Shoreline students team up with local nonprofit to tackle social justice with a book drive

Associated Student Government Social Justice Officer Emily Stensland with some of the many books that have already been donated to the Books to Prisoners book drive.

Associated Student Government Social Justice Officer Emily Stensland with some of the many books that have already been donated to the Books to Prisoners book drive.

Shoreline Community College students are partnering with 
Books to Prisoners, a Seattle-based nonprofit that sends free books to prisoners nationwide, for a winter quarter book drive.

The partnership is the brainchild of Shoreline’s Reference & Instruction Librarian Chloe Horning, who was inspired by the campus Community Read of Octavia’s Brooda science fiction anthology exploring issues of social justice.

“I’ve volunteered with Books to Prisoners in the past,” said Horning, “and have been inspired by their commitment to increasing social equity by encouraging the pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement through books. With the introduction of Octavia’s Brood to campus, and the indepth discussions about equity that anthology is prompting amongst the campus community, I just felt like the time was ripe for a collaboration with Books to Prisoners, as prison justice is one of the most important social justice issues facing society today.”

Horning reached out to the Associated Student Government’s Social Justice Officer, Emily Stensland, who took the reins on organizing the drive.

“Emily’s just run with it and done an amazing job of organizing the event,” said Horning. “Thanks to her, the book drive is truly student-driven, and it’s exciting that our campus community is so willing to get involved in addressing issues of social justice in this manner.”

“I think it’s just so important to bring this type of awareness to campus and to get the larger community involved,” said Stensland. “Without access to education, prisoners are in a losing situation.”

Books to Prisoners staff member Michelle Dillon stopped by Shoreline’s February 3 meeting of the Community Read to emphasize the importance of the nonprofit’s mission.

“Books are vital sources of education, comfort, and connection to the outside world,” said Dillon. “Research shows that access to educational opportunities, including books, significantly reduces recidivism and improves the quality of life during incarceration.”

“Unfortunately,” continued Dillon, “prison libraries are often underfunded, poorly stocked, and inaccessible to inmates in solitary confinement or medical units. We receive letters from inmates who describe only being allowed to visit the library every four months due to overcrowding. We are so happy to be partnering with Shoreline for this book drive and are thrilled by the levels of support already shown by students and faculty members. The books donated this quarter will be used by inmates across the country who would otherwise be unable to receive the help they need and deserve.”

Horning agreed. “As a librarian,” she said, “providing books and a gateway to literacy to anyone from any walk of life is an important step toward increasing equity.”

Donations for the book drive are being accepted now through the end of winter quarter, which concludes Fri., March 18. Members of the community are encouraged to donate books by dropping them off in one of two bins on campus: one located inside the main entrance to the PUB (9000 bldg.) and one on the main floor of the Ray W. Howard Library (4000 bldg.).

Though Books to Prisoners collects and distributes a wide spectrum of materials, genre books, as well as nonfiction and fiction works by African-American authors, are the most often requested. Please check out the list of donation guidelines, to ensure your donation can be utilized.

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