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Everyday Heroes

Rikers Island readers thank L.1930’s Louise Stamp

Local 1930 Library Administrative Assistant Louise Stamp brings the New York Public Library to Rikers Island.

STACKS OF HANDWRITTEN thank-you notes for the New York Public Library’s mobile library at Rikers Island underscore the value of the services Local 1930 member Louise Stamp provides to incarcerated men awaiting trial.

In their letters, the men at Rikers express profound respect for Stamp, a Library Administrative Assistant in Correctional Services at the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island and a vice president of Local 1930.

“I would love to give thanks to a very blessed and brave woman for faithfully bringing books to men like me…locked up on Rikers Island 24/7. Ms. Stamp you are forever loved and appreciated,” one detainee wrote.

“Many complain, but I thought it was necessary to give thanks to Ms. Stamp and the NYPL,” said another detainee, who even offered money to support the unique service.

NYPL’s program reaches men and women in city, state and federal correctional facilities. Library employees like Stamp and volunteers bring the mobile circulating library to the houses or jail cells, on carts piled with newspapers, comics, books, and magazines. The NYPL serves five city jails.Twice weekly Stamp takes two buses to Rikers Island, toting over 40 donated paperbacks. She holds book drives to collect page turners from bibliophiles. “My brother is my biggest supporter and donates magazines,” she said.

A people person

“We have men who are learning disabled and men who are college graduates, so I bring material to appeal to varied interests, from astronomy to sci-fi to GED prep,” Stamp said. The selection of authors is diverse. Writer James Patterson is a favorite as is urban fiction. About 300 men use the library monthly. Rikers does not provide Internet access to inmates.

Stamp builds relationships with Corrections staff . She said, “They know me and what I do. I explain that when these men are reading they are not talking, arguing or fighting. That’s a good day on Rikers.”

“The program gave me a second chance,” wrote another man. “Seeing individuals dedicated to insure that a variety of books and magazines are readily available has given me a new perspective. It motivates me to encourage my own kids to take full advantage of their local library.”

“We want to meet their needs. We do not judge their circumstances,” said Stamp. “We dignify them and recognize their humanity.”

“Louise Stamp is just as much a people person and mother figure to the men detained on Rikers as she is to union members, or anyone she meets, wherever she happens to be,” said Val Colon, Local 1930 president. “She is always available when a helping hand is called for.”