Place of the Library in the Prison Regimes

MKC_HMYOI Aylesbury Lib Brochure_PPoint

The Prison Rules 1999, and Young Offender Institution Rules 2000, as amended, place on the Secretary of State the responsibility for ensuring that each Prison Service Establishment has a library, and that, subject to any directions of the Secretary of State, the prisoners of those establishments have facilities to use and exchange books. To complement success in education and vocation courses delivery, the Prison Library provides an accessible service. Through its collections, it supports learning, improving literacy and removing barriers to effective resettlement. It also promotes reading for pleasure and opportunities for wider cultural engagement by the prisoners.

The Library as a unique facility and knowledge repository is present in any establishment or Society aiming at capacity building, research promotion and knowledge acquisition. The Prison Library at Aylesbury Prison is no different as access to materials stocked is boundless despite the prison being a locked-up facility. A comprehensive collection is provided – as books for curriculum support, well-being (on foods, nutrition, healthcare), as well as fiction, magazines and audio books including prison newspapers. Examples include Inside Times, Converse, and VOICE (newspaper for the BAME) Also, of importance is how library spaces are utilised and facilities provided.

Services on offer

Readers’ Services – loaning of books and magazines, information /enquiry services provision

Outreach Services – taking reserved books to the cells of the young offenders who have constraints in visiting the library. Library Book return boxes (painted red) are located in all the Residential Blocks for prisoners to return loaned books and is emptied weekly by the library staff.

Readers Advisory Service – due to the fact that some of the young offenders are from various backgrounds – some with their first language not being English; others who have no formal education; some from the Travellers’ group and those from the English-speaking countries. A prison librarian needs subtle interactions aimed to inculcate reading habit and by extension promoting reading culture amongst them. As improvements are made, all are encouraged to enrol for some education courses.

Activities engaged in

The Prison Library liaises with various bodies for different activities as detailed below:

Six-Book Reading Ahead programme – organised annually by the Reading Agency to promote reading among young offenders. The completers attend Award ceremonies, where each completer has the Governor’s handshake and a 1:1 chat for 2 minutes.

Story Book Dads – this scheme is for young dads and those who wish to have contacts with their siblings. Stories are read from shortlisted books and recorded unto a CD for to send to their named recipients.

Shannon Trust – A charity aiming to support reading activity among the young offenders through supply of some guidebooks and workbooks and stationeries to work with.

The Bucks Association for the Care of Offenders (BACO) – which aims to bring about positive change to people serving sentences in Buckinghamshire’s prisons. They provide small funds to cover distance-learning courses (course books & materials, plus art/craft materials), radios, smart clothing for interviews, to attend a Parole Board and family days amongst other things.

Guest Personalities and Authors’ visit – A number of ex-prisoners who have made their mark in the community visit for chats and to share their personal life experiences with the young offenders in custody. Some of these ex-prisoners are now authors of books, which they distribute free free-of-charge to the young offenders and for the library. There was a time that the World Boxing Champion, Anthony Joshua visited and had a down-to-earth talk with the young offenders on how to live outside of prison and be better persons, using himself as an example to emulate.

We had finalised arrangements with the National Reading Agency to bring JaQuavis Coleman – one of the authors of the popular Urban fiction – “The Cartel” Series from the USA to visit our prison for a chat. Sadly, the COVID-19 lockdown has disrupted this event.

National Literacy Trust – has an ongoing 3-year partnership with HMYOI Aylesbury on “Working with Young Offenders”, as sponsored by the Rothschild Foundation – mainly to develop a discursive book club, enable mini wing libraries to ‘sell’ reading to their peers, authors’ discussion groups and workshops, amongst others. The Trust, through one of its subsidiaries, ‘Books Unlocked’, supplies books for the use Wing libraries.

Prison Reading Group in collaboration with Give-a-Book charity – regularly donating books to the library and sponsors the Librarian to attend their annual training day, usually held at the Roehampton University, London.

Going extra miles – The backsets of health-related magazines are made available to the Health Care Unit, as appropriate. This ensures regular access to those who may be more vulnerable and less able to access the main Library.

Health and well-being and the COVID-19 – With COVID lingering and social distancing being observed, big changes have been made in the prison. Education including Library staff are not allowed entry to the Wings for now. In addition, the labels (DO NOT SIT HERE) have been placed on some chairs to ensure that the visiting population will be about 30% of total.


Ayo Onatola, BSc (Hons) Biochem, PGDE, MLS, ACLIP
Prison Librarian, Milton Keynes College
@HMYOI Aylesbury, Bucks.

Learning Journey – Apprentice Library Assistant

My transition into an apprenticeship and the start of my time in the NHS followed a long journey of higher education, part-time work and an ongoing unfulfillment with my professional progress. Initially pursuing an undergraduate degree was driven as the next logical step after my A-Levels, and my postgraduate degree seemed to temporarily fill a gap I thought needed filled. Alongside my educational career I worked in various administration roles in different sectors which made do at the time but never left me satisfied. Working in a library was always a goal of mine, but I was never quite sure how to get there. The librarian felt like a role you were born into, and the path towards it seemed almost hidden.

