Inmates at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert will no longer have access to a regional library service, after federal funding was abruptly cut on a contract that had been going for years.

"It was actually a very unique library," Jon Murray, director of the Wapiti Regional library, told CBC News Friday. "It had been operating for over 25 years."

The Wapiti library maintained a branch in the prison. It was a pared-down version, for security reasons, and did not include such things as internet access or a computerized catalogue.

Murray said they had been looking to extend their service contract but were told, at the end of March, that would not happen.

It meant the prison's library was immediately closed and four staff positions were cut.

"The library itself had about 7,500 items," Murray said, almost half of which were paperbacks. He said special attention was also paid to find books that would be of interest to the inmate population.

"We managed to have someone on staff who was a qualified First Nations librarian," he said. "And she spent a lot of time finding books that were free from racism and stereotypical imagery, and we were rather proud of that project."

The library was open five days per week in the afternoons and evenings and inmates would borrow, on average, about 50 items per day.

"It was enough interest that we were actually considering expanding that service to the maximum security unit," Murray said. "The prisoners have said they really do appreciate it."

He added the library was hoping to develop literacy programs and book clubs in the prison and those ideas are not shelved.

Murray said the library is looking at working out a way to leave the materials they amassed for the prison on the site.

He said the library cost about $70,000 per year to operate.