The Prison Library Support Network (PLSN) is an information-based collective founded in 2016 to support incarcerated people by organizing networks for sharing resources and building community around prison abolition in libraries, archives, and other knowledge-based institutions. Since our inception, we've developed a series of projects in partnership with NYC-area library correctional services, including book drives, reference letter answering, and, most recently, a fundraiser in support of the Queens, Brooklyn, and New York Public Libraries’ correctional services divisions, whose work was impacted by Covid-19.
Much of our work is driven by the question: how can we use our skills and resources as information workers to create and support spaces for abolition? We believe abolition is a form of collective liberation and information workers are uniquely positioned to, as library worker Liv Graham describes, "think outside the box—aka outside of Institutions—to build open systems of access to information about, for, and by us, working toward an attainable vision of collective information resources that support liberation and abolition through access."
While some abolitionist organizing efforts are focused on specific institutional changes, our organizing focuses on building relationships and trust between library workers who are committed to this kind of work. We believe this is necessary groundwork to develop a constellation of resources to support people who lack these connections, and who are violently targeted by the state and the criminal justice system.
In this presentation, members of the Prison Library Support Network will discuss: (1) how our organization started and how we build our relationships; (2) the projects we have done: from the asks that inspire them, to the way we work through them as a non-hierarchical organization, to their impact in the library and prison communities; and (3) what brought us to and keeps us tied to this work—how it brings joy and how it fosters radical information liberation, i.e., information access alternatives that subvert power structures. We'll discuss how attendees can do similar work and end with a Q&A.
Our goal for this presentation is to offer our work as one model for organizing sustainable, volunteer-powered information networks and services, and to encourage reflection on what our roles as information workers look like in the struggle for collective liberation.