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Incarcerated people face significant information poverty, both because of limited access to information resources and because incarceration itself produces information needs that cannot be easily met. Through a content analysis of reference questions directed to the New York Public Library’s Correctional Services Program, this study articulates the particular information needs of these users. Information needs cluster around self-help and re-entry information, along with general reference queries that typically go unanswered due to the lack of access to the Internet and robust general libraries in correctional facilities. Understanding these needs offers insight for librarians and libraries seeking to better serve incarcerated populations.


This article was first published in Reference and User Services Quarterly, Volume 55, Issue 2, Winter 2015, pages 42-48.