WA Secretary of State Blogs

New puppy has arrived at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Monday, January 30th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 1 Comment »

Jeannie Remillard has this to share about the new puppy at SCCC: Her name is Athena…and she is the cutest little Beagle puppy you have ever laid your eyes on.  When she first visited the library and came behind the desk to meet me, she was shaking with fright. By the time we filled her tummy with doggy treats and gave her much love we were sure she would remember her first visit to the library.  Talk about cute…she jumped up on my lap and tried to get her puppy treats off the desk.  Everybody in the whole room fell in love with her immediately.  

 Yesterday she came, sopping wet from the rain, and she immediately tried to jump up in my lap for her puppy treats. Jason and Curt, my workers, grabbed towels and dried her off.  She is a real joy and brings smiles to everyone…even those guys who usually don’t smile.  What a terrific wonderful program this is!!! North Beach Paws!!!

 From Wikipedia, Athena means “goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill.”

 A perfect name for a prison library dog!



Author of Sisters Brothers visits Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Author of Sisters Brothers visits Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Patrick deWitt

Sisters Brothers is a book about two brothers from gold-rush era Oregon and California who are employed as henchmen. They ride horses, camp out on the trail, try to gather clues about their target, and eventually uncover a lot more than they probably wanted to know about him. What starts out as a simple job becomes something more fantastic, and the two become entangled in the life of a man they set out to eliminate.

As I was reading this book last summer, I noticed the author, Patrick deWitt, was local to the Pacific Northwest, and I immediately thought to ask if he would visit Coyote Ridge for a reading. I wanted this particular author to read from this particular book. Sisters Brothers is modern, funny, and easy to read, but also thought-provoking. I felt that inmates might relate to all the characters in the book on some level, not just the hired killers but also the side characters who display a variety of weaknesses that make them human.

To my surprise, Patrick was immediately agreeable and enthusiastic about the idea. He told me he had been wanting to do some sort of work with inmates related to books and writing. He arrived on November 30, 2011, and read from Sisters Brothers for about thirty minutes to an audience of forty inmates. Many of those who attended said they had never been to a live author reading before. There was a seemingly endless supply of questions about the book, writing, publishing. Some had read the book prior to the event and had complex questions about the themes and characters. Others were interested in learning how to improve their own writing, or the process of getting a book published. Patrick patiently answered all the questions, never departing from his kind and gracious demeanor, until the time ran out. He even volunteered to take the unanswered questions, written on slips of paper, and answer them by email after he returned home.

Patrick has written two books and is working on a third.

Kindness does not stop at the fences of prison

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Kindness does not stop at the fences of prison

Joyce Hanna

Joyce Hanna, Library Associate at Airway Heights Corrections Center, received a phone call from an inmate’s mother this week thanking her for helping her son. She did not give his name because he is still at AHCC and she did not want to cause any problems for him. Joyce reports that “I explained that I was only doing my job and she told me that her son said that I did it with kindness and care which he does not get a lot of in prison. It brought tears to my eyes. I thanked her.”

Joyce says that it is moments like this that make everything she goes through worth it. She realizes that even the small things can be important in prison.

$1000 Donation from inmates at WCCW

Friday, December 2nd, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 1 Comment »

Doug Gelis, one happy librarian with $1000 donation

When the inmates at Washington Corrections Center for Women heard that my book budget was frozen ( again ) , they asked me if there was anything that they could do. I informed them that I could take donations. Soon after this the tier reps approached me and said they were going to do a fundraiser for the library. Last week I sent a check to Laura Sherbo for $1000.00 which is earmarked for the purchase of books for WCCW Library. A very big thank you goes out to all of the inmates at WCCW.

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center Library makes the news

Friday, February 11th, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Coyote Ridge Corrections Center Library makes the news

Library Snapshot day was a huge success for those of us who deal with the inmates and patients of Washington prisons and psychiatric hospitals; we see results everyday.  However, it is nice when the general public gets a chance to see what we do every day as we walk into the different facilites of Washington State.  This article in the Franklin County Graphic tells the story of the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. Click on the newspaper clip for full article.

I’m touched

Friday, February 11th, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 2 Comments »

Appreciation in action

I’ve worked for Washington State Library at Clallam Bay Corrections Center for 17 years.  I love what I do, but it isn’t always the easiest of jobs.  The mood of the institution can get depressing at times.

I have four library clerks, offenders that I work with on a daily basis. They have varying degrees of education but are all really good workers and for the most part have good attitudes. We laugh, talk books, sports, music, movies and all the time trying to be correctly professional and not be overly friendly.  It is a fine line to walk.

