Library Snapshot Day: A Day in the Life of Your Library: April 2011

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Library Snapshot Day provides a way for libraries of all types across a state, region, system or community to show what happens in a single day in their libraries. How many books are checked out? How many people receive help finding a job? Doing their taxes? Doing their homework? This initiative provides an easy means to collect statistics, photos and stories that will enable library advocates to prove the value of their libraries to decision-makers and increase public awareness.

The concept originated in New Jersey as a joint effort between the New Jersey Library Assn. and the New Jersey State Library. Soon after, many states began emulating the effort. At the 2010 ALA Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Advocacy Coordinating Group, in conjunction with the Chapter Relations Committee and COSLA, agreed to take this initiative to a national level, asking that states across the country find a date this April to conduct a Library Snapshot Day.

The ALA Office for Library Advocacy and Chapter Relations Office worked with the New Jersey State Library to create a “how-to” manual, we call the  Library Snapshot Day Primer, on how to facilitate a Library Snapshot Day. Talk to others about Library Snapshot Day. Visit our ALA Connect page for information sharing, tips, questions and ideas!

Snapshot Day @ Washington State Library's Institutional Library Services

The Institutional Library Services (ILS) Division of the Washington State Library ( conducted a Library Snapshot Day on January 11, 2011. ILS has 12 branches in 10 prisons and 2 psychiatric hospitals in Washington.  Here are some of the findings from that day:

Institutional Library Snapshot Day provides a way for libraries located within Washington State’s major prisons and psychiatric  hospitals to share their mission with the public.

Snapshot Day Statistics for January11, 2011:
1287 Inmate/patient visitors
56 Staff visitors
54 New inmate/patient
patrons added
15 New staff patrons added
4623 Items circulated
868 Reference questions answered
352 Reference materials used
12 Branch Libraries

Primary purpose for visiting the library on snapshot day:
Education - 437
Recreation - 407
Release - 88
Recovery - 4
Other - 192

The survey taken on Library Snap-shot Day shows that the primary uses for the library are education and recreation. Some of the popular responses in the “other” category were escape, research, law, and personal growth.

Over the last two years, a significant number of open library hours were added at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Washington State Reformatory, Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Twin Rivers Corrections Center, and the Washington Corrections Center for Women.


Circulation736977 767583+4%
ILLs Borrowed11583  15029+29%
ILLs Loaned24163229+33%
Hours OPen4926.610034.8+103%
Number of Library Users1994422912+14%
Reference Questions Answered539213240 +145%


Connection to the Outside
Each of the Institutional Library Services Branches of the Washington State Library offers state and local newspapers in English and Spanish, along with magazines in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian. This provides inmates and patients an opportunity to connect with what’s going on outside of their institutions.

“I usually come up to read my hometown newspaper to stay in touch with what’s going on in the community. Without the library I wouldn’t have access to most of what the paper offers or goes on at home. Our librarian Jeannie is very helpful in seeking out anything else myself or others are interested in. Today I’d like to check out a book of quotes to share with my friends doing treatment on the street. Thank you Jeannie & thanks for the access to the Washington State Library & the ILL system.” — inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

“I can keep current with news with the wide variety of newspapers and magazines we have access to. I have also used the ILL book loaning system.” — inmate at Twin Rivers Corrections Center

Re-entry Resources
The ILS Branches offer a wide variety of re-entry information resources for patients and inmates preparing to release, including local transitional housing, treatment programs, information on continuing education, Veteran’s Benefits upon release, and how to re-instate Voter’s Rights. The library collections aim to provide a wide variety of resources to assist in preparing for re-entry, ranging from books on managing addictions, anger, and mental health issues to developing job-search skills to books on relationships and parenting.

"The library has and is helping me with finding work opportunities for my release." — inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

ILS ranches support patient and inmate education in a variety of ways. Branch collections offer a balanced non-fiction section which contains materials to help patrons pass the GED test, learn a new language, and keep up to date with the latest technologies. In addition to accessing the libraries' collections, patrons may receive books, articles, and sound recordings though interlibrary loan or the internet with the help of library staff. ILS branches also provide material to aid patients and inmates in locating correspondence courses while institutionalized and in locating schools and funding upon release. 

“The library not only helped me put together my release plan but with information from the library I was able to get enrolled in school and find money with grants to pay for it.” — inmate at Twin Rivers

ILS Branches also offer access to popular fiction, classics, bestsellers, and music.

“The library in this facility is one of the only outlets I have. Through the books I find I can learn new things, meet new people, and travel to far off lands. Without the books provided by this library, my life would be dull and my mind would slowly rot away to oblivion.”  — inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

“I use the library for multi-use. I research from my education projects. I use it for casual reading and music listening. Also, when I’m  curious about certain subjects I use the library to seek info. Plus, the ILL program is helpful and unique. I love the library!” — inmate at Twin Rivers

The Coyote Ridge Corrections Center Branch, which opened in February 2009, provides access to legal research resources as well as general library service. At Coyote Ridge, patrons are able to access case law and statutes via LexisNexis EHD, an offline version of the LexisNexis database. Patrons also have access to word processing and typewriters, policies and procedures for the Department of Corrections, legal writing guides, and other legal reference books. Library staff cannot give legal advice, but they assist inmates with research needs by teaching them how to retrieve information from library materials. Inmates do not have internet access, but library staff assist them by locating and printing pertinent information from online legal resources.

At the Western and Eastern State Hospital Branches, persons with psychiatric diagnosis visit the library as part of their recovery program. Both libraries offer a full range of books, magazines, newspapers, music and film. Their collections specialize in media that focuses on psychiatric issues. In addition to collection material, the library also provides a welcoming space for patients to read, relax to their favorite music, and access the internet. Staff also enjoy the non-institutional environment of the library and its collections. The library provides jobs for some patients as library aides, which enhances their recovery process. Patients and staff who cannot visit the library are all served through campus delivery. outreach. “The library is a nice place to relax and have some quiet time, also very helpful with any information I need. Our librarian is the best!” - patient at Eastern State Hospital

For more information visit the library's Facebook account at for all of the photos of their snapshot day or the Washington State Library Blog at