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LIbrary program ideas

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LIbrary program ideas

Hello everyone! I have been working as the part-time librarian at Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills School in Wisconsin since October of 2012. I am in the library in the morning and after lunch I teach English to three sections of girls. I have been busy combining three libraries into one, since the state closed 2 juvenile facilities here in 2011. I am writing to get some ideas about how to start and implement a library program. What are some things that have worked for you and what do you recommend to start with. We have 30+ iPads available and I have also been busy finding apps for the different subjects and teachers within our school. I am currently studying Library and Information Science through UW-Milwaukee. I am just wrapping up my second semester... Any ideas you have will be helpful as I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with the job!

Kathleen Houlihan
Getting started

Hi Kelly,

You should definitely check out the Passages program in New York... I think they have a whole iPad program, so they might have some good recommendations for you.

As for getting started, what does your budget and your space look like? Also, what's your facility like? Co-ed? What ages? How long are the kids there, and how many are there? If you don't have much in the way of a budget, I'd recommend trying to partner with your local public library to see if you can have first dibs on weeded items. You can also partner with local book stores for dontations... and there are quite a few material grants out there that can get you started. 

I have a few lists of books I recommend to those first setting up a library in a juvenile detention facility... I can't attach them here, but if you want to email me, I can send them to you. I'm kathleen.houlihan at 

My best advice if you're on your own and just beginning is to start small and not overwhelm yourself. Books are really important, whether on iPads or physical. So focus your efforts on getting a good collection going, and getting better at your reader's advisory and booktalking skills. Once you've got that down, try and find some partners. Also, consider how you want borrowing and inventory to work. Some centers have full on OPACs and do the whole dewey thing. Others (like ours) don't have the funding or the staffing to check books out or keep inventory, so we do the honor system (borrow and return) and we just shelve by genre and first initial of author's last name, using color coded masking tape for the label so we can group genres together (white is urban fiction, red is fantasy/sci fi, blue is thriller, etc)

You may be able to get some staff from your local public or school library to come and help you provide reader's advisory services. It can be very isolating in a facility working by yourself, so reach out to others and try and find buddies where you can. You can explore some of the other programming options out there -- like early literacy classes for teen parents, voting outreach, bookclubs and discussion groups, author visits, etc. after you get more established and have the whole building-a-library-from-scratch thing under your belt.

And if you haven't already reached out on yalsa-lockdown (our listserv) do that, too... and get involved with one of our committees! There are lots of great people in juvie librarianship... welcome aboard!



I've ordered over 500 new books since October

The administrators at my school have been very supportive with funding, so I have already ordered just about every book on the lists here and on other sites.(over 500 new books) We use the DDC system and have fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel, and new book sections. The school is made up of about 250 boys who all utilize the library at least once a week and we have about 40 girls who also use the library once a week. We use the ACCENT system, which is outdated and doesn't allow students to search for books that were published after 2001. The DOC is looking at a new system and has been for over 6 months. What I want to do is utilize at least 10-15 minutes of the students time in the library with something that will help them develop their literacy and get them thinking about what they've read, and help them in their future...Thanks for the link to the Passages program!

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