Driven by a mission of being fully engaged and responsive to the community it serves, the Dauphin County Library System designs its services and resources to connect individuals with opportunities for personal and professional growth, particularly groups and individuals who experience barriers to traditional service.
One example of the library system’s efforts is the Digital Prison Library, a program made possible by a grant from the Boyd Foundation and collaboration with digital content provider OverDrive and Dauphin County Prison, which allowed for the development of a unique, specially curated collection of library resources for use by detainees at the prison.
The partnership began when safety concerns at the prison led administrators to eliminate their entire print collection in favor of tablets. OverDrive, which was installed on the more than 1,000 tablets available to every detainee at the Dauphin County Prison, allows users to easily access eBooks, audiobooks and other content all from their tablets. Dauphin County Library System worked closely with Dauphin County Prison to determine which books would best meet the needs of inmates. The catalog is easy to control so titles deemed inappropriate can be removed and new materials that are needed can be added.
“Through this unique partnership, the library system has opened a new world of reading, learning and growth to the prison’s detainees,” said Karen Cullings, Executive Director, Dauphin County Library System. “As the numbers show, the collection has been well utilized since its first day of launch, and when physical outreach visits to the prison can resume, the collection will support efforts to assist detainees preparing for re-entry to the community.”
Serving as an important step in library service, the Digital Prison Library recognizes the diversity of the community’s residents, removes barriers to access, and adapts to support changing needs. The first of its kind in the nation, it is also being looked to as a model by other libraries from across the country.