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Library Services for Community Building

Social services vary from one society to another depending on the mission, vision, core values, and goals of the society. Library services play vital roles in providing access to information, which directly empowers the communities towards development (McCook, 2000, p6). With continuous access to information, the literacy level of a community is enhanced (2004). Community libraries are equipped to provide access to information for a particular group of people with a common need (Hill, 2009, p9). In the modern world, libraries exist both in physical form and virtual central repositories. The latter form is an optimizing factor, which incorporates values of portability, cost reduction, wide-coverage, and high access frequency. Being a social network enables people to access information and share educational resources.

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A mutual correlation exists between social service programs and library services. A case study of a prison rehabilitation program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution program unfolds how the public library supports social development programs. The target of the program is to reform the prisoners’ characters through community initiatives, training, and medical treatments.

A visit to the Oregon State Correctional Institution (O.R.C.I.) revealed that their activities are information oriented. As a matter of fact, their first in the list of activities is to provide educational services to inmates. Secondly, the institution runs a rehabilitation program for drug addicts (McCook, 2006, p51). The library in the institution is activated to provide multiple solutions to inmates; for instance, it has a mail room, printing room, a call center for consultation.

Oregon State Correctional Institution has a mission to promote public safety by holding offenders accountable for their actions (Sullivan, 2000, p32). The mission of this rehabilitation program is to promote the use of library services in the implementation of prison services (Klofas, 1998,p7). The other objective of the institution is to empower the inmates through civic education, where learners can know their civil rights (Cashman, 2009,p4). The prisoners are essentially sensitized to the library services and regulations.

The library in OSCI provides a community library to link inmates and the institution staff. The library is accessible within the institution, each user having a unique access profile. The books and other electronic materials are accessible in physical as well as in electronic form. To search for books, a user has a wide range of criteria to use (Geary, 2003,p21). The library is dynamic in the sense that it has links to a vast millions of books. It also suggests other related external sources for a particular search. This customized search makes the system quick and reliable (McCook, 2004,p4).

Public library and access to information is an eye opener thus it eliminates illiteracy among the inmates. Their level of understanding is boosted and to that effect, they can exploit their natural potential in business and career development. It also causes disease awareness, thus safety precaution can be put in place. Inmates are also able to study and know their constitutional rights which govern their mutual coexistence with the community members.

Librarianship has proved to be of direct impact to prison life and has evidently been embraced in the Oregon States Correctional Centre. In partnership with the Oregon State Penitentiary, they share an educational centre which has a library and a recreational area for inmates (McLean, 2002,p2). They administer work-based programs, engaging inmates in industrial work such as laundry work, metal work and furniture. They also actively participate in entertainment, games, recreation and socialization. Librarianship and prison life are therefore inseparable, where any positive development is expected (Sullivan & Vogel, 2000).

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Cashman, H. (2009). Street corner Universities and urban living-rooms: the contribution of public libraries to the prison service. UK: Transnational Issues.

Geary, M.(2003).Trends in Prison Library Services,” Bookmobiles and Outreach Services. USA: ALA.

Hill, C. (2009). Inside, Outside, and Online: Building Your Library Community. Chicago: ALA.

Klofas, J (1998). The Jail and the Community, in Incarcerating Criminals: Prisons and Jails in Social and Organizational Context. New York: Oxford University Press.

McCook, K. (2004). Public Libraries and People in Jail. Chicago: American Library Association.

McLean, C (2002) Inside Jail Libraries, USA: ALA.

Sullivan, L. (2000). The Least of Our Brethren: Library Service to Prisoners. USA: American Libraries.

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Sullivan, L & Vogel, B (2000). Reaching Behind Bars: Library Outreach to Prisoners in Libraries to the People: Histories of Outreach, McFarland: Greenwood Publishing Group.

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