February 17, 2018

Diane Walden | Movers & Shakers 2011 – Advocates

Library Journal March 15, 2011: Diane Walden , Mover & Shaker

For the Underdog

People tried to talk Diane Walden out of prison librarianship—graduate school professors and the VP of a company that employed her as an undergrad. “He said, ‘You’re throwing away your career,’ and ‘You’re too good for that,’ ” Walden recalls. Fortunately, she didn’t listen. Her current day job involves overseeing 17 staff at ten Colorado prison libraries, but her advocacy for the one in 100 Americans currently incarcerated goes far beyond.

Walden, who calls herself “nonconflict-averse,” fought for prisoners nationally by creating The Prisoner’s Right To Read: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, which asserts basic information and access rights of all incarcerated individuals. A year and a half in the making, it was incorporated last year into the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Manual.

Walden “sees stories as a bridge to life beyond” prison, says Erica MacCreaigh, senior consultant to the Colorado State Library. As coordinator of the statewide “Read to the Children” program at her facilities, Walden enables parent prisoners to record themselves reading a story and then send the book and CD to their child. The program boosted library participation 275 percent in five years. She also orchestrated the first StoryCorps recordings inside prison walls.

“There’s a certain pleasure in fighting for the underdog that appeals to the advocate in me,” she says. Future goals? To generate statistics on Read to the Children proving her hypothesis that it “increases literacy rate and reduces recidivism.” That’s something we can all champion.


Diane Walden, Colorado Department of Education, Colorado State Library, Denver

CURRENT POSITION Correctional Library Senior Consultant

DEGREE MLS, University of Arizona, 1993

LOVES TO RIDE Hopes to buy a new Can-Am Spyder motorcycle before summer