Implementation of the New Prison Library Specification

Kerry Martin, Richard White, Karen Halsey, Megan Jones

18 May 2006

Research report available to download from the DCSF website

Research brief available to download from the DCSF website

This project evaluates the new specifications for libraries in prisons as part of an evaluation of the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS).

The phase 1 report documents findings from the NFER evaluation of the new prison library specification.

Overall, interviewees did not identify, or foresee, many major difficulties with the new specification and its implementation.

Other reports from this project

Key Findings

  • Overall, interviewees did not identify, or foresee, many major difficulties with the new specification and its implementation.
  • It was apparent that the prison regime could potentially present a stumbling block. The main issues here involved the difficulties associated with the prison facilitating offenders’ access to the library to the specified extent (e.g. providing prison officer escorts).
  • In addition, security constraints could affect the length of time to get new staff in post and also the provision of certain services, especially ICT and internet access.
  • Whilst some interviewees welcomed the enhanced responsibilities afforded to librarians, others were concerned about the possible impact of an increased educational role. As well as clarifying precisely the expectations of library staff, the offer of additional training may help address some of the reservations expressed.
  • The particular circumstances of the prison library were felt to affect the degree to which the specification could be implemented e.g. opening hours would need to reflect the regime of the prison. Thus, it was felt that prison libraries should perhaps be allowed to tailor the specification more to suit their particular context, rather than assuming a blanket approach is appropriate for all.
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