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Winner of Excellence in Prison Libraries Award 2019

01 May 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gemma Wood
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The CILIP Prison Libraries Group is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 Excellence in Prison Libraries Award is HMP/YOI Chelmsford for their “Family Library Time” project.

Family Library Time is an added value family visit which takes place in the Prison Library rather than the visits hall. It gives families the opportunity to spend time together in a welcoming and pleasant environment, share books and stories and take part in other book related activities. At the end of the session, each child is given a book to take home – the dads can write a message on a label inside the book.

Essex Libraries are the provider of the library service at the prison and the sessions are run by Prison Library staff with support from Essex Libraries colleagues. It’s a friendly event incorporating an extended Rhymetime session, themed craft activities and library promotions such as Calm Down Boris! and the Summer Reading Challenge.

These visits enable men to spend time with their families in a friendly and comfortable environment, away from the imposing visits hall which can be scary and off putting to many children. By contrast, the library, which looks very much like a small public library, is a familiar environment to most of the children. Feedback from both prisoners and families is always positive and is reflected in the demand for repeat visits.

For those who lack confidence, the shared activities have encouraged and supported the men to interact with their children through books, crafts and play. At the end of the session they are helped by staff to choose an age appropriate book (donated by partners) to wrap up and gift to their child. This gift can provide a welcome distraction to the sadness of leaving dad behind and reinforce the positivity of reading for pleasure. Often, attendees will go on to get involved in other library activities such as Storybook Dads, Reading Ahead and author visits.

Feedback from the men involved is very positive:

“Today was one of the best visits I’ve had since I have been in prison, this visit is so much more personal and allows you to bond that much more.”

“I think Family Library Time is a great way for fathers to maintain the crucial bonds that we have with our children – Thank you so much”

“Time with the family with less restrictions…. Memories…maybe a longer time…going back to the wing HAPPY”

The library service at HMP Chelmsford is provided by Essex Libraries who have supported this project. Other project partners are Red Lion Books (Colchester), Essex Book Festival, the Reading Agency – all of whom have donated books to the project, and Ormiston Families who run the visitor’s centre at Chelmsford. Prison officers and other prison staff have also engaged with the project.

Congratulations to everyone involved!


Published: 1 May 2019


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