Library Card Sign-up Month: Doing Time with Arapahoe Libraries

Did you know that Arapahoe Libraries offers services to patrons who are in jail?

Arapahoe Libraries is proud to operate a modified branch inside of the Arapahoe County Detention Facility. Patrons in jail can talk to staff about legal reference materials, as is their right. We also offer recreational reading materials. Helping a patron find the right book or magazine is a highlight of any librarian’s job! On average, 80% of inmates in the jail use library services each week. They are intellectually curious and read a broad range of genres


The library itself occupies very little square footage, staff takes materials directly to the pods; there are six pods, classified by security levels and inmate needs. Each pod receives library services, known as Book Cart, once a week. The Book Cart serves between 80-170 patrons (that's one patron per minute!). Each 2-hour visit involves

  • 2 librarians
  • 2-3 inmate workers
  • 5 carts of books and current magazines once per month.


The freedom to explore curiosities and escape through a book is one of the few personal liberties that a person can hold on to in jail. Intellectual freedom is important to maintaining a sense of self, to promote mental health and for positive outcomes after being released. Library staff at the jail bring what one patron referred to as “spirit-lifting” services. Staff learn about their patrons’ lives and offer them human moments in a space that otherwise tends to be impersonal, and the patrons look forward to meaningful interactions with someone who sees them as a person, not just someone who has experienced legal trouble.

Library staff hope to let patrons know that libraries are helpful and friendly spaces that patrons continue to use after they have served their time. Patrons released from jail will be surprised and delighted to find a new library card as a part of the personal possessions being returned to them. Every month is library card sign up month!


  • Want to learn more about what it’s like to be in prison? Check out Ear Hustle, a podcast from inside of San Quentin State Prison that “brings you the stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it.” 
  • Do you need some resources for talking to your children about a parent or other loved one who is in jail? Check out this list and other great parenting resources from early literacy librarian ArapahoeMollie