons and four men’s prisons.

I searched the Library Literature and Information Science database in Dialog with this search statement:
ss prison libraries/DE AND (research OR survey?)

Stevens, T. (1994). The information needs of prisoners: a study of three penal establishments. Library and Information Research News, 18(60), 29-33.

A 1992 study, based on three prisons, inspects inmates’ information needs and how effectively they were met. The length of sentence and the time left to serve exercises control over information needs, and the institutions’ administration determines the inmates’ satisfaction. Formal information channels such as the library may be perceived as ineffective by inmates, regardless of their objective validity. Informal networks among inmates were the most preferred source of information.

I searched LISA for “prisoner* AND librar* AND research.”

Stevens, T. (1993). The role of the prison library in the reform and rehabilitation process. Library and Information Research News, 16(57), 13-5.

A study of prison libraries in England and Wales determined how prison libraries define their roles and objectives, their participation in rehabilitation programs within their institutions, and the effectiveness of their participation. It also examines how the prisoners’ information and usage needs are met through these programs.

I searched LISA with “prison libraries” in the descriptor field and “program*” in the keyword field.

Womboh, B. S. (1995). Research summary: an assessment of Nigerian prison libraries. Third World Libraries, 5(2), 74-5.

A questionnaire survey of prison officials and inmates at three Nigerian prisons analyzed prisoner usage of the library. Findings showed that the low use of prison libraries were caused by inaccessibility, poor resources, and inhuman prison conditions, not a lack of the inmates’ desire or ability. Intellectual growth was found to play a significant role in the reform and rehabilitation of incarcerated criminals in Nigeria.

I searched LISA with “prison libraries” in the descriptor field and “survey” in the keyword field.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography Part 2 of 3

This post is part of a series exploring prisoners as a user group with distinct information needs. The next segments are an annotated bibliography with applied search strategies. Please click below to read further:

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography
Part 1
Part 3

Jones, P. (2004). Reaching out to young adults in jail. Young Adult Library Services, 3 (1), 16-8.

This survey of 44 public libraries, with 16 responses, revealed that few public libraries provide services to juvenile correctional facilities. Despite the restrictions on what materials could be accessed, the teenage users benefited from access. Details on prisoner usage in Hennepin County, Minnesota demonstrated this, with the creation of reading and writing promotional activities and a 5,000-item collection.

I searched LISA for “prison libraries” and “surveys” as keywords.

Kozup, P. C. (1992). Major issues in prison librarianship: a case study of three libraries. Unpublished masters thesis, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.

A case study of three prison librarians analyzed their methods of meeting the needs of prison library users. Issues examined were prisoner usage, including access, library-based programs, and outreach services, inmate staff in libraries, in including selection, training, and evaluation, and collection development. Results indicate that the library’s service varies according to the prison administration and staff, physical space, civilian staffing availability, and the type and number of prisoners in the institution.

I searched the Eric database through Dialog with this search statement:
ss ((correctional institutions/de AND librar?) OR (prisoners/de AND librar?) OR prison libraries/de) AND (use studies/de OR library surveys/de OR research needs/de OR state surveys/de OR users/de OR case studies/de)

LaPoint, V. A. (1997). Electronic resources in Ohio prison libraries. Unpublished masters thesis, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.

A survey questionnaire was sent to 29 state prison libraries of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections; twenty-two responded to the survey for a response rate of 76%. The survey analyzed prisoner access and usage of electronic resources, describing general operational procedures and current standards. Prisoners were able to access a variety of data made possible by OPAC, CD-ROMs, modems, Internet access, cooperative networks and interlibrary loan activity, and periodicals. The data indicated that most prison librarians think the addition of electronic resources can save space, save costs, and provide better access to information to meet prisoner needs.

I searched the Eric database through Dialog with this search statement:
ss prison libraries/DE AND questionnaire*

Liggett, J. M. (1996). Survey of Ohio’s prison libraries. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, 7(1), 31-45.

A survey of Ohio prison libraries collected information about library users, types of materials, serial subscriptions, circulation, budget, size, security, hours, automation, and librarian qualifications.

