Each week, University of Wisconsin-Madison students and community members spend hours in the Dane County jails providing books and other readings for inmates.
The Jail Library Group is a volunteer-run organization where members help distribute donated reading materials to detainees in the Dane County’s Public Safety Building and the City-County Building.
Erin Anthony, a graduate student in the UW-Madison School of Library & Information Studies, is co-president of the group and co-chair of the City-County Building library. She said her passion for her work comes from seeing the rewards of giving back to the community.
“In my personal opinion, it really promotes and fulfills the Wisconsin Idea,” Anthony said. “Taking educational materials and the services in the education of students in the university and helping people access information, that’s important.”
Anthony said many of the inmates tell her they are trying to implement positive change as well as reconnect with society and their families, and seeking out books is a great step in that process.
“I had an inmate tell me that he’s trying to be a better person and he thinks he can achieve that through reading and through requesting books in the library while he’s in jail,” she said.
One of the most interesting aspects of this work is the wide variety of genres the inmates seek out, Anthony said. The requests range from comic books—so inmates can send drawings home to their children—to almanacs.
The Jail Library Group welcomes all interested students, and encourages them to reach out for involvement through their Twitter and Facebook accounts.