Who we are:
The Prison Libraries Committee (PLC) of the Manitoba Library Association (MLA) is a volunteer group that provides collections, programming and library awareness for people who are incarcerated in Manitoba. Formed in 2012, the PLC’s volunteers provide service to:
- Winnipeg Remand Centre (WRC) in Winnipeg
- Women’s Correctional Centre (WCC) in Headingley, Manitoba
- Headingley Correctional Centre (HCC)
- Milner Ridge Correctional Centre in Beausejour, Manitoba
- The Pas Correctional Centre in The Pas, Manitoba.
- Manitoba Youth Centre (MYC) in Winnipeg
Programs have also been provided in other sites as part of reintegration and partnered initiatives. Activities of the PLC are continually evolving as we learn, grow and connect within justice and reintegration services in Manitoba.
What we believe:
We believe prison libraries and literacy play an important role in peoples’ reintegration into communities. Thoughtful programming and access to meaningful and relevant reading materials can help improve individuals’ quality of life both inside and outside of correctional institutions.
Please read our Prisoners Right to Read statement adopted by the Canadian Federation of Library Associations.
And the MLA-PLC action statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
What we do:
- collect and deliver and organize books to the prisons
- offer an Email Reference Service to HCC, WCC, Milner Ridge, and MYC
- create library awareness for incarcerated Manitobans to inform on the resources and tools of the library for when they are released
- commit to work together with partner sites and organizations towards the mutual goal of providing incarcerated and reintegrating individuals with relevant reading material and information
- act with respect to both incarcerated Manitobans and workers in the justice system
- advocate for the greatest access to reading materials and information possible within the environments of individual correctional institutions
- operate library services and programming inside the prisons
- we arrange special guests such as author talks, writing workshops, and songwriter visits
- you can read a copy of the Create Chapbook online created by the women inside WCC (link takes you to the U of M – Institute for the Humanities website)
Interested in volunteering?
We welcome new volunteers and have several different opportunities both within and outside of correctional institutions.
- The PLC is a committee under the auspices of the Manitoba Library Association. As PLC volunteers we represent the Manitoba Library Association. Membership in the Association is required.
- Clearances and orientations are required for volunteering at the WRC, WCC, Milner Ridge, MYC, and HCC. (Note: clearances and training can take weeks (and sometimes months) to attain.) If you are choosing to volunteer outside a correctional facility, this is not needed.
- We ask that potential volunteers consider that consistency is an important part of building trust with our partner organizations and the individuals we serve. We encourage people to commit to only what they can deliver.
- To learn more about our volunteering opportunities, and to receive our application form and information about a volunteer orientation, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in Volunteering? Check out the list below for more information about the current roles we are hoping to recruit.
- Sorting and packing donations for delivery to our institutions
- Takes place at the Millennium Library
- Must be able to lift boxes
- Time commitment – variable, a few times a year
Book Exchange Volunteers
- Participate in the monthly Book Exchange library program at the WCC.
- Should be comfortable talking about books
- Time commitment – every couple of months
- Participate in programming or as a helper to a program (like a writing or art workshop) inside one of the prisons
- Comfortable in assisting learners in a workshop setting
- Time commitment – variable – a few times a year
Email Reference Librarians
- Provides reference services
- Remote position for volunteers with reference experience and knowledge of: information resources, search strategies, and information ethics/access issues
- Flexible time commitment, volunteers can “claim” questions to answer based on their availability
Social Media Coordinator
- To establish and maintain an engaging social media presence on Instagram and Twitter
- Ideal for someone creative
- Time commitment – weekly or biweekly posts
- Monitor donations email, reply to enquiries and offers
- Arrange for donations drop offs or delivery
- Time commitment – light, regular email checking
Interested in donating?
