WA’s first library for incarcerated youth expected to open in early 2023

The first state library for incarcerated youth is set to open next year at the Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie, thanks to a partnership between the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), the Secretary of State’s Office, and Washington State Library, Institutional Library Services (ILS).

Echo Glen Children’s Center, a residential Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) facility administered by DCYF, is transitioning its on-campus library, currently managed by the Issaquah School District, to a full-fledged ILS branch.

The library is expected to open fully in early 2023.

“I am so excited for the young people at Echo to have access to a librarian, to discover their love of reading and learning, and for them to benefit from all of the activities that come with a full-time librarian, increased resources, and a thoughtfully curated collection,” said Felice Upton, assistant secretary of juvenile rehabilitation at DCYF.

The library provides a better selection of resources to support youth residents’ information, education, recreation and vocational needs.

“I want young people in our care to have every opportunity to grow in their capabilities and broaden their perspectives on what is possible, and a robust library is fundamental to that goal,” said Upton.

Shortly after Upton came to DCYF after many years working for the Department of Corrections (DOC), she asked why staffing and resources of juvenile rehabilitation libraries differed from those of the DOC. She reached out to ILS, which agreed these were gaps both agencies felt were critical to fill.

From there, Upton worked with Issaquah School District to transfer the existing Echo Glen library to DCYF. Now, Echo Glen is on its way to becoming a functioning branch of ILS with a full-time, experienced librarian managing the space.

“We are thrilled to bring more of the world into this facility by tapping into the professional capabilities of ILS,” added Upton.

Youth will have a collection of new books and high-quality programs, more time in the library, and library services in living units for youth who cannot visit the library in person.

The Echo Glen State Library also supports Issaquah School District and post-secondary and community partners to improve educational outcomes as well as provide current journal articles and access to research resources for on-site mental health and medical staff.

Additionally, the team of professional librarians have been providing reentry resources to adults for over two decades. Their expertise benefits Echo Glen’s reentry staff as they work with young people to reenter their communities.

To support this work, the Secretary of State is presenting a request for sustained funding of the Echo Glen State Library to the Legislature during the 2023 session.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with DCYF to help bring the joy of reading and learning to young people at Echo Glen Children’s Center,” said Washington State Librarian Sara Jones. “This facility will enhance the quality of life and educational opportunities the state is able to provide young people, and help them to learn about the wider world during their time in the facility.”