The staff at the detention center also work tirelessly to make the youths’ stay at the center meaningful and nurturing. To help accomplish this mission, the center includes a branch of the Pima County Public Library, staffed by two librarians and a page. I made a visit to the center to meet the librarians, administrators, and detention staff, and was deeply moved by the dedication and commitment they all have to the youth in the center.
I was expecting a much different experience than the one I had at the PCJCC. The library is larger than I anticipated and it has a wall of windows looking out onto a courtyard with a small garden tended by the youth. The room is inviting and bright, and there is a computer room full of resources for learning and exploration. It is a place where the kids want to read.
|Juvenile Detention Center Library|
William Bevill is one of the amazing staff at the center and he has a unique perspective when it comes to his job as Assistant Librarian. His mother, Jimmie, was a public librarian in Tucson and she began providing service to the PCJCC while working for what was then called the Tucson-Pima Public Library. Back then, the library was no more than a cart full of books that was delivered to the living units once a month. Jimmie worked with detention center administration who were seeking a more hands-on, nurturing approach to service to incarcerated youth. Library service increased and eventually a space was made available for a library.
After William’s mother passed away he became intrigued with the idea of working with teens who would be in an environment where only school and books would be their primary source of education and recreation. He wanted to make a difference, and he saw his chance to do that at the PCJCC.
William is a dedicated advocate of the library and he works very hard to promote reading and library programs. The kids who visit the library get a Pima County Public Library card, and they can now browse the shelves to check out books. William looks at his patrons like any other kids who have a chance to read, and he sees the library and its resources as a way to stimulate them to love reading.
“Books can mean everything to them,” he shares with me and continues by saying “We see kids reading levels increase and their awareness of the world go up, their school work gets better, they discover things. I don’t know if they will all read when they leave. Our purpose is to get them to read here, try to instill them with a love of reading, get them a library card, and encourage tutoring.”
The library is not just for the youths staying at the detention center. William has worked hard to expand the library’s presence by introducing it to as many employees as possible. Many of the staff have library cards and several are avid readers who use the PCJCC library on a regular basis.
I was also able to speak with several of the youths staying at the detention center and will share their stories in another post. Let’s just say that their respect for the library and the librarians and their relationship with reading are inspiring. As William says, “This makes the PCJCC a special place. We take a strange, often sad environment and turn it into not just a library here, but a library for them to go to when they leave.”
Written by Samantha Barry