When Manya Shorr, supervisor of the Sacramento Central Library, attended the county's in January, she saw something that made her heart wrench.
"I saw a very sad little library," Shorr said.
The tiny collection of books inside the Rosemont facility's school motivated Shorr to organize an effort with fellow members of the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library to donate books to the detention facility.
Within a few weeks, the volunteers had amassed hundreds of titles that had been donated to every county library branch that would have otherwise been sold at book sales, and on Wednesday the library grew by about 420 books thanks to "Project Paperback."
"Many of these juvenile have never read for fun or considered reading enjoyable," Sacramento County Chief Probation Officer Don Meyer said. He added that one of the facility's youth advocates buys books or magazines for residents who improve their behavior, and he's seen the juveniles respond to the incentive.
Meyer said most of the residents in juvenile hall "read at about a fourth grade level when they come to us," but tend to improve while in the facility.
Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, who represents Rosemont in District 5, said reading while in juvenile hall will give the residents "a better place to launch from" when they're released.
"Reading is key to understanding what the world holds [from a] positive standpoint," Nottoli said.
Rivkah Sass, director of the Sacramento Public Library, said she previously worked as a Sonoma County juvenile hall counselor, where she noticed kids loved to spend time in the facility's library. She said Project Paperback will help open more opportunities for juvenile hall residents.
"We want to get kids on track for college, not on track for residency in juvenile hall," Sass said.
Shorr added that the library and Friends of the Sacramento Public Library aim to provide reading opportunities to everyone in the county, juvenile hall residents included.
"These kids are citizens of Sacramento County as well, and the Sacramento Public Library serves all citizens of Sacramento County," Shorr said.