#GLTU13 – Cornton Vale

1 Jul

For GLTU13 on 10th June, a group of us visited the library at Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling. Security was obviously a lot tighter than on previous tweetups, and we had to leave phones and other technology in lockers before we went in, so no tweets and no pictures! However, Jennifer Horan (@Miss_Horan7) has given her impressions of the visit below.

For GLTU13, a tweet-up without tweets, seven of us visited HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-women prison. We were shown round the Learning Block by Liz Moffat, Community Outreach Librarian with Stirling Council, whose duties include managing Cornton Vale’s library, and Kaye Stewart, Learning Centre Manager. The Learning Block includes a kitchen for cookery classes, a salon for hairdressing courses, an ICT suite, a classroom and, of course, a library.

We met a group of women inmates who were participating in a book group and were reading Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. This was obviously a beneficial activity to the women, especially one who told us that before she was sent to prison she couldn’t read, but she has now learned and is a member of the book group. Poor reading skills and illiteracy are very often issues for prisoners. We then spent time in the library, looking at the resources and asking Liz and Kaye about how the library runs.

Although Liz visits the library as part of her remit to ensure it is in order and can run well, it is mainly staffed by a group of prisoners. Along with a wide range of fiction titles, including new publications, there is also (a smaller) range of non-fiction and audio books, and a number of foreign language books in a variety of languages. Some of the women imprisoned do not have English as a first language, so foreign language books accommodate this, though Liz pointed out that many of the women do not have the literacy skills to be able to read. The library has a budget for book buying from Stirling Council. Liz also spoke to us about the issues surrounding stock selection in prison libraries. While no librarian likes banning books, they must follow the rules of the prison, and there are some books that just can’t be stocked for the safety and well-being of inmates and staff, for example, recent local true crime books and books featuring facts about unacceptable prison behaviour.

The library has three computers for prisoners’ use, though there is no internet access. This is a complex issue for the prison system, as so much information required for learning and gaining qualifications, including Open University courses, in which the women are encouraged to participate, is available online. There are plans to allow prisons access to the internet in the future; however, these ideas have been in the planning for some time.

We were very impressed with the library and its contents; the couches and light colours of the room express comfort and make a visit to the library appealing, but thankfully we were free to leave the locks and keys and return to the comfort of our homes.

If Jennifer’s account has sparked your interest, I also recommend this post on Me and my big mouth which was written in response to the ban on sending books to prisoners in England, and is full of useful information on reader development in prisons.

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2 Responses to “#GLTU13 – Cornton Vale”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 21. Liz – community outreach | 23 Librarians - July 25, 2014

    […] If you would like to know more about Cornton Vale, Jennifer Horan has written an account of a recent visit to its library which you can find on the GLTU (Glasgow Library Tweetups) blog. […]

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  2. Adventures of a retired librarian: 2014 | Adventures of a Retired Librarian - January 6, 2015

    […] I’m still organising tweetups (though not so many – just two this year, Travelling Librarians and Cornton Vale.) […]

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