I searched the Eric database through Dialog with this search statement:
ss ((correctional institutions/de AND librar?) OR (prisoners/de AND librar?) OR prison libraries/de) AND (use studies/de OR users/de)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography Part 1 of 3

This post is part of a series exploring prisoners as a user group with distinct information needs. The next segments are an annotated bibliography with applied search strategies. Please click below to read further:

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography
Part 2
Part 3

Boutilier, S., Chan, H., Curry, A., & Wolf, K. (2003). Canadian federal prison libraries: a national survey. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 35(3), 141-152.

A nationwide survey of Canada’s 51 minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security federal prisons was conducted in 2001 through a mailed questionnaire to the head librarian. The survey gathered information about the users, as well as staffing, funding, the collection, and limitations on acquisitions and access. The respondents believed that the prisoner usage of the library materials were meeting recreational, cultural, educational, and informative needs, but more funding was needed.

I searched Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA) with “prison libraries” in the descriptor field and “research OR survey?” in the keyword field.

Bowden, T. S. (2003). A snapshot of state prison libraries with a focus on technology. Behavioral and Social Sciences Librarian, 21(2), 1-12.

A nationwide survey of 207 state prisons, representative of the national population in terms of size, security level, and sex distribution, studied current trends of prisoner usage of technology. Almost 97% of the prisons had libraries offering a variety of print and electronic resources, although staffing, size, and budgets varied. Prisoners could access computers, with sporadic training, at almost half of the facilities, and access to word processing, CDs and library catalogs were common. Monitored Internet usage was only available at one library.

I searched LISA with “prison libraries” in the descriptor field and “technology” in the keyword field.

Glennor, L. S. (2003). Correctional libraries, library standards, and diversity. Journal of Correctional Education, 54(2), 70-4.

An online questionnaire of 110 state prison libraries examined prisoner usage, service, programs, and collections; 35 responses from 12 states were received. The survey reviewed the racial breakdown of inmates and staff, racial conflicts, the collection and its development criteria, cultural programs, and the satisfaction level of users. Using the Library Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions as a model, defined as meeting the informational, cultural, educational, vocational, and recreational needs of its users, librarians analyzed the demographics of library users and determined other services and programs available in the institution. Although the survey indicates that most prison librarians aspire to operate under the same model as public libraries, in practice this is difficult because of the restrictions imposed by prison administration, which curtails prisoner library usage.

I searched the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) for “prison* AND librar* AND information* AND needs.”

Haymann-Diaz, B. (1989). Establishing a selection process model for an ethnic collection in a prison library. Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 8(1-2), 33-49.

This case study examines the selection process used by two inmate/library assistants to develop Hispanic and African-American ethnic collections in a prison library to meet inmate informational needs. Its findings are used to formulate a selection process model for the development of ethnic collections to encourage and support prisoner usage of the library.

I searched the Eric database in Dialog with this search statement:
ss prison libraries/de AND prison(w)librar?/ti AND (study or research)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature Part 3 of 3

This post is part of a series exploring prisoners as a user group with distinct information needs, beginning with a review of the literature. Please click below to read further:

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature
Part 1
Part 2

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Technology

Studies that examined technology in correctional libraries found that prisoners have access to computers with legal, reference, and educational software, but they usually do not have internet access due to safety concerns. This means that a prisoner with a long incarceration period, who will return to the community, will be at a disadvantage in seeking critical information. Shirley (2003), in an online questionnaire of 110 state prison libraries examining prisoner usage, service, programs, and collections, reported success with a CD-ROM in Maryland prisons that explained the internet and its practical uses to inmates. The purpose was not only to increase their knowledge of this vital resource, but also to temper unrealistic ideas about what a librarian can and cannot find when the prisoners submitted information requests.

LaPoint’s 1997 survey of Ohioan prisoner access and usage of electronic resources described general operational procedures and current standards. Prisoners were able to fulfill their user needs through OPAC, CD-ROMs, modems, monitored internet access, cooperative networks and interlibrary loan activity, and periodicals. LaPoint found that 81% of the librarians she surveyed said they had difficulty answering reference questions because of the lack of electronic resources, and 95% believed security could still be maintained with improved, accessible electronic resources. One librarian stated, “in this system, standard library procedures are difficult to implement. Automaton and information technologies [are] almost impossible to integrate into daily operations. I could dramatically increase service, reduce costs, and integrate into a local network if I was allowed” (p. 20). LaPoint argued that the benefits of electronic implementation would increase inmate user needs by replacing printed materials, which can be damaged or stolen, providing access to more info sources for staff and inmates, as well as saving costs, the need for storage, and librarians’ time.

