Taking their February 4th meeting off-site, METRO’s Prison Librarians SIG
got an up-close look at the libraries of Arthur Kill Correctional Facility. About 10 librarians and library school students took the trip from Manhattan to the all-male medium-security prison located on Staten Island’s South Shore. Former Arthur Kill librarian and current SIG convener Carl Romalis led the group.
The tour started off by meeting with three of the library’s current staff, who discussed their work in the education and reentry departments. While the library is much more than a roaming book cart, it is certainly not a place where inmates pass their days idly. All inmates at Arthur Kill are required to participate in a GED program, and from there, those who excel may apply to take college-level courses. After the tour, one participant commented, “…that image of educational achievement against heavy odds is what sticks with me most”.
A few of the participants also noted with some surprise that the collections contained in the general library are varied and well-maintained. While internet access is prohibited for security reasons, current periodicals and newspapers are available. Inmates are also able and encouraged to use Arthur Kill’s library as a job prep resource; texts on how to write a successful cover letter and more are easily accessible. The group spoke with one inmate who, after working as a clerk in the prison library, has decided to pursue librarianship in the future.
Arthur Kill’s law library was the last stop. Here, inmates can use resources to perform legal research on their own cases. The law library is staffed not only by librarians but by legal clerks as well, and is equipped with additional computers and reference texts.