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Institutional Libraries: Collection Development

Library Services to the Incarcerated, Detained, and Justice-Involved

"Institution libraries carry a variety of fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, newspapers, and reference materials. Inmates also have access to legal materials to conduct legal research and prepare legal documents."

Federal Bureau of Prisons, Custody and Care 

Best Practices for Collection Development in Prison Libraries (Prisoners' Right to Read, ALA)

  • Collection management should be governed by written policy, mutually agreed upon by librarians and correctional agency administrators, in accordance with the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations.
  • Correctional libraries should have written procedures for addressing challenges to library materials, including a policy-based description of the disqualifying features.
  • Correctional librarians and managers should select materials that reflect the demographic composition, information needs, interests, and diverse cultural values of the confined communities they serve.
  • Correctional librarians should be allowed to acquire materials that meet written selection criteria and provide for the multi-faceted needs of their populations without prior correctional agency review. They should be allowed to select from a wide range of sources in order to ensure a broad and diverse collection. Correctional librarians should not be limited to acquiring or purchasing from a list of approved materials or vendors.
  • Material with sexual content should not be banned unless it violates state and federal law.
  • People who are incarcerated or detained should have the ability to obtain books and materials from outside the prison for their personal use.

Picture Credit: Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out, Library Journal, Feb. 1, 2013

Adult Literacy Publishers

Literacy Newspapers

SC State Library Information


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