S.F. Public Library awarded millions of dollars to expand services for the incarcerated

Access to library resources is critical to rehabilitation, says Mayor London Breed

By Bay City News

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the San Francisco Public Library a $2 million grant to expand services for people incarcerated locally and nationally.

The grant will support a collaboration between the library and the American Library Association, according to a news release issued Jan. 13 by the office of Mayor London Breed.

“For many who are incarcerated, access to information and resources through the library is a lifeline and critical to their rehabilitation process,” Breed said.

The program includes several elements, including creating a comprehensive survey of existing models for library services to people in jails and prisons and a revision of outdated standards in collaboration with formerly incarcerated people and librarians, developing an interactive map that can be used to locate library services for incarcerated individuals nationwide, and creating a yearlong virtual training series led by SFPL staff and other experts in the field. Additionally, the program will pilot digital literacy trainings to support people in the process of reentry.

City Librarian Michael Lambert said there is little information publicly available about the types of services available to those who are incarcerated.

“This project will allow us to see where library services exist, where they can be better supported, and to provide that support through collaborations and training that will ultimately increase the amount of library services inside of jails, juvenile detention centers and prisons,” Lambert added. “Our justice-involved patrons deserve more equitable access to the full spectrum of library programs and collections.”

Pending approval by the Board of Supervisors, the program could begin in the coming months.

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