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Jeffrey Scherer (non-member)'s picture

Homeless in the library


The ALA LLAMA BES Architecture for Public Libraries and Safety and Security Committees have been asked to develop a pre-conference for ALA Annual meeting in 2014. The topic will be:  Homeless: The Library Response (working title.) It will focus on the homeless and the role of the public and academic library in meeting the needs of the homeless. A big topic but one that resonates with everyone we have spoken to.We are seeking:1. Best practices2. Examples of policies and how they were developed.3. Partnership examples with other agencies, etc.4. We want to develop a bibliography5. Differences between academic and public library6. Security7. Design responses to addressing the homeless.8. The main themes of the pre-conference will be Social, Security, Spatial and Administrative9. Persons interested in speaking or participating in the development of this important topic.We are trying to pull all this together for a first draft program by June ALA. The program has received approval from Program Committee. If you have ideas or suggestions, you can email me directly at jeffrey@msrltd.com. Or, people can also post ideas, comments, links, PDFs etc on this discussion thread. If you have any specific people, send me their contact information.Thanks! Jeffrey A Scherer, FAIACEO Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. Architects and Interior DesignersChair: ALA LLAMA BES Architecture for Public Libraries Committee Member: IFLA Building and Equipment Committee 


Dale McNeill's picture

Some years ago, I was the Central Library Administrator at the Dallas Public Library. There were many service resistant homeless people in and around the library every day. There were also many homeless people using the library, many of whom were not obviously homeless.

We worked closely with several agencies, including the county's health department, the homeless service unit of the city, a day shelter, advocates for people who are homeless, a few downtown employees, the police department, the fire department (as EMTs worked for fire), and some other agencies.

Many changes were made to accomplish a few goals:

a better mix of customers in the central library (that is, more users who weren't perceived as homeless),

better services for people looking for work, shelter, other services, and culture (fiction, for example),

fewer people in and around the library taking advantage of seemingly homeless people,

more knowledge for the library staff about the causes and effects of living on the streets.


Homelessness is a complex social issue. Libraries should not, in my opinion, turn away from people who live on the streets and in shelters nor should libraries "surrender" to street people and become de facto day shelters. Libraries should serve the whole community.

I would be happy to share my experiences (which included some minor defensive architecture) with the committee planning the preconference.




Dale McNeill

Texas Chapter Councilor