Congratulations to City of Edinburgh Libraries who have been crowned the worthy winners of the Libraries Change Lives Award for 2010, in conjunction with HMP Edinburgh (Saughton). They were awarded the title at the inaugural Libraries Change Lives Conference, at the impressive, canal-side Kings Place, London, for setting up a library within the prison. Liz McGettigan, Libraries and Information Services Manager, was delighted with the award “It’s an honour to accept this fantastic award. I’d like to thank Kate [King] and Ian [Kirby] for all their hard work and effort to make this a successful project. It has been a privilege for Edinburgh Libraries to be able to help those people who need it most build a future for themselves.”
After the lunch break we were able to hear more about the project from the afore-mentioned Kate and Ian. Ian, who coordinated the project from the library service side, began the presentation by highlighting the cost per annum of an inmate to society (£31k). If this project were to stop only one inmate from reoffending then it virtually pays for itself. Of course the project is far more than just a cost-cutting exercise; it is literally changing lives of thousands of people housed in Saughton Prison.
The project is successfully tackling and overcoming low literacy levels, and engaging inmates in reading. These skills are preparing the inmates to integrate into the outside world and lowering the chances of reoffending – something that is a target of the new government.
Kate, who has been dealing with the project from the prison side, then came to the microphone to give us some detailed information.
- 12,000 visits have been made to the library in the past year
- 15 inmates have trained as librarians
- 3 have been to college to get a librarian qualification
- 1 has an upcoming interview for a librarian post
These are impressive figures, but there is more impressive work going on. Drug advice clinics, Gamblers Anonymous and family days are on offer to the library members. Again, the library has provided more support towards a crime-free life on the outside. It was incredible to hear about this fantastic work that Edinburgh are doing… and so far, no rock hammers have been found in hollowed-out books.
Honourable mention should go to the runners up, LB of Barking and Dagenham for their Home from Home project and Manchester Libraries’ partnership with the Macmillan Cancer Support.
The whole day served as an inspiration to public libraries and it was great to hear about all the great things that libraries are doing, all within the core mission of the public library. But it also served as a more sobering reminder that if public libraries don’t get this fantastic news to people outside the sector, there is a distinct possibility that the public library provision will be cut… let’s make that impossible for the new government to do.