Thursday, October 7, 2010

News Report: San Francisco Public Library and Homeless Patrons - A Novel Approach

Please watch this short video about the approach the San Francisco Public Library has taken to offer services to its homeless patrons - while increasing comfort for staff and other library visitors. How do you feel about this approach?

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/video?id=7459682

7 comments:

  1. Sarah, thanks for posting this video. Although I live in a city of just 19,000, my library has a rather large homeless contingent since the shelter is 1 block from our library. Providing the welcome/tough love/bouncing, etc. generally falls to me as the director. In a situation like ours, collegial, collaborative relationships with the police, shelter, and other social service agencies are vital and must be nurtured. Like other cities, we have homeless guests who welcome interventions and others who choose this lifestyle. Regardless, it is important that all guests use the library's resources in as seamless a fashion as possible.

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  2. I think this is a great idea. The social worker certainly seemed very non-threatening, but friendly. I'm sure this relieves some of the staff of having to take care of issues so they can do library work. On the other hand, Kathy makes a good point that most libraries would never be able to have this kind of person on staff dedicated to helping the homeless.

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  3. As someone who is currently a social worker, I think this is a great approach. Social work and librarianship are actually not all that different. A lot of what I do day to day involves providing information and referrals to other agencies and support services. The assessment I do with my clients is also a bit like a more in depth and more structured reference interview, helping me identify a client's needs and then matching them with appropriate support services or providing them with needed information.

    As Lori and Kathy both pointed out the approach San Francisco has taken may not be necessary or feasible for small or mid-size public libraries, but every library should have knowledge of the social service agencies in their community and even develop working relationships with those agencies, whenever possible.

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  4. I agree with all of you so far. Considering the issues we have in funding for libraries (especially in Illinois!), it just isn't feasible to have a social worker on staff for these situations. At least at the smaller libraries, this would be so. And Kathy, how many people would even think that you have such a high homeless population being a smaller library that you are? I think a lot of people associate homeless people with larger towns and libraries and not so much smaller ones. Many of these homeless people are mentally ill and do need the help of a social worker, but do not have the means of paying for it. David brings up a good point in that smaller libraries can help by having resources available for those of the homeless people who do ask for help. I think that's a great idea!

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  6. The social worker featured in the video was approachable and looked friendly, two traits that probably give her a considerable advantage in her career duties. I found it interesting that while library patrons were concerned over safety issues, the library employed a woman for this position, and I wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that maybe she was more qualified than others, or whether she was just more approachable and nonthreatening. Either way, her presence seems to be working. For a large, urban library that has the resources available to have such a staff member on duty, good for them, and what a good example it sets for other, similar cities and libraries that are experiencing homelessness issues themselves. San Francisco's approach to handling the situation is refreshing and commendable.

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  7. I think the idea of hiring a full time social worker for a library is an amazing idea. As our other readings emphasized, librarians are not trained to deal with complex social issues. In fact, the closest we ever get in our schooling to learning how to assist homeless peoples are discussions such as this. