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Action Item: Liberation Library

Leila Roy

Staff Writer

After a lengthy stint as a children's bookseller, Leila Roy took a step sideways into the library world. There, she does the same thing she did as a bookseller—matching people with stories in any and all formats, whether print, audio, film, comic, or some newfangled hybrid—but doesn't have to deal with changing the tape on the cash register. She lives in Maine with her husband, where she runs her small-town library and occasionally tries to rescue wildlife from her cat, who is a murderer. In addition to talking books at her long-running blog, Bookshelves of Doom, she's a weekly columnist at Kirkus Reviews. Blog: Bookshelves of Doom Twitter: @bkshelvesofdoom

Looking for a way of tapping into your own personal love of reading AND doing some good in the world? Want to help serve one of the most under-served populations out there?

Well, let me introduce you to the Liberation Library:

Its mission is:

Liberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to the outside worlds of their choosing. We believe access to books is a right, not a privilege. We believe books and relationships empower young people to change the criminal justice system.

I can’t even read that mission statement without getting a little teary. I love every word of it.

One of—ONE OF—the special things about Liberation Library is that they do their best to fill specific requests. They aren’t just sending random books to incarcerated youth—they’re providing these kids access to the specific books that they ask for, and they’re also giving them access to pen pals.

They offer them a window to the outside world.

Liberation Library is always looking for donations and help:

  • If you want to contribute funds towards purchasing, packing, and shipping books, you can.
  • If you want to donate books via their Amazon wishlist, you can.
  • If you’re in the Chicago area, and you want to drop off books in person, you can.
  • And, if you’re in the area, you can also volunteer your time.

liberation-library-logoAlso! If you’re artistically inclined—or if you just like shopping for cards—Liberation Library is collecting and sending holiday cards to the young people that they serve. This is a time-sensitive project, so if you want to participate, be sure to get on it ASAP! Here’s the criteria [emphasis mine]:

Liberation Library is sending holiday cards to all the young people caged in the prisons we serve. The holiday cards are an opportunity for the young people to feel like they are thought of and cared for during what is usually a very family and community-focused season.

We ask that holiday cards be non-denominational and up-lifting. Inspiring quotes are always great, and in the past the young people have even appreciated funny jokes or puns.

We also ask that the cards not have any glitter or stickers on them, as they will get rejected by the facilities. Cards would preferably be signed as “[your name] with Liberation Library”.

We are looking to have all card donations received by Monday, December 12th.
Cards can be sent to:
Liberation Library c/o In These Times
2040 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago IL 60647

Do you know of any projects like this in your home state? Let me know in the comments—I’d love to highlight more of them.