This month, the Riverfront Library has donated about one hundred and eighty paperback books to correctional facilities in the Westchester area. The vast majority of these donations had, themselves, been donated to the library by our patrons.
Fundamentally, a library donation is a way of saying that while you, the donor, don’t have a use for a given box or bag of materials – because you’ve read all these books already, or because you can’t store them, or because you can’t bring them with you – you know someone will be able to get something out of them. To my way of thinking, there are very few people who can use those donations more than those serving time in correctional facilities.
Of course, the value of books on career development, education or personal growth for someone in prison is undeniable. Studies show that having those skills makes a significant difference in how many repeat offenders prisons see. Instead of telling incarcerated people to put their lives on hold entirely, and not providing any ways back into the world once their time is up, a robust prison library provides them with chances to build skills that can be put to work during their prison tenure and afterwards, whether for their own benefit or the benefit of the public.
And it’s worth repeating that prisoners are members of the public, and as deserving of the protections and benefits of their community as anyone else. To donate to a prison library is to acknowledge that, and to refuse to exclude anyone from the benefits of education and an intellectual life – to respect the rights, and the dignity, of every individual.
But, more than that, we donate to correctional facilities because it is a small, real thing we can do to give prisoners – serving their sentences, with very little control of their lives – a chance to make the decision that is every human being’s right, and ask themselves –
“What do I want to read today?”
We hope you’ll consider donating to Yonkers Public Library, or to prison library programs in general. We very much appreciate your support.