SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – The Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) in partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) and the Santa Clara County Probation Department are excited to announce the creation of library spaces within the Juvenile Justice Center in San Jose and the Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility in Morgan Hill. These spaces are similar to a public library, where youth have access to professionally curated library materials, programs and activities (STEM and art projects), as well as other activities intended to prompt interaction and engagement like puzzles, LEGOs and more.
SCCLD has been implementing action plans in coordination with its newly released Strategic Plan, which identified “connecting patrons to relevant resources for life transitions” as a priority.
“We are aiming to advance equity, diversity and inclusion to create a sense of belonging at SCCLD,” said County Librarian Jennifer Weeks. “A lot of these new patrons say this is their first-ever library experience. These library spaces provide them with a large collection of new and diverse books that represent who they are in this moment, where they come from, and most importantly, what they want to be. We are also working to maintain these relationships once the youth leaves the facility, so that they know the library is a place where they are always welcome and supported in life-long learning.”
SCCLD has a full-time teen librarian on-site to work with the youth, staff and partners. SCCOE also has personnel dedicated to assisting and coordinating with services, materials, curriculum and activities.
“The teens love listening to music, watering the plants, browsing the new books or working on puzzles. We have also hosted programs such as book talks, reading challenges, art programs and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning,” said Teen Librarian Chris Pennington. “The other part of my time is spent program planning, developing the collection and collaborating with the Probation Department, teachers, SCCOE librarian, Behavioral Health, and many of the other amazing youth service providers working in the facilities.”
Several research pieces, including one by the American Library Association and the U.S. Department of Education suggest libraries can help people during and after their incarceration to transition back to regular life, which is an important part of this new library service offered by the Santa Clara County Library District.
“We are proud to work alongside the Santa Clara County Library District and the County Probation Department to offer library services to incarcerated youth,” said Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools. “This is important work to help teens at the Juvenile Justice Centers. Having experienced staff, a diverse collection of library materials and programs, and access to a welcoming space opens up opportunities for reading, learning, and engagement that the youth take with them for life.”
SCCLD and its partners are working to create additional library spaces at other correctional facilities in the county.