This Is AuburnAUrora

PlaceMaking in Prison Libraries


Bullinger, Delaney
McKissic, Siobhan


architectures, placemaking, and their effects on the relationships between incarcerated persons and administration. We draw from existing research in art and design, specifically the idea that “place is more about the people who inhabit it and the activities they engage in than the space itself” (University of Chicago Place Lab) to develop new strategies that prison librarians can use in their daily work. We also incorporate techniques that other institutions have used to create engaging spaces that encourage learning and intellectual freedom through rehabilitation-based, technology-oriented, and traditional library educational services. While prison librarians are creating a space for rehabilitation and education, we must also consider safety on both an ethical and practical level. The space needs to comply with safety standards, present no additional challenges for prison administration, and be administered in a way that is not dehumanizing to incarcerated persons. In addition to guidelines for creating a physical library space, we also discuss how library spaces are prioritized depending on the type of facility, and how a dedicated library space impacts inmates’ mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Instead of a focus on power, control and authority, prison libraries should be a place to affirm their personhood in an increasingly dehumanizing environment. When librarians and administrators work as a unit, the prison library can become a space that advances incarcerated persons’ human and First Amendment rights.