SU Library project at Onondaga County Justice Center aims to encourage literacy and improve reading programs
SU Library project at Onondaga County Justice Center aims to encourage literacy and improve reading programsFebruary 08, 2007Pamela McLaughlinpwmclaug@syr.edu
A new program developed by the Syracuse University Library — in collaboration with SU’s Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, SU’s School of Information Studies, the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL), the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) and ProLiteracy Worldwide — is enhancing the quality of the libraries and reading programs in the Onondaga County Justice Center in an effort to improve inmate literacy, encourage literacy-related activities, and upgrade the library facilities.
The new Onondaga County Justice Center Literacy Program seeks to provide current educational materials to inmates through unit (pod) libraries. The library units will be accessible beyond the scope of formal instructional periods as a source for leisure reading and/or to supplement literacy initiatives.
As a beginning to the new program, on Saturday, Feb. 3, a group of SU librarians, library staff and students met at the Justice Center jail to clean up the libraries and to sort through boxes of donations. Justice Center Librarian Jean Dwyer directed the group’s work as small teams visited each of the pod libraries and removed damaged, outdated or inappropriate materials; reorganized the spaces; and refreshed the collections with new materials. Inmates shared suggestions of the kinds of materials they would like and greeted teams with enthusiasm when they returned with new materials.
Suzanne Thorin, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, was among those who participated in the weekend activity and originally developed the Onondaga County Justice Center Literacy Program, which will now focus on a series of follow-up activities including creating a donation policy, identifying funding sources for new materials, and establishing a regular schedule of visits to keep the collections up to date and orderly.
In fall 2006, Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh and Syracuse Common Councilor Mike Atkins asked SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor for help in improving the quality of the libraries and literacy programs in the Justice Center. Cantor asked Thorin to develop a program in collaboration with others on campus and in the community. Thorin engaged a number of library staff and partnered with Pamela Heintz of the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, Doreen Milcarek of OCPL and Signe Nelson of the SCSD to plan the program.
“This is a perfect example of Scholarship in Action, involving both campus and community partners,” says Thorin. “Syracuse University has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Justice Center inmates. Providing them with reading materials and improving their literacy levels will lift up all of us in the Syracuse community.”
ProLiteracy Worldwide is a nonprofit international literacy organization based in Syracuse that was formed by the 2002 merger of Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America Inc. ProLiteracy Worldwide is now the oldest and largest nongovernmental literacy organization in the world and pursues a mission of sponsoring educational programs that help adults and their families acquire the literacy practices and skills they need to function more effectively in their daily lives.
For more information on the Onondaga County Justice Center Literacy Program, contact Kim Belanger at (315) 443-2573.