This chapter offers an insight into library provision and user engagement at a Secure College in Northern Ireland. It draws on findings from doctoral research carried out by Finlay (2020) which examined the role of the library in the learning experiences of people in prison. The case study described in this chapter took a multi-method qualitative approach to exploring engagement with the space, resources and informal learning programmes offered by the library. Acknowledging the many roles and functions of a prison library, this chapter focuses particularly on its relationship to formal and informal prisoner education. The strong educational ethos of Hydebank Wood College made it an ideal setting to explore the transformative educational possibilities of a well-managed and well-funded library. Following a description of the library and its services, the chapter will consider first steps into learning, informal and self-directed learning opportunities, library services in a divided society, and the importance of interpersonal relationships.
Since the completion of this doctoral research, a newly renovated Learning and Skills Centre has opened at Hydebank Wood College. This chapter includes findings from recent interviews with staff members which reveal the impetus for these changes and how the redesign of the library space has impacted upon the learning experiences of both the women and young men held at Hydebank. Taken alongside the doctoral findings, this discussion helps to show how the library space is valued within the institution and the significant role played by the library and library staff in the lives of incarcerated individuals.
Finlay, J. and Bates, J. (2021), "Prison Librarianship and Prisoner Education: A Case Study from Northern Ireland", Garner, J. (Ed.) Exploring the Roles and Practices of Libraries in Prisons: International Perspectives (Advances in Librarianship, Vol. 49), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 135-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0065-283020210000049008
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