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Institutional libraries

This Session took place on November 13, 2018, 2 pm EST.

A 2016 report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education noted that incarcerated adults with access to library services other than a law library scored higher in literacy and numeracy than incarcerated adults without access on a survey conducted by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. While the study does not address why or how library services played a role in the success of incarcerated adults, it does highlight the question. In fact, the effect of library services on learning is an issue that academic libraries have attempted to address for years. In this DDLC webinar series session, representatives from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes and the Association of College Research Libraries share how their organizations have been tackling the issue.

NILOA begins by providing an introduction on current practices and future trends in assessing and documenting learning. They then uncover efforts that are unfolding to capture and document evidence of student learning outside of traditional curricular experiences. ACRL will then explain how they have been focusing on helping academic libraries and librarians demonstrate alignment with and impact on institutional outcomes.

By the end of this session, you learn how academic libraries have approached assessment in recent years and examine how some of these efforts may be adapted for use in a correctional setting.


Often regarded as a library for recreation, the full role of the library in corrections is so much more. Both institutional and public libraries offer services and resources that facilitate a smooth transition from criminal justice involvement to crime-free living in the community. Libraries are deterrents of crime, providing alternatives to criminal behavior and undesirable activities, both within a facility and outside in a community.

Data-Driven Librarianship in Corrections (DDLC), an initiative of the National Institute of Corrections, brings attention to the issues and opportunities facing correctional libraries today. It combines data-driven approaches in corrections with data-driven library practice. Together, these fields inform the development of a correctional library program that provides not only anecdotal evidence but also quantifiably measurable evidence that shows the library’s bearing on facilitating positive criminal justice outcomes in jurisdictions throughout the country. 

DDLC further acknowledges the continuum of library services provided throughout corrections, from the institutional library to the public library and from the professionally staffed library to the library staffed with volunteers. It explores the broad range of services available for people being supervised not only in prisons and jails but community corrections environments as well. Thus, the need for rigorous inquiry is wide and vast. 

The National Institute of Corrections encourages partner organizations in criminal justice, library service, and academia to explore a diversity of concepts in DDLC for the advancement and improvement of the field. By helping justice-involved individuals establish a productive relationship with the library—e.g., by teaching them skills and fostering an appreciation for the services that a library can offer—we can be a catalyst for ensuring positive reentry outcomes. And by helping library professionals in the field, we contribute to the advancement of the profession and a higher level of service that can be offered.

Learn about how one university library measured the effects of first-time-college students’ library use on their success outcomes. Apply these same approaches to more confidently measure the effects of library programs on offender outcomes in correctional settings. Using Generalized Propensity Scoring (GPS) and/or Precision Matching (PM) you can hone in how your library program affects your participants and rule out other factors that may have affected the result. For example, you want to measure the effectiveness of a literacy program on preventing first-time offender recidivism while controlling for their background educational level and family income.

Webinar held July 18, 2018.

Dr. Jane Garner presents the details and findings of a recent doctoral study that focused on the experiences of using libraries in prisons from the prisoner perspective. Her presentation explains the reasons why this study was undertaken, the research methodology and methods, and the major findings. The study found that libraries in prisons can have a positive influence on prisoner education, behavior management, and personal transformations as well as support positive links to communities and families outside prison. The study provides ample evidence of the positive experiences offered by prison libraries. Dr. Garner discusses the importance of data-driven studies, such as her own in examining and understanding the role of libraries in prisons. Her study demonstrates that prison libraries have the potential to contribute positively to offender outcomes, both during their time in prison, and in their lives upon release, and that these benefits can flow on to the families of prisoners and to the broader community.

Webinar held May 2, 2018

Blythe Balistrieri discusses the ways in which the general correctional library and law libraries can partner, the challenges correctional librarians must negotiate daily, and how to streamline correctional library operations. Her presentation covers some of the history of correctional libraries, challenges that these libraries can face, and how librarians can work to alleviate some of them. Professor Balestrieri listed five actions that correctional library staff can take to combat some of their challenges: Advocacy, Communication, Education, Training and Team Building. Makes reference to court cases Bounds v. Smith, Thornburgh v. Abbot, Lewis v. Casey.

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