Tag Archives: Jennifer Horan

#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.

School Library Camp

24 Jun

In this guest post, Jennifer Horan (@Miss_Horan7) describes Scotland’s first School Library Camp.

School Library Camp Scotland, the first of its kind, took place on Saturday 14 June 2014, in the Andersonian Library at the University of Strathclyde. It coincided with three other regional School Library Camps, in London, Manchester and Leeds, and was open to school librarians, librarians in other sectors, other school staff and anyone else with an interest in school libraries. It followed the usual unconference format of Library Camps, where sessions were user-generated and were pitched on the day.

I got the idea to organise the Camp after attending Library Camp Glasgow in the Mitchell Library last year, and becoming the star attraction as “school librarians never come to these kind of things”. I then became aware that, other than the School Library Association’s annual conference, I rarely see another event advertised which is based solely around school libraries. (Though maybe I’m not looking hard enough.) After finding online a few other like-minded school librarians from south of the border, School Library Camp was born.

Much Twitter-publicity later, we had a potential full house of 50 delegates, a large meeting room at Strathclyde and lovely gift bags, courtesy of CILIPS, SLA and various school library suppliers.

The day itself went well, though we had a disappointingly low turn-out which reduced the number of session pitches. Despite this, seven successful sessions were held during the day: Stock development; E-books in schools; Reader development; Job security; School vs library management; Twitter tips and a brilliant session from Glasgow University PhD students on their study of children’s literature. I decided to make the last session of the day a general discussion about what groups had covered and to allow for any further points to be raised.

We concluded the day in true Library Camp style with a raffle-ticket-under-a-seat prize of gift books (kindly donated by Waterstones) and homemade cake. The day received very positive feedback, with delegates enjoying the informal, user-led style. There were some requests for shorter, more focussed sessions to allow more movement and variety – a style to be considered for a possible School Library Camp 2.


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