Further Research

Future studies should continue to focus on user satisfaction, censorship, and technology. To improve user satisfaction, Wales should update or adapt its own set of prison guidelines with performance measures. Similarly, Canada should develop its own national set of standards and guidelines to measure its service. As censorship can be an issue between librarians and prison administration, Kozup suggested a study that investigates the relationship between these camps to determine any causal relationship that alters the censorship of materials. Since the rate of technology continues to grow at an astounding rate, studies looking at technology can always be repeated in three to five years to gauge improvement in meeting the user needs of inmates. These are but a few suggestions for further research and documentation in these vast subject areas.

Conclusion

As library users, prisoners are disadvantaged by a disproportionately high level of illiteracy, lack of education, insufficient vocational skills, and a high rate of mental illness. One can safely say that incarcerated persons have a large number of unmet needs, which translate into a high demand for information, learning materials, and self-improvement resources; the library, in cooperation with other prison programs, can play a vital role in meeting these needs. Inmates who want to use their time constructively are likely to become avid library users. As release nears, the prison library can provide them with a wealth of job-related materials as well as community information that may help them survive the first critical months on the outside. Prisoners user needs, from initial lock-up to final discharge, can be met through implementation of the guidelines outlined in Library standards for adult correctional institutions. More than any other group, inmates, who have so many privileges stripped from them, uphold the right to have their user needs fulfilled.

References

American Library Association. (1992). Library standards for adult correctional institutions. Chicago: Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies.

Bowden, T. S. (2003). A snapshot of state prison libraries with a focus on technology. Behavioral and Social Sciences Librarian, 21(2), 1-12.

Curry, A., Wolf, K., Boutilier, S., &. Chan, H. (2003). Canadian federal prison libraries: National survey. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 35, 141-152.

Haymann-Diaz, B. (1989). Establishing a selection process model for an ethnic collection in a prison library. Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 8, 33-49.

Jones, P. (2004). Reaching out to young adults in jail. Young Adult Library Services, 3 (1), 16-18.

Kozup, P. C. (1992). Major issues in prison librarianship: A case study of three libraries. Unpublished masters thesis, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.

LaPoint, V. A. (1997). Electronic resources in Ohio prison libraries. Unpublished masters thesis, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.

Library Association (1981). Library Association guidelines for library provision in penal department establishments. 2nd ed. London: Library Association

Liggett, J. M. (1996). Survey of Ohio’s prison libraries. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, 7(1), 31-45.

Lithgow, S., & Hepworth, J. B. (1993). Performance measurement in prison libraries: Research methods, problems, and perspectives. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 25, 61-69.

Shirley, G. L. (2003). Correctional libraries, library standards, and diversity. Journal of Correctional Education, 54, 70-74.

Stevens, T. (1994). The information needs of prisoners: A study of three penal establishments. Library and Information Research News, 18, 29-33.

U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2003). Tables No. 348, 349, 350. In U.S. Census Bureau. Statistical abstracts of the United States: 2003 (pp. 218-219). Washington, DC: GPO

Monday, November 5, 2007

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature Part 2 of 3

This post is part of a series exploring prisoners as a user group with distinct information needs, beginning with a review of the literature. Please click below to read further:

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature
Part 1
Part 3

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Standards and Guidelines

The American Library Association’s Library standards for adult correctional institutions (1992) is the benchmark for establishing and maintaining prison library services. It outlines access, minimum standards for staffing, budget, facility size, and collection—elements that are necessary for the provision of acceptable library services in correctional facilities. Prison librarians aim to emulate the public library’s role as a community information center, a formal education support center, an independent learning center, a popular materials library, and a reference library. However, services and facilities vary among and within states, depending on politics, the administration’s philosophy, budget, and the nature of the institution. Certain prison facilities are concerned about complying with federal guidelines for access to the courts and have little interest in general library services. Others, recognizing the importance of rehabilitation for successful reentry into the community, have supported library collections and services that encourage information seeking and reading for pleasure or for self-help.

Widening the standards focus outside of the United States, the prisons studied in Wales use the Library Association’s (1981) Guidelines for library provision in penal establishments, although Lithgow and Hepworth (1993) warn that librarians must move beyond guidelines to universal performance measures. Curry, Wolf, Boutilier and Chan (2003) report that Canadian prison libraries have no official guidelines or standards and abide by region- or institution-specific guidelines.

