Panel: Inspiration, Knowledge and Curiosity While Incarcerated

Tuesday, 12/13/2022
7:00 - 8:30

Panelists share best practices and insights from their own endeavors and will highlight the role of information access in maintaining inspiration in carceral contexts. 


Watch on YouTube.


Incarceration does not foreclose peoples’ ability to think, dream, create, envision, and learn individually and collectively. Join facilitators working to ensure access to the resources that support these activities—including librarians working with incarcerated people, authors and creators and education advocates—in a discussion of their current work. Featuring Jeanie Austin, PhD


Jeanie Austin (they/them) earned their Ph.D. in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are a jail and reentry services librarian at the San Francisco Public Library. They have provided library services in juvenile detention centers and jails, and researched library services in carceral facilities, for over a decade. Their work has been published in First Monday, International Journal of Information, Diversity & Inclusion (IJIDI), Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, Libraries: Culture, History, and Society, and The Reference Librarian among other. They were named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2022.


Erin Boyington began working in correctional libraries in 2013 after receiving her MLIS from the University of Washington. She began as a Library Technician II and then Librarian II, providing library services and programming to Sterling Correctional Facility, the largest state prison in Colorado. There she started new adult programs with the help of community partners. Working with Pop Culture Classroom in Denver, she brought their LEAD (Literacy Education in Adult Detention) With Comics curriculum to prison, teaching art and literacy to residents using comic books. She also worked with TED.com to provide their inspirational talks by global leaders to the incarcerated. Erin enjoys presenting at workshops and conferences and is an active member-participant of the American Library Association.


Caits Meissner, Director of Prison and Justice Writing at PEN America, has taught, consulted, and co-created extensively for over 15 years across a wide spectrum of communities with a focus on prisons, public schools, and college classrooms at The New School University and The City College of New York. Meissner holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York, where she was awarded The Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Creative Writing, an Educational Enrichment Award and The Teacher-Writer Award. She is deeply invested in the transformative, restorative, and change-making capacities of imagination and creativity.


Robert Pollock is the manager of the Prison Writing Program at PEN America. For over a decade, he has worked with the justice system and its intersection with the arts. He is an ongoing participant in Rehabilitation Through the Arts, Musicambia, Music on the Inside, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison and Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections Advisory Committee. He has collaborated with the Fortune Society, Osborne Association, and several NYC grassroots organizations. He has participated in workshops and panels at Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Yale, and other universities to advocate for the power of the arts in prison education and restorative justice practices. As a visual artist, he illustrated the picture book for children of incarcerated parents, Sing Sing Midnight. As a singer-songwriter, his compositions have been heard at the Obama White House, the RFK Human Rights Foundation, Create Justice forums, the Vera Institute of Justice Gala, the New York Ethical Society, and Carnegie Hall. Robert is a Fall 2019 New York Community Trust Leadership Fellow.


Kurtis Tanaka, PhD, is program manager for justice initiatives at Ithaka S+R, where he has led numerous projects on increasing access to and the quality of higher education opportunities in US prisons. His work is broadly framed around the question of how people access information, through this lens exploring the role of technology in higher education in prisons and the impact of Departments of Corrections’ media review policies, censorship, self-censorship, and digital surveillance on educational quality. Beyond higher education in prisons, Kurtis works with academic libraries, publishers, and museums to help them better serve their users and communities.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide.



Jeanie Austin - Website

PEN America - Website | PEN America - Twitter | PEN America - Instagram

Ithaka S+R - WebsiteIthaka S+R - Twitter

Events and workshops curated around SFPL’s One City One Book selection. One City One Book: San Francisco Reads is a citywide literary event that encourages members of the San Francisco community to read the same book at the same time. For more information, see sfpl.org/onecityonebook.

Learn about and increase your awareness of issues related to jail, prison, incarceration and reentry resources. Find out more about our services: sfpl.org/services/jail-and-reentry-services.

This program is sponsored by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Attending Programs

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