For the past eighteen months I have been working with New York Public Library correctional services program to answer reference questions from incarcerated people. NYPL forwards me the questions and students taking Information Services and Sources answer inmates’ letters as part of their course work.
My colleague Emily Drabinski (who joined the project with her section of the course a year ago) and I, have written two extensive research articles on the topic, which will be published in RUSQ later this year.
In the meantime, Newsweek did a short piece on the project which really captures very little of the project and overlooks some important facets, such as the importance of information for facilitating reentry upon release.
Another aspect of the project that I am concerned with is how well the project meets the learning objectives of students. And for this, I would like to quote one of my students from the Fall semester:
… each of the letters I received had such a real, genuine human voice to them – fears of re-entry and what would happen if they did not acclimate to society well, a desire to pursue a higher education, and so on. The program gave me a chance to interact with the inmates in a unique context that otherwise would have been very unlikely. I do hope the answers I provided were of help to each of the inmates, as that was my aim throughout the program.
For the past two semesters, students taking my Information Services and Sources course (LIS 652) created miNYstories as part of the course requirements. miNYstories are short photo podcasts about New York City and each semester we have been inspired by a New York centric book.
First was E.B. White’s Here is New York and this semester the miNYstories were inspired by From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Students assembled photographs and music from public archives such as the New York Public Library Digital Gallery and the NYC Municipal Archive Gallery, and added them to a well-researched narrative.
The miNYstories tell about the history and style of public fountains in the city, the history of Automat restaurants, the history of waste management in the city, and many more.
It is quite amazing how much you can learn about New York by watching the miNYstories, I hope you take the time to do so.