Extending Library Services to Empower Youth (ELSEY) began in 2009 with the goal of revitalizing the library collection in the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center.  In working to remodel the library in the CCJDC, key areas of focus in working to build meaningful libraries for youth in juvenile detention centers have been identified.  These areas include providing materials for a range of literacy levels, providing means to access relevant materials, organizing the library so that it speaks the language of the youth, and providing programming that links the youth to the public library.  All of these efforts are undertaken with the goal of increasing the life chances of incarcerated youth and reducing rates of recidivism.

ELSEY has extended its reach beyond the CCJDC library  to include presentations and information distribution, and will continue in its efforts to make more individuals aware of the rewards of maintaining library systems and providing information literacy programming to youth located in juvenile detention centers.

Staff from the CCJDC are heavily involved in the project and are invested in the success of youth in the center.  These staff make it possible for collaboration to exist, and support its continuation alongside a number of community groups and organizations.   In addition to CCJDC staff, ELSEY includes the following collaborators:

  • Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) – The Graduate School of Library and Information Science is committed to exploring how information is used in society and in extending information access to individuals.  Students and staff from GSLIS support the project by providing input on organization, materials selection, fund raising, staffed library hours, and project promotion.
  • Urbana Free Library – Urbana Free Library (UFL) is a top-ranked public library that serves 1,000 users a day.  UFL provides guidance on modeling the CCJDC on public library organization.  It also donates materials to the project as is possible.  The youth services librarian has been especially instrumental in creating a partnership between Urbana Free Library and the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center Library Project.
  • Books2Prisoners – Books2Prisoners is a community-based group of volunteers that collect donation materials to mail to prison inmates in Illinois.  They stock two libraries in jails located in Champaign County.  As part of the CCJDC Library Project, Books2Prisoners shares donated materials and advice regarding collecting books for the library.

Former collaborators include:

  • Peer Ambassadors (PAs) – A group of African-American and Latino/a youth that provide peer-to-peer counseling, peer education, and leadership in the surrounding community.  The PAs utilize their own experience to connect to their peers and to identify and address social justice issues.  The Peer Ambassadors initiated the detention center library project.  They currently contribute to the library project in a number of ways, including organizing materials, fund raising, and leading workshops and discussions with youth in the detention center.

Please explore our page to find out more about the CCJDC library project, updates on the effort, issues specific to providing library services in juvenile detention centers, and ways that you can become involved with ELSEY.

View our library at LibraryThing

You can also contact us at elsey-jdc@illinois.edu for more information.