Prison libraries, desistance, informal learning, critical librarianship, prison education


There has been little examination of how criminological theory may help to inform library practice in correctional settings. This article takes steps to address this deficit by presenting a new and timely approach to prison library research. It suggests that situating prison library research within the disciplines of librarianship, education and criminology can lead to a deeper understanding of the contribution made by libraries to the lives of those in prison. The authors propose a theoretical model which draws on theories of desistance, informal learning theories and critical librarianship. This model can be used by both library and education researchers and practitioners to build a body of evidence on the value of the prison library, and may act as a roadmap to good practice. It is an initial framework, intended to be adapted and refined as more empirical evidence is collected in this area.

Author Bio

Jayne Finlay is a final-year PhD student at Ulster University, Northern Ireland. Her research focuses on prisoners’ experiences of library services in the UK and Ireland. She is a qualified librarian and has previously carried out research on family literacy programmes in prisons and jails in both the UK and US.

Dr Jessica Bates is an experienced lecturer and researcher in the School of Education, Ulster University where she is Course Director for the Library and Information Management programme and undertakes research across Education and Library and Information Science. She is currently leading a series of Community Conversations with local communities across Northern Ireland about education provision in their area, and has developed a Community Conversation Toolkit for use in this work. She is also currently researching citizenship education and political literacy amongst young people in Northern Ireland, and has carried out wide-ranging research in Library and Information Science and published on digital information literacy, information and knowledge management, academic libraries, e-books, school libraries amongst other LIS topics. Her PhD was on the information needs and information-seeking experiences of residents in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Dublin, Ireland.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


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The word was misspelled as "Theoritical" earlier in the title of the article, has been corrected as "Theoretical" now.