3 men discuss a book in a prison library.

Libraries Change Lives

Over 60% of the current prison population has a literacy level no higher than primary school level, and our Prison Library staff are working hard to reduce this figure.

The library in HMP Nottingham supports the prison population in supplying information, activity sheets and leisure reading and it plays an important part in the men’s well-being and rehabilitation programme.


Using the Library Service

HMP Nottingham is a category B men’s prison located in Sherwood.  Every prisoner has a legal entitlement to attend the library and are accompanied to the library on a twice weekly basis.

As well as having access to fiction and non-fiction stock, men are able to borrow DVDs, CDs, jigsaws and magazines and be supplied with catalogues, activity packs, crayons and greetings cards.

In 2019

  • 1,769 men joined the library, an increase of 502 on figures from the year before
  • 3,000 enquiries were received
  • 6,605 books were borrowed
  • 7,723 visits were made to the library, an increase of nearly 1000 from the previous year.
Baby boy turns the page in the book with animal. He is very happy and excited by watching pictures. Child concept.

Storytime Dads

Family contact can be difficult from behind bars with many prisoners being a long distance from their families. Regular contact with family reduces re-offending and the Storytime Dad’s project is a key part of reducing returns to custody.

  • It can help strengthen family ties during difficult times
  • It lets children know that they are loved and missed
  • It gives prisoners the chance to feel valued as a parent and have a positive impact on their children’s lives.

Men apply to the project and can communicate with their children through reading and recording a chosen story, selected from a huge variety of children’s books. The recording is sent to the children along with home-made cards in which the men write messages, along with copies of the chosen books. In 2019, 370 children were sent parcels and over 200 men attended Storytime Dads.

Image: stock image

Photo of storytime dads information board that hangs in the prison

Next Steps for Storytime Dads

These are two of many messages of thanks the library has received:

“It’s the little things that make a difference.”

“What a lovely thing to do for the kids. I’ve never seen anything like it. My kids will be so happy when they get their parcel. You’ve made my day.”

In 2019, the British Library attended a Storytime Dads session and interviewed staff and the men who were there. Their resulting podcast, “Anything but silent”, S1 E1 is available online, gives a moving account of the men’s appreciation of this special library facility in HMP Nottingham.

The next stage of Storytime Dads will be to provide an audio-visual experience for the men and their families, as exemplified in “It’s Storytime” at Lowdham Grange prison, where children can see as well as hear their fathers as they read to them. This exciting initiative is currently being progressed within HMP Nottingham and we look forward to an enhanced Storytime Dads, where men will be able to connect with their children with the use of better technology.

Photo of guest author David Stickman, delivering a workshop

Raising literacy and encouraging a love of reading for pleasure

Here are a few more projects our library staff are involved in;

Reading Ahead: The Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme is the largest reading for pleasure initiative currently on offer in prisons. The programme is designed to help people improve their reading  skills at the same time as developing an enjoyment of reading

Turning Pages: A programme, promoted by the Shannon Trust that support readers at all levels and where prisoners act as  support mentors and teach other men how to read.

Group Activities: The library organises regular group activities such as reading groups, author visits, and library staff organise craft activities and give out books during family visits, where the men spend time with their partners and children.

Photo of guest author David Stickman, who delivered sessions on  ‘poetry, percussion and discussion’ as part of our calendar of events for Black History Month and National Poetry Day.