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All NYPL locations will close at 3 PM on December 24 and will be closed on December 25.

Your Library Needs You!

Correctional Services Program: How to Help


How to Help

Without donations and volunteers, the Correctional Services program would not be nearly as successful as it is. Pease check back, as our needs change over time. 


The vast majority of our collection is made up of donated books. We ask interested parties to please visit our regularly updated Amazon Wish List to see what we are looking for. The wishlist is based on actual requests from our regular patrons. Due to some wonderfully abundant donations recently, we are currently accepting donations of only a limited scope of topics, found here: DONATIONS GUIDELINES PAGEYour generosity is greatly appreciated.

We are also always looking for ways to fund additional staff to manage our libraries and programs in jails in prisons. We are a staff of four and rely heavily on volunteers. It would help the program immensely if we were able to hire additional staff from our volunteer corps. If you wish to donate directly to this effort, we can accept checks made out to NYPL CORRECTIONAL SERVICES of any amount.


We have a tremendous amount of gratitude for our wonderful volunteers from Pratt Institute, Queens College and the Brooklyn Public Library. Without them, our work would not be possible.

We accept new volunteer applicants on a rolling basis. Our program operates with very limited staff who often work offsite, which means we rely heavily on our dedicated volunteers. However, our size limits our capacity to interact with volunteers and accept new people to our team. The work we do is very specialized and we ask a lot of those who work with us. Because we receive a high volume of inquiries, we are unable to respond to every new volunteer applicant. We appreciate your understanding.

Volunteers are required to

  • commit to 2-4 full days per month, for a minimum of 3 months
  • practice excellent people skills and a capacity for self-reflection and self-assessment
  • be effective and comfortable working independently
  • uphold and understand the importance of patron privacy, particularly with special populations
  • be experienced in library and research skills across a variety of topics

We prefer volunteers who

  • are familiar with using major newspaper and magazine databases
  • have a working knowledge of basic law databases and justice system issues
  • have excellent written communication skills
  • are pursuing a career in public librarianship and/or outreach services

Ways to Volunteer

We welcome people to this work by inviting volunteers to first help us at our office in Midtown. Not every personality is suited to work in the correctional setting so we encourage each volunteer on our team to excel where he or she fits best.

Reference Letters: We receive dozens of reference letters by mail each week from incarcerated men and women. The reference questions cover community resources and assistance, religion, celebrities, publishing, music, law, etc. Incarcerated people have very limited access to the information they seek. Answering mail from prisons is always interesting and a rewarding way to build reference skills through the uncommon format of snail mail. The reference letter work is done independently and some do this work from home.

Collection Management: We always need help organizing, weeding and shelving our ever-changing book collection. Our collection of books is completely donated and it requires attention to stay relevant and neat. Please be aware that collection management work is done independently.

Library Service at City Jails: We use volunteers at three of the city jail sites we serve with library services. Volunteers help us with circulation, readers’ advisory, collection organization and customer service.

Get Involved

Please email Emily Jacobson, Correctional Services Librarian at with questions or to get involved. To apply to our volunteer team, please email your resume to Ms. Jacobson and tell us briefly what interests you and why.

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