User Satisfaction

Lithgow and Hepworth’s study revealed the difficulties associated with conducting research in a prison setting and showed that many indicators frequently used to assess library performance are inappropriate for a prison library. A survey of library opening hours is meaningless, for example, if inmates are allowed only one 20-minute visit per week. They suggested that customized indicators, which take into account the daily prison regime, are needed. Lithgow and Hepworth also discussed the challenges of prison library reference service, particularly the importance of serving all inmates in a non-judgmental manner because they can feel vulnerable or intimidated especially if literacy is an issue. Their study indicated that 81% of prison library users would use the public library upon release.

User satisfaction was also increased by collections both developed by and representative of minorities. Haymann-Diaz (1989) explored ethnic collections created by minority inmate library assistants in the Greenhaven Correctional Facility in Stormville, New York, finding that the core criterion for the collections were materials that emphasized unification between the historical and cultural backgrounds of various nationalities considered African-American and Hispanic. Acquiring books suggested by prisoners and balancing between educational and recreational materials amplified the usage and satisfaction levels of the facility’s inmates, as well as empowering the library assistants who developed the collections.

A 1996 survey of Ohio prison libraries by Liggett demonstrated that prison libraries are diverse, even within one state. Liggett found that Ohio’s federal prisons vary greatly regarding space per inmate, budgets, access to the library, available materials, librarian qualifications, and categories of censored materials. Despite their diversity, Ohio prison libraries are used by a large percentage of their population, and the inmates check out a large number of materials. One argument advanced by the study is that prison libraries should have a higher profile because they exhibit library use rates that are considerably higher (65% of the prison population) than those of public libraries (42% of the national population).

Stevens’ (1994) research on the role of the prison library in the reform and rehabilitation process identified a number of areas in which the work of the prison library can have an important influence. He argued that much of the information held in a prison library could be used by inmates to have a direct and positive influence on their future behavior. Perhaps most crucially, providing the information relating to the offending behavior patterns of inmates is of more importance than trying to address their “everyday problems.” Interestingly enough, he found that the length of sentence and the time left to serve affect the inmates’ information needs. He also reported that the nature of the administration at the institution determines user satisfaction. For instance, a higher emphasize on security will restrict the inmate’s opportunities for access information.

Stevens discovered that some inmates perceive that formal channels of information, like prison libraries, are ineffective in satisfying their information needs and may rely on informal information networks among inmates themselves instead. He explained, “There is easier access to fellow prisoners, other inmates may possess exclusive information, they may offer affective support and they are perceived as more reliable and trustworthy than staff” (p. 33). This critical attitude may influence both user needs and ultimately user satisfaction more than any other factor considered in these reviewed works.

Censorship

Although The Standards assert the prisoner’s right to read and non-censorship, except for obvious security and pornographic issues, many librarians face scrutiny by prison personnel who try to impose restrictions on certain library materials. This, in turn, impounds the prisoner’s user needs by obstructing or restraining important information.

Bowden (2003) conducted a nationwide survey of 207 state prisons, representative of the national population in terms of size, security level, and sex distribution. In an open-ended question about restricted resources, she noticed the following trends, representative of censorship queries in the other studies reviewed. Pornography (mentioned by 43% of respondents) was the most banned material, followed by weapons manufacturing (31%), violence, martial arts, drug manufacturing, and prison escapes (10% each). Receiving smaller percentages were literature about hate groups, gangs, homosexuals, survivalism, revolution, the occult, organized crime, true crime, and computer access, as well as road maps and medical information. Curry et al.’s survey of Canada’s 51 minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security federal prisons reported similar conclusions to Bowden, with the additional ban of manuals about the internet and home repairs. Bowden discovered that even though librarians order items, the administration has the ultimate decision regarding acquisition. This finding was echoed in every work in this review that queried on censorship.

Besides subject matter, some materials were restricted because of their physical nature, such as hardbound books and computer discs (Bowden). Jones (2004) surveyed public libraries that provided services to juvenile correctional facilities and reported that magazines and spiral-bound books were banned at some institutions because the staples and spirals could be used as weapons. Despite the restrictions on theme or physicality, prison library users mentioned in Jones study reported a wish to use libraries on the outside, improved reading levels and attitudes towards reading in an independent study.

