WA Secretary of State Blogs

A Long Wait

Monday, July 29th, 2013 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

Reflections from WSP Library, July 2013

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 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.

Laura Sherbo honored at ALA

Friday, July 13th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | No Comments »


Laura Sherbo with her mom at ALA

One of the first sessions I attended was the Unconference (wonderful, by the way).  At the Unconference I was talking with one of the other attendees about this being our first ALA and she said, “Oh wait! Someone forwarded this to me this morning.  There is free food on Saturday! Give me your phone number and I’ll send you the information.” Lo and behold it was the ASCLA Awards Ceremony.  Initially I was a little indignant.  How could these moochers attend the awards ceremony for anything besides honoring Laura?!?!?!  Maybe they are serving champagne, I thought, to console myself (turns out it was pretzels shaped like Mickey Mouse).  Or maybe ALA just knows that the best way to spread a message is with free food.

On Saturday I dressed in my conference best and went to meet Laura and all the other conference goers enjoying mini quesadillas and cake pops.  I also got to see Jeff Martin again and meet Laura’s Mother, who is twice as nice as she is charming. As an aside, I now look forward to my own mother’s presence at all future awards ceremonies in my honor.  The awards honored librarians, students, partnerships, and programs in specialized libraries with five different awards.  When the presenter read all the wonderful reasons why Laura won her award, Laura received the loudest round of applause of all the recipients. I can only imagine the myriad of emotions and admirations running through the minds of every person in the crowd.

Laura has been my supervisor for three years now, and more than anyone I have ever worked for, she is able to motivate her staff to greatness.  In the beginning, I was astounded by the loyalty everyone felt toward her and the Institutional Library Services, but now I understand.  Through budget cuts and layoffs, it becomes more abundantly clear with each hurdle she has encountered, that Laura is dedicated not only to serving the underserved, but also her staff.  She has the strength and high standards of a Titan, while still somehow making her staff feel comfortable giving input, starting new programs, and questioning her decisions, sometimes incessantly, probably much to her chagrin.  In short, Laura is the embodiment of leadership and all of us at ILS are lucky to work for her.

Also, she said the reason she won the award is because of her staff, which I’m not going to argue, because we’re pretty great.

Laura Sherbo receives ASCLA Leadership and Professional Achievement Award

Monday, July 9th, 2012 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Institutional Library Services, News | No Comments »


2012_0623ALA_June_20120030-corrected

This prestigious award is presented to one or more ASCLA members (personal or organizational) exemplifying leadership and achievement in one or more of the following areas: consulting, library cooperation, networking, statewide services and programs and state library development.

Congratulations Laura!

Read more at http://ascla.ala.org/blog/2012/04/2012-asclaleadershipaward/.

Emcee at Poetry Reading at Washington Corrections Center for Women

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | No Comments »


On May 10th, 2012 the WCCW Library hosted a poetry reading. Laura Sherbo and Doug Gelis planned the event and invited 3 poets to come and read their and other poet’s poems.

70 inmates signed up to attend and 35 showed up to listen to poetry read. This was held in the WCCW Visit Room.  

The first poet to read was Kathleen Flenniken. Kathleen is the current Poet Laureate of Washington State. The second poet to read was Merna Ann Hecht. Merna is a social justice educator, storyteller, and poet. The third poet to read was Storme Webber. Storme is a spoken word, vocal, and visual artist.

This was not only my first time to host and serve as the emcee at a poetry reading, it was also my first time attending a poetry reading.  The reaction among the inmates was interesting because every single comment was positive. When the poets, who by the way, had 3 powerful and very different voices, asked if there were any questions, the only questions were when can you 3 come back.

Library Snapshot Day 2012 Numbers Are In

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | No Comments »


We're here to help

The prison and psychiatric hospital libraries were happy to participate in the Library Snapshot Day again this year.  With the libraries open an average of 4.75 hrs for the day there were 1,033 visitors across the state.  Check out the rest of the numbers here.   Also checkout the pictures on our Facebook Page.

