June 9, 2016
Austin-based nonprofit is robbed of hundreds of books it had planned to send to prisoners
by Chad Felix
Established in 1998, the Inside Books Project is a volunteer-run organization based in Austin, Texas dedicated to providing free books and other educational materials to the state’s 140,000 incarcerated individuals. Every day, volunteers head to Space 12, a night club-turned-community project hub that hosts several different organizations, where they open letters from prisoners, of which the organization receives up to a hundred a day, requesting books and other educational materials.
From outside, Space 12 looks like an indie bookstore, or perhaps a small, private library. Inside are hundreds of books, carefully shelved by category. Not every letter comes with a specific book in mind, though some do (the dictionary is the most requested title); more often, prisoners suggest a particular genre or subject, leaving volunteers to do their best at finding a match. Before packing and posting the book, each volunteer writes a personal note of encouragement to the inmate who will receive it.
According to Inside Books’ website, 2014 saw 14,000 requests, and a grand total of 35,000 books delivered. A more recent profile reports that the organization sends, on average, 50,000 books per year. Regardless of the exact number, the charitable enterprise needs all the books it can get. And then some. So, where do they all come from? The good people of Texas, of course, who drop them off at one of three locations—Studio 12, Monkeywrench Books, or BouldingCreek Cafe.
This is good.
What is not good, however, is the fact that this past Monday morning, Dan Murphy, the organization’s project coordinator, discovered that about 500 books had been stolen, a take that equals about a week’s worth of donations. The books were taken from a pad-locked wooden box outside of Studio 12.
According to WIVP, Murphy is not particularly interested in tracking down the thief. He’d much rather see a surge in donations. Well, Austin, Texas, what say you? As for the rest of the world, you can help, too—they also accept donations.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.