One clerk has worked for me over two years and in the first year it was just the two of us running the library for one reason or another.  After I had hired more clerks I gave him a small paper gold star telling him how much I appreciated his working so hard and professionally with just my help.  Another clerk who has been with me for over a year got a gold star for his willingness to do anything I ask him to do plus the initiative he shows in organizing and keeping the library tidy.  So, now the other two are striving for a gold star.

Today they surprised me by making a gold star for me to tell me how much I was appreciated as their boss.  It nearly brought me to tears and makes me so glad that I work in an institution and can make a difference, even if only for a few.

Stafford Creek is Going to the Dogs

Friday, January 28th, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 2 Comments »

Canine patrons check out the latest issue of BARK.

Stafford Creek Corrections Center has long welcomed the dogs from “Freedom Tails” dog program into the library, but never more so than on Library Snapshot Day 1/11/11.

Many of the dog handlers are regular library patrons and they made a point to visit the library and were very happy to get their pictures taken. It went so well that they made it into the local newspaper of Aberdeen, The Daily World.

Click on picture for full article.

Prison Libraries: Not All Are the Same

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Prison Libraries: Not All Are the Same

The last few months I have been reading the emails posted on the ALA Libary Service to Prisoners Forum, and I have been very interested in the different ways the libraries handle the material and what they are able to do in each library. There seems to be a wide range of what the libraries offer, as well as how they are managed.

Freedom Ticket Newsletter from Hennipen LibraryHere in Washington State we run the prison libraries similar to a public library, but we really don’t have any programs that we offer through the library. This has a lot to do with staffing and funding, as we lack quantity in both of these areas. However, we do have it better then some libraries who do not have any funding at all and rely on donations from other sources. Then I look at libraries like  the correctional libraries that are run by Hennepin County Library in Minnesota. This library manages to find time and funding to print out a newsletter, “Freedom Ticket“, publish inmate poetry books, host author events, writer’s workshops, and more. Does this make us less of a prison library?

I don’t think it does. We provide an essential service to the inmates with books and CDs covering a wide range of interests. Re-entry and education are also  priorities for our library and we do our best to provide the best possible service. Truthfully that is what it all comes down to at a prison library or any library for that matter; providing the best possible service. Libraries that “only” have donated material, have dedicated library staff who take the time to solicit those donations, to process those donations for check out, and to keep them coming to the inmates. Their efforts are appreciated by the inmates and truthfully their patrons are the ones who count in the grand scheme of libraries, even prison libraries.

Not all prison libraries are the same, but all do the best they can with what they have; money and staffing are always nice, but are not always available.

Restricted Books

Monday, August 24th, 2009 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 5 Comments »

gunsmithI grew up in a library family and love freedom of information. At the end of September I will be sporting my “I Read Banned Books” button and giving out bookmarks of banned books. I speak fanatically about how wonderful it is that anyone can get information about anything if they have a library card. If I hear, “Should that be allowed in the Library?!?!?” I give a little lecture about how the only person who has a right to censor information is that person themselves, and when I see someone in the public library looking at pornography I chuckle and walk away.

That being said I understand that Prison is a different setting entirely and that if the Safety and Security of the Institution is compromised because of a book, how to make a bomb for example, that book should not be available. When I applied for the job I was worried that I would be banning books left and right, no sex, no violence, and no drugs!!! This is not the case. I was happy and surprised to see that the Institutional Library System works hard at deciding what is and isn’t allowed and does not restrict lightly. How to cross-stitch almost anything: Allowed. How to escape from prison: Not Allowed. Concrete Mama: Allowed. Hacking for dummies: Not Allowed. It’s hard to imagine a time when a book could be banned because of an amoral message or because animals were talking and wearing clothes. It is equally hard to justify checking out a book to a prisoner that advocates violence against a specific group of people. However, you should rest easy knowing that Danielle Steel and Jake Logan are on the shelves and ready for action.

“Go to Prison” in Colorado

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on “Go to Prison” in Colorado

For anyone interested in the Institutional Library Services category, I’ll share a link to the Colorado Libraries blog, which has some similar content. You will also see accounts written by people from outside the field who were allowed to go inside some of the prisons and get a sense of what this work environment is like and how offenders use the libraries. It’s inspiring to see how the Colorado Correctional Librarians are networking by communicating their day-to-day experiences in the form of a live tour.

If you type “prison” in the search box, you will get a narrower list of posts that is more specific to the topic.