We are happy to receive monetary donations to be put towards new book purchases. Donations over $20.00 are eligible for a tax receipt. Cheques can be made out to the Manitoba Library Association and mailed to their office. Please specify “Prison Libraries Committee” or ” Joe Big George” in the memo. Other ways to donate:
- use the “Donate” button at the bottom of the left sidebar to donate via PayPal. Please select “Prison Libraries Committee donation” from the drop-down menu.
- visit our CanadaHelp page and choose either: ‘Prison Libraries Committee’ or ‘Joe Big George Memorial Fund’ from the dropdown menu
Donating Used Books
We are happy to accept good quality newer books (under 5 years ideally) that fulfill the needs of the people we serve. Please see our Wish List to get an idea of the types of materials we need. We are especially grateful for Indigenous materials (fiction and non-fiction), graphic novels, memoirs, and paperbacks.
Note: while the Wish List is still current; not all needs may be reflected.
Please do not donate older, dusty, musty or torn books. We cannot make use of old textbooks or old children’s books. Please ensure the books you donate are properly boxed for our volunteers. Thank you so much.
As our storage space is very limited, if you are unsure if we can use what you have to give please contact email@example.com.
If your book donations are not suitable for our needs, please check out this list of other organizations accepting used books.
Donating New Books
We love getting new donations and we’ve made it easy! Visit our wish list on Amazon.ca and have your purchase sent directly to us.
If you prefer to support local, McNally Robinson also sells the books we need. We are happy to provide you with a shipping address so that your purchase will be delivered directly to our Committee. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read media coverage about our committee
- Books behind bars: Incarcerated people in Canada are often without access to information. Prison librarians are working to change that from THIS magazine (July/August 2023)
- Book & Bake sale supports incarcerated readers featured in the Winnipeg Free Press (June 2023)
- ‘They had no libraries’: Book drive in Winnipeg gets reading into province’s jails featured on APTN (May 2023)
- Prison book drive and book sale returns to the West End featured in the Winnipeg Free Press (June 2022)
- Providing space to create featured in the Uniter (October 2019)
- Inmates tell their stories featured in the Headliner (September 2019)
- Publication aims to give prisoners a voice featured in the Winnipeg Free Press (September 2019)
- Feature: Prison Libraries Committee on Human Rights Hub Winnipeg (February 2018)
- The Right to Read – A Prison Story featured in the Freedom to Read Week Review (February 2018)
- ‘Bibliographic rehabilitation’: Fundraiser helps connect inmates with books in Manitoba from CBC Manitoba (May 2017)
- Listen to From classics to dictionaries, the books that prisoners want to read from CBC Radio’s Now or Never (February 2017)
- Short YouTube video featuring MLA-PLC volunteer Monique Woroniak describing our programs and services (May 2016)
- Building Bigger Libraries not Bigger Prisons, a TedX talk by volunteer Isaac Wurmann (May 2015)
- Books Behind Bars: a volunteer-run prison library service in Winnipeg, Manitoba – from In the Library with a Lead Pipe (March 26, 2014)
- Free to Read: Bringing Library Programming into the Winnipeg Remand Centre – from Wired West2014 Volume 17, Issue 2.
- Books Behind and Beyond Bars– an article written for Feliciter magazine (Vol. 59, No.2 April 2013) [/showhide]
General questions can be directed to the Chair of the PLC: email@example.com
For questions about volunteering please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions about donating books please contact: email@example.com
To join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/MLA.PLC
To our donors, those who have donated books and money.
To Highwater Press, Portage & Main Press, University of Manitoba Press, Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, and McNally Robinson for their book donations
To the staff at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, the Women’s Correctional Centre, Headingley Correctional Centre for Men, Milner Ridge Correctional Centre, the Manitoba Youth Centre, and The Pas Correctional Centre for their support, advice and encouragement as we continue to develop and present library programming and services inside their respective correctional institutions.
To the Winnipeg Public Library for their continued support in the form of storage space for our collections, for donations of post-book sale books, and much more.
And a final heartfelt thank you to our prison library users, the incarcerated Manitobans who inspire us to do this good, hard, and important work. Thank you.