Joy as Saughton Prison library picks up major industry award

The pioneering library at HMP Saughton (Edinburgh) has scooped a prestigious award in recognition for the life-changing impact it has on inmates.

The prison library came first in the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Libraries Change Lives Award, was presented by the BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Mark Lawson at a ceremony in London today (Tuesday 6 July 2010).

Opened in a purpose-built extension in November 2008, less than two years later Saughton Prison Library has become the only library in Scotland with a waiting list, welcoming more than 12,500 prisoners through the doors in its first year alone. Furthermore, damage done to library books has reduced significantly from 80 per cent to zero since the new library opened, demonstrating the new-found value the prisoners have for their library.

The library's mission is to offer a service which addresses social inclusion issues amongst the prison population and provides support opportunities for education and employment, thereby improving the transition from prison to outside community life. It is staffed by experienced City of Edinburgh Council librarian Kate King.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Convenor of Culture and Leisure for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: "Winning this award is a tremendous honour for our Libraries service. Through their dedication, vision and hard work, they have achieved something quite remarkable at HMP Edinburgh (Saughton), and have unquestionably changed people's lives. It has been an enormous success in helping prisoners to improve their literacy and employability, reducing their risk of re-offending upon release. My heartfelt congratulations to all our superb staff."

Linda Constable, Senior Manager, Dorset Libraries, and chair of the Libraries Change Lives Award judging committee, said: "This project demonstrates and evidences 'changing lives', and has made a huge impact on all the prisoners and the staff working in the prison. In addition, Kate's approach, empathy and passion has driven this life-changing work, not only in the prison, but on release by giving prisoners improved life-chances, which in turn have a wider impact on their families, communities and society in general. It is our hope that the partnership work that has taken place at Edinburgh HMP will be an inspiration for similar projects around the country."

One prisoner commented: "When I first came into jail I found it really hard to read because I wasn't good at concentrating and I would have to read the same paragraph over and over but after persisting with it and practising all the time, I find reading just as easy as breathing. I have to admit that reading is now a hobby for me. I love it and I would be lost without it as it's helped me through my sentence."

Ian Kirkby, Library Development Officer at Edinburgh City Libraries, said: "Our work and focus is in making the prison library work to reduce re-offending and in supporting healthier local communities. None of us set out to seek awards - however it is delightful and uplifting to be acknowledged by our profession for our work in this project and a reaffirmation of the value of libraries in our communities."

Saughton Prison Library recently hosted a family event, the first of its kind in Scotland, where prisoners' children were invited into the prison to work with their fathers.

The other finalists in the running for this year's Libraries Change Lives Award were:

Macmillan Information and Support Service (Manchester Library & Information Service)

An innovative partnership with the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, designed to deliver crucial information about cancer in a familiar community setting.

Home from Home (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham)

A project that reaches out to home-restricted people within the community to allow them access to the recreation, information and social events held in their local libraries in partnership with Transport Services.

Video footage about each of the projects can be found online at www.cilip.org.uk/lcla

 

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