WA Secretary of State Blogs

A Library with No Books

March 5th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Institutional Library Services, State Library Collections, Uncategorized No Comments »

Kathleen Benoun, long time Library Associate at the Western State Hospital Library in Lakewood, WA, is an amateur historian who spends a lot of personal time researching the history of the hospital, and the library itself.  Kathleen recently shared this interesting story about opening day of the library back in 1950.

Can you imagine opening day at a library without a book or librarian in sight?  That’s exactly what happened in 1950 on the grounds of Western State Hospital.  The Tacoma newspaper photograph you see below accompanied a story about the budget crisis of 1949 that diverted monies for the Staff Research and Patient Libraries to other building projects on campus.

Thankfully, the Legislature held a special session to fund both libraries and the Research Institute that occupied other floors of the building.

Washington State Hospital Library 1950

Washington State Hospital Library 1950 (from the Tacoma News Tribune??)












Since then and many budget crises later, the Patient Library has endured to provide leisure, educational, and therapeutic resources for both patients and staff.

Washington State Hospital Library 2014

Washington State Hospital Library 2014

The shelves are no longer empty.  Now the library houses 8574 books and 5610 CD/DVDs in the collection, as well as popular magazines and local newspapers

Beyond the physical resources the library provides, over the years, Kathleen visited every ward in the hospital to present Library programs.  Her goal was to both entertain and encourage the patients to borrow from the collection or use library services such as the listening center where patrons could enjoy radio or music or outreach programs for ward-bound patients and staff. The most popular ward programs were interactive–such as trivia contests and poetry readings.  Kathleen reports, “One month, I visited a ward with older men and women and challenged them to play the board game Chauvinist Pigs.  Its trivia questions were based on gender-specific common knowledge.   We had such a spirited time together, the staff came over to shush us.  First time that ever happened to me, but it wasn’t the last.”

Patients and staff often express their gratitude for the presence of an on-site library to provide a comforting environment within the state psychiatric hospital.  Over the years, both patients and staff have donated materials to supplement the meager library budget.  Patients have also donated poetry and original art.  One patient read so many novels, he told the Library staff he could write his own book, which he did and donated two copies to the Library collection.

The Western State Hospital Library is a unique library which serves a key purpose; a place that responds to the needs of its patrons and provides a welcoming, non-judgmental space to visit. But isn’t that the definition of all good libraries?





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WSL Updates for January 16, 2014

January 16th, 2014 Diane Hutchins Posted in For Libraries, For the Public, Grants and Funding, Institutional Library Services, News, Technology and Resources, Training and Continuing Education, Tribal, Updates No Comments »

Volume 10, January 16, 2014 for the WSL Updates mailing list

Topics include:







Read the rest of this entry »

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Inmates at Clallam Bay Donate $1,000 to CBCC Library

October 28th, 2013 vmullen Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services, Uncategorized 2 Comments »

Clallam Bay Library

Clallam Bay Library

The CBCC Branch Library was given a check this month in the amount of $1000.00 to spend on any and all kinds of books for the library. The check was donated by the CBIT (Clallam Bay Improvement Team) which is made up of offenders serving life without parole. The money comes from them holding fund raisers, such as pizza sales or baked goods made in the bakery by inmates and purchased by inmates through the whole institution. The bakery is run by Peninsula college and is a certified class. The purpose of the team is to improve life in the institution for all inmates. They are always craving new, up-to-date items that have to do with re-entry, medical, jobs and of course popular fiction authors. Due to the size of our budget at this time the library was grateful for the check and we thank them all.

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WSL Updates Special Edition for September 6, 2013

September 6th, 2013 Diane Hutchins Posted in For Libraries, For the Public, Institutional Library Services, News, Updates No Comments »


Note: The next regular edition of WSL Updates will appear on Thursday, September 12, 2013.



The Office of the Secretary of State, Washington State Library, is recruiting for three permanent full-time Branch Library Associates. One position is available at each of the following locations:

  • Washington State Reformatory in Monroe;
  • Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell;
  • Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

All applications are to be submitted through the Careers website at www.Careers.wa.gov. For additional information, review the job posting at www.sos.wa.gov/office/employment.aspx. Please share this announcement with anyone who may be interested.


The Washington State Library has gone social! Friend/follow us at:


An archive of WSL Updates is available at http://list.statelib.wa.gov/read/?forum=wslupdates.


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McDonald’s Book Exchange Comes Through in Our Time of Need

August 5th, 2013 Jill Merritt Posted in Institutional Library Services No Comments »

This is a long overdue post about the wonderful staff of McDonald’s Book Exchange in Redmond.  As our budgets have been cut over the last several years we have looked for alternative sources of material and the staff at McDonald’s Book Exchange have really come through with 1000′s of books donated to the Institutional Libraries.  These books have ranged from bestsellers to old favorites, fiction and nonfiction filling many empty spaces on our shelves.  I want to personally thank them for all their hard work and the wonderful books they have donated to our patrons.
16210 NE 80th St
Redmond, WA 98052
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A Long Wait

July 29th, 2013 dgelis Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services 1 Comment »

I was told on 12/3/12 that the WCCW State Library branch and the WCCW law library were going to trade spaces. On 12/10/12 we closed the branch library and began to pack up and move 542 boxes of books to storage in a warehouse on the grounds. We were told the transition would take 30 to 60 days. I relocated to a dismal cubicle in another building.

