Public Libraries

Serving the homeless is already a core mission of public libraries!

In this Feb. 19, 2015 photo, people wait to enter the Nashville Public Library as Rick Reed, right, the library’s superintendent of plant operations and maintenance, unlocks the front doors in Nashville, Tenn. Many public libraries discourage homeless people from hanging around. But more and more libraries are beginning to view services to the homeless as an important part of their mission. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (The Associated Press)

For some reason, media is talking a lot about how public libraries are serving their homeless patrons right now. This is by no means a new phenomenon. And I don’t understand why it makes us look like we are struggling to stay relevant by focusing on this patron base. The role of a public library is to connect the community to the best relevant information to meet their needs. How is serving the homeless not already a core mission?

I love that some libraries have brought in a social worker to assist these patrons. Rather than giving them a handout with resources they could utilize and asking them to stop bathing in the bathroom, these libraries are really filling an information need. What a radical idea!