Surprisingly, Curry et al. were the only research study coordinators to ask about the appeals process for challenged materials. Forty-one percent said the process was available, and 24% said it was not. The rest checked “unknown” or provided no answer, which is troubling because it indicated that the staff was uncertain about procedures in this controversial subject area. It also pointed to a possible tension between the relationship between the administration and librarians regarding censored materials.

For instance, Kozup’s (1992) case study of three prison librarians, which analyzed their methods of meeting the needs of prison library users, reported a procedure in which items were canceled from an order without the librarian being notified. Despite an agreement that items were not to be challenged until they arrived in the institution, materials continued to be canceled—without notifying the librarian or being viewed by authorities. Similarly, Jones noted that a librarian reported that a guard from the facility examined materials and decided whether the inmate could have it and other staff members removed items from prisoners that they found personally offensive.

Security is a shared concern between librarians and the prison administration, and the restriction of some items, such as pornography and escape literature, seems reasonable. However, Bowden found that in some prison libraries, medical literature is banned so that prisoners cannot fake illnesses, yet wondered how ailing prisoners could have their user needs filled. Bowden wrote, “For librarians, this is an example of the inherent conflict between the professional mandate to provide access to information and restrictive institutional requirements” (p. 10).

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature Part 1 of 3

This post is part of a series exploring prisoners as a user group with distinct information needs, beginning with a review of the literature. Please click below to read further:

Information Needs of Prisoners: A Review of the Literature
Part 2
Part 3

Information Needs of Prisoners: Annotated Bibliography
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still an absorbed.
Germaine Greer, 1989

In prison, those things withheld from and denied to the prisoner become precisely what he wants most of all.
Eldridge Cleaver, 1968

Introduction

This paper presents a literature review of user studies conducted on the information needs of prison inmates. Using primarily the American Library Association’s Library standards for adult correctional institutions as an outline for professional library service in an institutional setting, this review of literature examines issues concerning user satisfaction, censorship, and technology. Of the prison system, George Bernard Shaw once wrote that there were three official objectives: “vengeance, deterrence, and reformation of the criminal, only one is achieved; and that is the one which is nakedly abominable.” Yet he overlooked the prison library, a means of reformation, empowerment, and even entertainment to its patrons. As a correctional library user stated, “In a prison, one of the few things we rely on is getting the truth, the right information” (Stevens, 1994, p. 32). In this search for truth—for survival—inmates use the library with a determined purpose, one in which librarians must uphold in terms of professional service.

Characterization of the User Group

According to a recent 2003 survey of the prison population by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 3.1% of the adult population in the United States is either on probation, in jail, in prison, or on parole. The prison population is over 1.3 million, more than four times what it was in 1980. The population is overwhelmingly (93%) male and contained a disproportionate number of minorities. The largest demographic group is black and Hispanic males aged 20 to 39 (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003). In general, the prison population is less educated than the general population, but one out of every ten state prison inmates and one of every six federal prison inmates have some college education (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics). The prison population is a microcosm of the general population from which it is drawn and can be divided along many different lines for the purposes of analyzing information needs.

Scope of Literature Reviewed

A majority of the studies were conducted in the 1990s, with several in the early 2000s, and one from 1989. Geographically, the studies were conducted mostly in America, with three inquiries carried out in Ohio, due in part to Kent State’s esteemed library and information science program; other studies focused on prison library users in Canada and Wales. The articles were located in diverse databases, including ERIC, Library and Information Science Abstracts, Library Literature and Information Science, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Two studies were masters theses; two each were from Behavioral and Social Sciences Librarian and the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. Other publications included the Journal of Correctional Education, the Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Library and Information Research News, and Young Adult Library Services.

Methodologies

Questionnaires by work reviewed, year, geographic scope, and response rate:
Bowden, 2003, US, 44% (200 of 455)
Curry et al., 2003, Canada, 73% (37 of 51)
Jones, 2004, US, 36% (16 of 44)
LaPoint, 1997, Ohio, 76% (22 of 29)
Liggett, 1996, Ohio, 57% (12 of 21)
Shirley, 2003, US, 32% (35 of 110)

Interviews by work reviewed, year, geographic scope, and details:
Haymann-Diaz, 1989, New York, 2 inmates at 1 site
Kozup, 1992, Ohio, 3 staff at 3 sites
Lithgow, 1993, Wales, 270 inmates, approx. 42 staff at 6 sites
Stevens, 1994, Wales, 36 inmates, 24 staff at 3 sites