About the Project

Libraries can be a lifeline for people who are incarcerated or detained and their families and communities, especially at this critical time in our nation’s history when many library, education, and social service practitioners are working to address the socioeconomic gaps that often lead to incarceration. In 2021, a task force of correctional library workers and other institutional stakeholders headed by ODLOS began work on a massive reimagining of the American Library Association’s 1992 Library Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions.

The new edition will be forward looking and expand the scope of the standards to be as inclusive as possible. The new Standards will heed the current phenomenon of mass incarceration, the inequitable incarceration rates of BIPOC individuals, and the rising rates of incarceration of women (especially women of color) and pay special attention to the incarceration of LGBTQIA+ individuals, undocumented individuals, and youth in jails, prisons, and other detention facilities, as well as to the information needs of returning individuals.

Coverage will include how libraries and library staff can partner with stakeholders to meet the literacy, learning, and recreational needs of individuals of any age held in jails, prisons, detention facilities, juvenile facilities, immigration facilities, prison work camps, and segregated units within any facility, whether public or private, military or civilian, in the United States and its territories. The new standards expand to cover women, LGBTQIA+ folks, the aged, people with dementia, people with special access needs, and foreign nationals, thus the new title: Standards for Library Services for Incarcerated and Detained Individuals.

These guidelines will include the history of prison library standards, the audience for which these standards are intended, the Prisoner’s Right to Read, and Legal Policy Context. They are informed by research and experience, the recently approved International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) prison library guidelines, as well as the 1992 ALA guidelines and a multitude of related documents to produce these standards.

The Convening and Hearing

In summer 2022 a broad range of stakeholders, including library and information workers, formerly incarcerated people, and representatives from justice-involved and other advocacy organizations, came together to participate in a historic hearing in Washington, DC. The discussions, panel presentations, and individual testimony on the realities and limitations incarcerated and detained people face as they seek to access information, whether in print or digitally, continues to inform the revision of the Standards.

A graphic note-taker captured the first half-day’s highlights (below).s

How You Can Get Involved

The Standards are a work in progress. As of the ALA Annual conference in June 2022, the drafting group has completed a skeleton draft of the Table of Contents. We welcome feedback from any stakeholders who work in, partner with, live in, or have formerly been held in a variety of carceral spaces.

If you’d like to provide feedback on the Standards or join the Standards working group, please send an inquiry to ALAStandards@gmail.com

The new Standards will be published by ALA in 2024 and made available to as many stakeholders, including incarcerated library users, as possible. We welcome the feedback from all readers of this document and are hopeful that the final result will reflect current and emerging best practices for library services for users who are incarcerated or detained in the US and its territories.



  • Erin Boyington
  • Dr. Randall Horton
  • Eldon Ray James
  • Sharaya Olmeda
  • Dr. Victoria Van Hyning

To reach Project Managers, email ALAStandards@gmail.com