Jail library turns leaf
Ryan Summerlin December 19, 2012
It’s a new chapter in the life of the Summit County Jail library. On Friday, the jail finished the first library update since the late 1990’s, streamlining the library catalogue and switching to the Summit County Library software.
The partnership between the Summit County Library and the Sheriff’s Department started when Summit County Library Director Dan Compton was approached by Deputy Joseph Carter.
"He was really unsatisfied with the system they had in place," Compton said. "The system was pretty archaic. And he sought my advice about what to do and if they needed to invest money into purchasing more software."
Compton was able to devise a way to use the Summit County Library software so the Sheriff’s Department would not have to spent money on a new system.
"I can definitely sympathize with the deputy. And that’s why I felt like, we can share some of our resources to help them," he said.
While the jail library has become a branch of the Summit County Library, it is hidden so that the public does not see the jail branch, nor does the jail see the rest of the Summit County Library’s holdings.
Compton added that previously when Carter deleted an item, he was not able to use the same number again.
"It was set up so they can only use a number for an item one time, and he was just really frustrated with it," he said. "The new system should be a lot more efficient for them, so they can keep better track of what is checked out, have hold lists and things like that," Carter said.
The Summit County Library will now also provide support for the deputies running the jail library and provide training videos so that when deputies are assigned to the library, they can watch the videos to learn how to use the software.
Carter said the system has changed hands a few times, with records getting lost and books misplaced.
"With all the books lost or destroyed, it has actually emptied out three cupboards," he said.
The jail library contains about 3,000 books, compared to the 100,000 housed by the Summit County Library.
"It’s pretty small right now, but we’re hoping to expand it within the next couple of years. Hopefully, we can get another room that will allow for more books. And we’re also going to make some changes so the religious material is more available and more thorough than it has been," he said.
The library caters to all religions, and those who are at the jail for only a short time tend to check out more religious materials than the other inmates, Carter said.
"When it’s their first time in here and they’re scared, they turn to their faith to help them through," he said.
About 80 percent of the inmate population takes advantage of the library, with check outs following the same National trends as other libraries.
"’The Hunger Games’ is really big right now, as well as the ‘Harry Potter’ and the ‘Game of Throne’ series, which takes months to read," Carter said. "The inmates really like reading series, because instead of getting one book with just one storyline, they can expand that out."
Fitness books are also popular, as inmates spend a lot of time exercising, he added.
An inmate who helped deputies transition the old system to the new system said he checks out books based on his mood, but enjoys reading series.
"I’m real OCD with books, so if I start a series I’ve got to finish it," he said. "So I’ve done the ‘Hunger Games,’ but I won’t be in here long enough for the ‘Game of Thrones.’ I pick a lot of the popular stuff, and once in a while I come across something I wouldn’t normally pick. This is one of the best libraries I’ve seen. It has a lot of selection."
Without a library, inmates don’t know what to do, he added.
"They get stuck," he said. "It’s like their whole mainframe freezes up. The library helps you have a positive mentality if you want to. It’s one of the only things that keeps you sane when you’re in here. It’s an escape."