“The American Library Association (ALA) maintains in its “Library Services to the Poor” policy statement that it’s crucial for public libraries to recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society. The library has to serve as a uniquely egalitarian place. Moreover, library staffers have a duty to look out for the needs of poor and homeless patrons and strive to provide relevant services.”
“The city drops folks from three shelters off here every morning and picks them up in the evening. So they come here because of that,” said Badalamenti, a social worker who in May became the D.C. Public Library’s first health and human services coordinator.
“But they would come here anyway,” she continued. “The library’s a great place to spend the day for anybody. You get access to computers, you can look for jobs, you can connect with your family and friends on Facebook and e-mail, use [photo software] and do lots of creative things.”
”(Libraries) are on the front line whether they want to or not,” said Jeremy Rosen, director of advocacy at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy group.
Homeless outreach is part of an overall 47 percent increase in library programs from 2004 to 2011, according to a June report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, located in downtown Dallas, produces a podcast about homelessness , put together by AmeriCorps volunteers and library employees such as Jasmine Africawala. The podcast has drawn nearly 5,000 plays and downloads since first airing in March.
Ryan Smith, the technical director for the podcast, said the success of the program is due to the show’s focus on equality and respect. “Homelessness is a situation you find yourself in,” Smith said. “It’s not who you are as a person.”
Pima County Public Library (PCPL) is being recognized for offering the first of its kind unique program and collaboration.
“We’ve really unearthed a hub (of need at the library),” Tkachuk said. “The mainstream agencies — Boyle Street, Bissell, E4C (Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation) — they are so strapped themselves and so every day we have more and more people falling through the cracks. A lot of them are ending up in the library. And for many of them, we’re their last lifeline. We get people who have to use the library by default, out of survival. ”
“I think we’ve paved the way,” said Leah Esguerra, the SFPL’s social worker, who is in demand as a speaker at library and social worker conferences. She estimates that the library has helped more than 60 patrons find permanent housing and hundreds of others find social services.
CHICAGO – The ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) and the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) will host a webinar expanding on the tips and tools in “Extending our Reach: Reducing Homelessness Through Library Engagement,” the latest outreach toolkit from OLOS and SRRT. This webinar will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Central time on Thursday, March 21 and is free and open to all who are interested in transforming libraries by building meaningful library experiences for all, especially poor and homeless patrons.
This free webinar will feature Lisa Gieskes, coordinator of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) Hunger, Homelessness, and Poverty Task Force, and Julie Winkelstein, Ph.D., University of Tennessee – Knoxville, who will explore resources, best practices and model programs geared towards creating positive library experiences for those experiencing poverty and homelessness.
Information on accessing the webinar can be found on OLOS’ Online Learning page.
The ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) is a unit within the American Library Association. It works to make ALA more democratic and to establish progressive priorities not only for the Association, but also for the entire profession. Concern for human and economic rights was an important element in the founding of SRRT and remains an urgent concern today. SRRT believes that libraries and librarians must recognize and help solve social problems and inequities in order to carry out their mandate to work for the common good and bolster democracy. SRRT’s main website is hosted at http://libr.org/SRRT.
The mission of OLOS is to identify and promote library services that support equitable access to the knowledge and information stored in libraries. OLOS focuses attention on services that are inclusive of traditionally underserved populations and people generally discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, language and social class. The Office ensures that training, information resources and technical assistance are available to help libraries and librarians develop effective strategies to grow programs and services for library users.
“An early goal is to see at least 10 percent of the homeless participants find jobs in the first six months.”
“Our mission is about connecting people to all sorts of information resources, many times in non-traditional ways.”