Innovation Exchange

New Local Library Service for HMP Grampian


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Further Information

Aberdeenshire Council Library and Information Service has collaborated with the Scottish Prison Service to provide a ground breaking local library service within HMP & YOI Grampian in Peterhead.  Following research evidence that access to reading, learning and literature contributes to reducing reoffending rates, plans were drawn up for an entirely new approach to local authority library provision within HMP Grampian.  The rationale was to operate a library within the prison which offers the same services as residents would expect to find in any library in the wider community including staff access to the Library Management System and prisoner access to an offline catalogue.  A key element of the service is to encourage continued use of libraries on release which will in turn support the journey towards positive destinations.  As the library approaches its second anniversary, quantitative and qualitative evidence shows that this unique model has been a success and continues to be a worthy CoSLA Gold Award winner in the ‘Achieving Better Outcomes’ category.

Theme: Partnership and Collaboration and Employability

aberdeenshire council logo

As well as a regular timetable of visits to the library to exchange books and DVDs, offenders are now being offered a range of activities.  Evening sessions held fortnightly give offenders an opportunity to take time to browse reading material, sit and read quietly or take part in organised activities.  A lunchtime book club for protected prisoners has been a great success fostering positive behaviour and a sense of inclusion and ownership. There have been 3 author visits in the last 6 months with 2 more planned between March and July.  These have been extremely well received and have been a catalyst for increased interest in cultural activity.  20 offenders are currently undertaking the Six Book challenge with reported improvement of reading and literacy goals.  Regular user group meetings have proved useful in shaping the service as well as giving offenders an opportunity to be part of a decision making forum.  There has been a noticeable development of social skills in those participating in this group.


In partnership with the Scottish Prison Service, Fife College and Action for Children, the library staff have been able to contribute to education programmes, employability meetings and a homework club run in the adjacent Family Centre & Help Hub for children who are attending visits. The national initiative of Read, Write, Count is also being used to encourage and enhance literacy amongst parents.  The Librarian is a regular contributor on the prison radio station and is able to promote the service and activities on offer.

Liberation cards allow the seamless transition from the use of HMP Grampian Library to the use of their local library. By fostering an early positive association with the library at HMP Grampian, prisoners have been encouraged to make use of their local library on liberation. Aberdeenshire is currently working with colleagues in surrounding authorities to ensure that liberation cards and welcome packs are available for use wherever the prisoners normal place of residence is.

Short and long term benefits of the service are based on the well documented positive effects of reading and learning not only on reoffending rates but general health and wellbeing.  By accessing libraries, opportunities are opened up for leisure, learning, job searching, applying for benefits, participating in group activities and the following outcomes become achievable.


  • Increased self esteem and motivation
  • Improved job search skills
  • Improved literacy levels
  • Improved community engagement
  • Improved access to lifelong learning opportunities
  • Improved health and wellbeing
  • Reduction in reoffending
  • Improved family relationships and parent/child interaction
  • Stock management processes can be complex to set up due to the need for borrower confidentiality.
  • Relief staffing can be an issue due to requirement for enhanced disclosure and SPS training.
  • Processes for collecting money for lost/damaged items took a long time to set up with SPS accounting departments.
  • Staff need to be skilled in personal boundaries
  • There are considerable costs associated in providing a library service to the same quality as experienced outwith the prison
  • A common vision between the Council and the SPS is critical to the success of such a facility and without the key partnership relationship it would not have been possible.



Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Sharon Jamieson

Library and Information Service Manager

Aberdeenshire Council

01651 871210

Case study added to site: June 2016

Please report any errors using this web form

Improvement Service, working in partnership with

solace scotland logo