Partnership across Ramsey County enables equitable access to Library collection
A partnership between Ramsey County Correctional Facility, Library and Information Services departments has helped remove barriers for correctional facility residents by giving them access to current library materials. This new approach helps residents access books they are interested in that the preexisting correctional facility library does not have.
“One of the limitations of the internal library was that materials were made up largely of discarded books from Ramsey County Library, providing a limited collection that doesn't often match what residents are looking for,” says Meg Robertson, Library Manager. “Other books funded by a grant were used and passed so often they are now in need of repair or replacement. We were trying to find a way to provide access to the public library book collection.” While some residents are looking for popular authors or titles, others want more current non-fiction for research. A few residents have had specific requests such as a book on Hmong folk tales or an English-Russian dictionary which are available through the library’s main collection.
The current program uses a secure kiosk that residents can use to send requests for books. Librarians fulfill the requests and make a delivery once a week. If the book is not available, the librarians can give suggestions for similar books or authors and also offer recommendations for specific genres to help residents new to the idea of book requesting.
“The new model started in early 2022; it’s working great and is more equitable,” says Abby Roza, school instructor at Ramsey County Correctional Facility. “It really is a joy to see books that residents have requested get dropped off by the librarians. “Books that we weren’t able to fulfill here at the correctional facility. Our plan is to make the books from the internal library available for residents to browse. This will supplement Ramsey County Library’s service by offering a few reading choices in between library deliveries.”
Residents are given temporary library accounts that will expire when they leave the facility. This process allows residents the opportunity to start fresh at a public library during re-entry. The program is off to a great start–in the first delivery under this program, 99 items were requested. In the first five weeks of the program, there were 60 new library cards holders and 417 items were checked out. Currently, librarians have delivered 939 books to over 100 residents.
"I love the fact that just about any resource we need, the librarians do their very best to accommodate us. They stay professional and are always willing to help when asked." says Eugene, a current resident.