Open Collective
Open Collective
A Look Back at 2023 with the Prison Library Support Network
Published on December 4, 2023 by manuela

The Prison Library Support Network (PLSN) is an information-based volunteer collective founded in 2015 to support incarcerated people. We are an information-based collective that supports incarcerated people by organizing networks for sharing resources and building capacity for the movement for prison abolition in libraries, archives, and other knowledge-based institutions. We do this work because we recognize the systematic violence that the prison industrial complex creates. We believe that information can be employed as a tool for prison abolition, and that we must create space for people who want to commit and redistribute their own capacities and resources. 

8 years since our founding, we now coordinate a fully volunteer-run reference-by-mail service, regularly organize virtual and in-person volunteer events, host a quarterly abolitionist discussion group, and consistently onboard new PLSN volunteers. We communicate our organizing updates, volunteer needs, and upcoming events by way of a monthly email newsletter that is distributed to our listservs: our general volunteer list which currently has 534 members and our reference volunteer list which has 443 members

This past year, our primary financial focus has been raising funds to support and sustain our reference project. We established this service because restricting information access is a powerful form of violence used by the prison industrial complex. Reference volunteers  remotely answer research questions mailed to us by people in facilities around the country with care and expertise. These queries focus on a kelidoscopic array of topics like re-entry, Dungeon & Dragons, the Jailhouse Lawyers Manual, knitting patterns, geneology and more. Since the launch of our fully volunteer-powered service in October 2021 we have responded to over 1900 questions from incarcerated people. 

Stamps, envelopes, and printing are the biggest expenses for the reference project with costs being covered by volunteers and one-off stamp drives. Recognizing that this model would not be sustainable for the growing number of letters received, PLSN has been partnered with the Open Collective Foundation (OCF) to create a space where people can donate on a one-time or reoccurring basis. Contributions collected on OCF go directly to buying the supplies we need to respond to the letters we receive every month from incarcerated folks. As a completely volunteer-run group, these donations have completely allowed our reference service to exist. 

This year we have:

  • Received $7,391.27 in donations:
  • $5,022.00 received through one-time donations from 36 unique donors
  • $2,369.27 received through recurring donations from 48 unique donors
  • Spent $7,562.95 to support our work:
  • $7,120.18 for costs associated with our reference project (stamps, envelopes, printing supplies)
  • $442.77 for technology subscriptions (ex: Zoom, Protonmail, Airtable)

In 2024, we hope to increase our collected funds so that we are bringing in our more donations than we are spending. Our ability to do this will guarantee the continuation of our reference service, and also determine the rate to which we can continue the intake and processing of letters. In order to do this, we will raise our monthly fundraising goal from $500/month to $1000/month.

We want to thank the 80+ of friends, family members, and volunteers for playing a crucial role in our work by contributing to our Open Collective. If you would like to set up a recurring donation or make an additional one-time contribution at this time, you can do so at

Happy holidays, and see you in 2024!