As it turned out the original estimate of 60 days turned into 90 days which turned into over 7 months.

On 7/1/13 we moved into the former home of the law library and began the process of unpacking. The new space was painted and new carpet was installed. From 7/1/13 until 7/23/13 many small projects were completed such as having the security gate installed and new smoke detectors were added.

On 7/24/13 we opened the library in our new area, much to the delight of the inmate population. The sight of a line of women leaving the library with their arms loaded with the 15 books they are allowed was (almost) worth the seven month wait.

WCCW Library

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Dog Days at the Library

July 24th, 2013 Jill Merritt Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services No Comments »

Libraries are never so much fun as when the four legged patrons come to the library.  Not all prison libraries in Washington State have animals as part of their loyal patron base, but those that do find joy in getting a ‘pawshake’ and handing out a biscuit.  Airway Heights Corrections Library and Stafford Creek Corrections Library both share anecdotes of their “favorite” patrons.

George at AHCC Library

George at AHCC Library

He is so cute. Shakes and gives High 5. He sits up tall and will stay up as long as he thinks he will get another treat. His trainer says he has stayed up over 2 minutes. -Joyce Hanna AHCC Library

It seems like there are more dogs with their toys than “boys” in the library right now.  Actually, probably not; but interesting…barking…playing…begging for their doggie treats.  “Winston”, a beautiful English setter, mostly white with brown spots here and there is lying at my feet I’m ignoring him, waiting forever for his treat.   – Jeannie Remillard SCCC Library

With the new arrival of dogs there is much excitement and fun in the air.  Tuesday the library was packed and we were very busy.  The dogs were visiting!!  Several of them were behind the counter with me getting their treats…. Tank – A big Black Lab weighing in at 87lbs was out in the reading room area, stretched out on the floor sleeping, all of a sudden I guess he realized that he wanted his puppy treat too.  He came bounding over the front counter and landed on the floor in front of my desk.  Everyone in the whole room was laughing. – Jeannie Remillard SCCC Library

Jeannie with puppy at SCCC Library

Jeannie with puppy at SCCC Library



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My Last Blog Post

July 19th, 2013 Jill Merritt Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services 2 Comments »

jillThis will be my last blog post.  I am leaving Institutional Library Services for a new adventure in the academic world.  I plan to follow the blog and keep up with all the news, because I may be leaving prison, but it will always have my support.  I think that we all do good work and we should never be forgotten.  Times are changing and I have seen great things come out of the prison libraries here in Washington State and I hope to see many more things showcased on this blog.  Over the last 8 years we went to barely holding on and doing the basics, to a skeleton crew and doing book programs and offering re-entry information to the patrons of the library.  I know that should be the other way around, budget cuts should bring less to the library, but it seems to have motivated all of us to push a little harder, to prove to the non-believers that we are important and I think we have achieved it.  I will miss many people and I will miss the work that I have done, but it’s time for me to pursue a new adventure and see what else is out there for me.

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Dear Dewey has a New Name

July 16th, 2013 kbenoun Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services No Comments »

Dewey Digest GraphicDear Dewey from Western State Hospital has a new name…Dewey Digest and a new format.  Check out the latest issue, “Dog Days of Summer.”



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Reflections from WSP Library, July 2013

July 11th, 2013 jbaker Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services 2 Comments »

West Complex Library

West Complex Library

My job in the Washington State Library Branch at the Washington State Penitentiary has exposed me to an area of librarianship I never would have thought I was suited for.   When I started at the penitentiary library I was green as they say but over the last five years I’ve learned a lot about how to provide library resources to a unique population of individuals.  The inmates are from many situations in their lives and those who take advantage of coming to the library will tell you some of their situation in words, attitudes, and how they present themselves away from the confines of life in a prison cell.

The younger ones, teenagers some of them, who have only experienced street life or lack of parent involvement come in to see other inmates but also are learning that what they can get from reading a magazine or newspaper, even a book, can help them see another way to go in their life choices.

Older men who come know the value of having something to entertain and motivate them to get out of the cell environment for a while.  They look for novels, westerns, books in history, philosophy, religion.  One inmate has asked for books on mindfulness and awareness of spirituality which he said might help him find meaning to his life.

A lot of patrons thank me in various ways for helping them find a book or providing information from the internet that answers a question or fulfills an interest on a subject they want to know more about.  One request for an explanation of the longitude and latitude of the world found in the encyclopedia was just what he wanted to know.  Another request for speeches by famous people resulted in the inmate confiding that he was spending his time learning to recite the important words written by Americans throughout history.

By far the most surprising encounter I have had is with a small Korean man who comes to find instruction books in learning English.  When I talk to him, he understands a lot, but speaking is hard for him.    But, the best communication we have each time he comes in is silent but effective. If I catch sight of him coming in the door I might acknowledge him with a wave or nod my head.  But every time, he stops, and bows to me.   I suppose that is a common action in his culture on the other side of the world, but to experience it in a small library in Eastern Washington placed in a prison says more than any words of appreciation that could be spoken.

More importantly what I learn and appreciate from talking and helping has opened a new world view to me.

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