The library at the Waupaca County jail continues to grow thanks to the efforts of a local group of students.
Members of Waupaca’s Student Library Advisory Group (SLAG) took its latest donated books to the jail on Dec. 30, and during a tour of the jail on that same day, learned just how much those books are appreciated.
“They like the books that the teens donate,” said Melissa Carollo, the reference and teen librarian at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
It was around 2002 that Waupaca library director Peg Burington started the ball rolling, said Carollo.
Burington was the teen librarian at the time and was also working to establish SLAG.
Several years later, book drives began for the jail library project, and since Carollo became the library’s teen librarian in September 2008, she has found yet another way to find books that can be donated to the county jail.
Several times a year, she must weed the teen section in the library due to its limited space, and any paperback books she comes across that are in good shape are set aside for the jail.
In addition, she said, “If books are donated to the library and we already have a copy and it’s a paperback, we’ll hang on to it for the jail.”
The Friends of the Library also receives numerous donated books for its book sale room and gives some of those donated books to Carollo for the jail library project.
“I just try to hang on to them for that purpose if I can,” she said.
Among the most recently donated books were three of the four books in the Twilight saga.
“They asked us if we could get a set of Twilight,” Carollo said. “I’m still waiting for a donated paperback of the fourth book.”
In addition to donating books for the inmates at the county jail, SLAG has also donated books that can be read by the families of those visiting inmates at the jail.
In December 2009, SLAG used a donation it had received from the Friends of the Library to purchase board books for children, which were then placed in the waiting area of the jail.
Members of SLAG place several stickers on each book that is donated for the jail library project.
One sticker identifies the book as jail property, while another lets those who read the book know that it was donated by the group. Still another sticker says, “Make good choices.”
In making the latest donation to the jail library, Carollo decided to also set up a tour of the jail for members of SLAG.
She wanted to do so because some SLAG members are beginning to graduate from high school and were among those involved in the project from its inception.
“I wanted the younger kids to see where the books go and hope that then they will want to continue the program,” Carollo said. “I think it’s a good thing for them to think about other people in our community. I think the jail population is often a forgotten population.”
She believes it was also nice for some who have been involved in SLAG for a longer period of time to actually see some of the books in place.
SLAG’s Jail Library Project is also featured in a YouTube video, which was developed for Project for Awesome 2010. It can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfe5J2SOMeo.
Brothers John and Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers started Project for Awesome in 2007. Since then, on each Dec. 17, the YouTube community promotes charities through videos.
“The kids still follow him, and they still want that connection with him,” Carollo said of John Green, the young adult author that SLAG brought to Waupaca’s first book festival last October.
Carollo likes the idea of promoting charities, and after watching John and Hank Green’s video this past Thanksgiving in which they talked about this year’s Project for Awesome, she proposed the idea of doing a video about the jail library project to SLAG.
“I was looking at ways to use video more with SLAG,” she said. “I thought it was a good opportunity to try it out.”
With more than 3,000 people putting Project for Awesome videos on YouTube last Dec. 17, she feels SLAG’s 1-minute, 58-second video received a fair number of views.
“I think they had fun. It was nice, because it involved a lot of different people from SLAG,” she said.
The group continues to accept new or gently used paperback books for the project. Books can be dropped off at the library. The jail also accepts puzzles and magazines – remove any personal information from the magazines before donating them.
In addition, SLAG accepts monetary donations for the project and uses them to purchase paperback books for the Waupaca County jail.
Checks should be made out to SLAG and designated for the jail project.