A Look from the 'Inside' as a Rikers Library Volunteer

Jamie Niehof, Intern, Correctional Services Program writes:

Another day of volunteering at Rikers Island with the NYPL has come to a close. Thursday I went to one of the male detention houses along with my mentor and two other staff members from NYPL. We were there for "book cart service," which is a little different than what I remember from Shawshank Redemption.

We delivered books to both solitary confinement and two different "houses," which are the names of blocks within the building. The inmates in solitary confinement are allowed to request books off a list, so we filled these requests from the "library" within this particular building, which was really just two tall shelves of paperback books in the back of the Chaplain's office.

We felt like Indiana Jones capturing the golden statue when we found a book one of the prisoners had requested. Usually the titles were listed on their slips of paper as Cold Moon. That's it. No author, just words. If we couldn't find one of the prisoner's specific books (they can request three and we try to find one of them) we will substitute something simliar, same author, plot, etc.

A request via The Village Voice: Sarah Ball, another intern, reports that Rikers is in need of book donations, particularly of urban lit, popular fiction (Patterson, Grisham, Rice, Meyer, Rowling, etc.), sports and music biographies, conspiracy theory non-fiction, African-American history, small business and investment, GED study guides, and dictionaries.

If you've got that kind of thing hanging around the house and want to donate, email the Correctional Services Librarian, Nicholas Higgins nicholas_higgins@nypl.org. Paperback is vastly preferred.

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