 

High Hopes for 2012

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | No Comments »


 

AHCC Library

2011 saw many changes at the Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC). The institution changed to a closed movement facility and this has had a dramatic impact on library attendance. From what was a full library most movements has changed to about half our normal capacity.  

We started the year out with a Library Snapshot Day. Everyone had a blast and the atmosphere here was full of excitement. In February DOC started to make changes to increase security and for the next 6 months we were open and then closed due to lack of inmate clerks. Our budgets had been slashed so we started to feel the impact of that. Even with all the changes within DOC, the AHCC library has remained the center of activity. I still see all my regular patrons and reading remains high on the list of positive activities within the prison environment. 

In October, the AHCC branch library distributing the first book for our “AHCC Library Reads Together” program. We had our first session at the end of November and discussed Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Since then the program has tripled in size and we have read The Skyfisherman by Craig Lesley and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. We are just starting our newest selection, Little Bee by Chris Cleave. This program is really having a positive impact. The inmates are talking about these books in their day rooms and the discussions in our group are amazing.  

I have high hopes for the AHCC library in 2012.

Village Voice

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | No Comments »


A newsletter at Washington Corrections Center for Women covers several topics including community, health, and historical figures.  The February 2012 issue of the Village Voice included an article on Leroy Eldridge Cleaver: “By his example we learn that though we have spent our years struggling with the law or addiction, it does not mean that we aren’t someone of importance. WE ARE SOMEBODY!!!”  This article is inspiring and offers the women in WCCW the inspiration they need to know that they can be somebody and move on with their lives after prison.

The author of this piece was able to find everything she needed for the article in the WCCW library. The library has always offered material in demand by patrons, and today the focus seems to be on growth and potential.

CRCC Community Read 2012

Friday, March 30th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 1 Comment »


Jamie Ford

The “community read movement” started in 1998 in Seattle and has gained popularity across the United States. I’ve been intrigued by them for many years. And while I hear about them all the time, I’ve never heard of one taking place inside a prison. So, last summer, I decided to organize one for Coyote Ridge. And it wasn’t easy, but I did it.

The book I decided to use was Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It has been translated into over 30 different languages. The setting is Seattle, and the book was recently selected for a community read in Pierce County, Washington, which is where I managed to get 45 used copies of the book.

Now, for those who don’t know, a community read is different from a regular book group in three ways, 1) it is open to an entire community, 2) it includes supplementary social events related to themes in the book of choice, and 3) it usually includes a guest appearance by the author. At first, I was unsure about how I would achieve that third piece. Without any programming funds available, I wasn’t sure how to entice this successful author, who lives in Montana, to come all the way to Connell, which is miles from any major airport and not exactly a late-night excitement kind of town. Upon contacting his agent, however, I found that they were eager to work with me if we could figure out a way to cover Mr. Ford’s travel expenses. In the end, I was only able to bring Jamie Ford in as a guest speaker by teaming up with a Humanities group at Washington State University’s Tri-City campus, and by a donation from the Friends of the Washington State Library. Finally, after months of planning and negotiating, Mr. Ford spent the evening of Wednesday, March 22, talking to inmates, reading from his book, and answering an endless stream of questions.

In addition to the guest author event, the library at Coyote Ridge hosted a jazz music appreciation event and a historical slide show about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, featuring images from Densho and Library of Congress digital archives.

Case of the stolen pens!!!

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 2 Comments »


Jeannie Remillard

When I started working in a library in a maximum-security prison about 11 years ago, I quickly picked up on the fact that having a sense of humor goes a long way when dealing with convicted felons.

It was a typical day.  The library was busy with activity.  I stepped away from my desk for a few minutes to answer the telephone.  Upon returning to my desk, I noticed that a couple of my pens were missing.  I blurted out so everyone could hear “Who stole the pens off my desk?” 

 Immediately the room grew very quiet.  A young man came up and stood by my desk.  He said, “Jeannie, I’m not a thief, I’m a murderer.”  I replied, “Thank you for sharing that information with me!”  The whole room exploded with laughter and the two pens were soon returned.