Getting into my apprenticeship with Southmead Library was a fruitful result of a vigilant library career quest, including countless job searches and CV tweaks. When I saw the opportunity to join the LKS team as an apprentice I was immediately excited – professional and educational development? That was the dream! I was lucky enough to be picked for interview and when I received the congratulations call I was overcome with happiness and relief. My time in my role has far exceeded my expectations thanks to the brilliant team I have come into and my ever-growing understanding of what the role can encompass. A most recent example of this is getting the opportunity to look into decolonising the library collection, looking into expanding the diversity of both authors and visual content alongside compiling lists of reading materials and resources to implement. Being able to take on this project was not only relevant to me from a racial perspective, but highlighted the constant development of healthcare library collections and the potential for building more representative resources. I would never have imagined getting to undertake this kind of work so early in my role, so it has been a fruitful endeavour. In just under a year I feel I have come such a long way in my role thanks to the professional guidance of my colleagues, getting to grips with the daily operations of a healthcare library and opportunities to take on new responsibilities.

Though my journey to my current role felt longer than expected I do not regret any of my experiences. Undertaking two degrees allowed me to hone my writing capabilities and the academic research has largely helped with searching for articles and navigating library classifications. Whilst administration was never my long term goal, it meant I developed a wide set of transferrable skills of working with different systems and responsibilities that are found across many office-based jobs. Doing an apprenticeship at this stage in my life has allowed me to put my goals into action and given me clear direction on how I want my career to progress. Assignments set by LMP and projects arising in the workplace equip me with both a broad and specialist insight into library provision.

As a young professional, I hope my apprenticeship experience so far can help inform and encourage others looking for focused development to look into apprenticeship opportunities – it can introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities!

Shakira Rawlins
Library Assistant
Library and Knowledge Service, North Bristol NHS Trust
Southmead Hospital
Bristol BS10 5NB

Moving to regional library management systems: the journey begins

In January 2020, in a letter to all NHS library service managers, Sue Lacey Bryant announced that Health Education England has approved an ambitious programme ‘to provide NHS staff with a single, coherent national gateway to their trusted library and knowledge service, connecting them seamlessly to quality resources, services and support tailored to their needs’.

Sue explained that this would involve not only procuring and implementing a national discovery system. HEE is also funding an ambitious programme to deliver a more efficient and coherent infrastructure of library management systems (LMSs). The present LMS landscape in complex and costly with over 91 separate systems across England. This will be reduced to a small number of regional systems delivering improvements for library staff and end users.

The transition to regional library management systems is a significant programme of work. Local LKS engagement in the selection, configuration and implementation of shared systems is critical to their success. We believe that regional LMS will deliver the optimal balance between local ownership and streamlining efficiencies.

The journey has already started. HEE has been working with LKS in the South West, Thames Valley and Wessex to procure and implement a new regional LMS spanning 30 services, and with library teams in the North East to upgrade an LMS shared by 7 services. ‘After Action Review’ and ‘Retrospect’ have been used to capture lessons learned.

Attention now turns to the East of England and Kent, Surrey and Sussex. These regions already benefit from HEE-funded regional LMS, but with contracts due to expire, need to prepare for re-procurement.  ‘Peer Assist’ was used to help ensure they benefit from the experience and insights of the team involved in the procurement in the South West, Thames Valley and Wessex, and Ken Chad, a very experienced library technology consultant, has been engaged to help with next steps.

HEE is also supporting LKS in the West Midlands as they prepare to build on the success of locally-shared LMS to create a joined-up, scaled-up regional LMS. This is a library-led, ‘bottom up’ approach to achieving the same goals: a consolidated knowledge base of regional holdings, a consistent experience for service users across the region, and time-savings for library staff.

Finally in this first phase, Senior Leadership Programme participant projects will help library teams in other parts of the country start to explore the benefits, opportunities and practicalities of shared LMS, using models of change and knowledge mobilisation tools to capture and share learning.

Below Ken Chad explains a little more about the work planned with the library services in the East of England and Kent, Surrey and Sussex:

“The approach we are taking involves three pre-procurement phases: 1) communication, engagement and preparation; 2) formulating requirements 3) determining the solution to meet the requirements.

We recommend communication and engagement with a diverse range of stakeholders — influencers as well as system users. Not everyone will be engaged in the same tasks, but diversity helps to bring fresh thinking and challenge assumptions.

Workshops with library staff will address some key questions. What are the problems we need to solve for NHS staff and learners? What are the problems we need to solve for library staff? Why do we use LMS is the way that we do?  Is there opportunity to standardise policies to give users a more consistent experience?  Can we streamline procedures to ensure less time is spent on administration and quicker delivery times for customers?

We will also be analysing the LMS market to find out the opportunities for change and what vendors can realistically offer to meet the specific needs of the NHS.”

Questions? Suggestions? Please contact the HEE lead on resource discovery in your region: North, Midlands & East:; London and KSS: