Reference Services to Incarcerated People, Part II: Sources and Learning Outcomes

Debbie Rabina, Emily Drabinski


During the 2013/14 academic year, students taking a required general reference course in a library and information science program answered reference questions from incarcerated individuals. The assignment was designed as a service-learning project. Here we examine how well the assignment met the course and program-level learning objectives that students are expected to attain. We described the data collection and analysis, present our findings and make recommendation in ways to increase student learning outcome and ALA professional competencies from a services learning projects. Specifically we discuss the need to increase education in e-government sources since our findings indicated they are most useful for answering reference questions from incarcerated people.

Full Text:



CFR 542.1—Purpose and Scope,

“Library Services in New York State’s Correctional Facilities,” New York State Library,

“Correctional Services Program,”

“Inmate Population Statistics,” New York State Commission of Correction, April 5, 2014,

“About DOC: Facilities Overview,” City of New York Department of Correction, 2014,

“Library Services in New York State’s Correctional Facilities,” New York State Library, accessed October 14, 2008,

“Correctional Services Program: Correctional Services Monthly Statistics,” New York Public Library, 2014,

“ALA’s Core Competences of Librarianship, Reference and User Services,” American Library Association, January 29, 2009,; Pratt course catalog,

Pratt e-portfolio,

John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997); Bonnie Brzozowski, Nicholas Homenda, and Loriene Roy, “The Value of Service Learning Projects in Preparing LIS Students for Public Services Careers in Public Libraries,” Reference Librarian 53 (2012): 24–40.

Sarah Currim, “Experiential Learning: Reducing the Real-World Divide between Libraries and Library School,” Reference Librarian 52 (2011): 300–307.

Anthony Cocciolo, “Public Libraries and PBS Partnering to Enhance Civic Engagement: A Study of a Nationwide Initiative,” Public Library Quarterly 32, no. 1 (2013): 1–20.

Linda Z. Cooper, “Student Reflections on an LIS Internship from a Service Learning Perspective Supporting Multiple Learning Theories,” Journal of Education for Library & Information Science 54, no. 4 (2013): 286–98.

Patricia Montiel Overall, “The Effect of Service Learning on LIS Students’ Understanding of Diversity Issues Related to Equity of Access,” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 51, no. 4 (2010): 251–66.

John Riddle, “Information and Service Learning,” in Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press, 2010), 133–48.

Yan Zhang and Barbara Wildemith, “Qualitative Analysis of Content,” in Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2009), 308–19.

“Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool (CSAT)—Prisoners,” Bureau of Justice Statistics,

Paul T. Jaeger and John Carlo Bertot, “Responsibility Rolls Down: Public Libraries and the Social and Policy Obligations of Ensuring Access to E-government and Government Information,” Public Library Quarterly 30, no. 2 (2011): 91–116,



  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2023 RUSA