Liberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to outside worlds of their choosing. We believe access to books is a right, not a privilege. We believe books and relationships empower young people to change the criminal justice system.
Liberation Library is a volunteer-run & led abolitionist org that sends books to young people in IL prisons & jails. We were founded in February 2015 by Project NIA and are fiscally sponsored by the Chicago Freedom School. Our decision-making body is a Steering Committee (SC) that is non-hierarchical & multiracial. While there are Black folks on the SC, they're not the majority.
We provide books to young readers in all of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice facilities: IYC Chicago, IYC Harrisburg, IYC Pere Marquette, IYC St. Charles, IYC Warrenville and we also work with jails in multiple counties in Illinois.
We believe strongly that our readers should have a voice and a choice in the books that they receive. Our readers fill out order forms that volunteers fill at twice monthly packing days. Our readers provide their top three choices and general interests so that we can get them the book of their choosing, or something similar.
Once the book is selected, our volunteers write personalized notes to each reader, and the books that the young people receive are theirs to keep. Our model encourages our readers to have choice and ownership in a world where they are often devoid of both.
Why Your Support Matters
In 2020, Liberation Library started working closely with the Final 5 Campaign. Out of that collaboration came the Free The Dream$ magazine which is distributed across youth facilities in the state of Illinois. Free The Dream$ aims to engage young people in their own visions and reflections as well as current news, book recommendations, music lyrics, and more. After two years of distribution, including feedback from young people themselves, Liberation Library is looking to expand the magazine into a full program. This program aims to increase the engagement of young people on the inside to disrupt isolation, and censorship and instead encourage imagination, self-determination, and bridging connections with each other. The development of this program will also include making sure that young people are paid directly for their contributions and their time and be able to continue distributing the magazine by hand to young people across the state. "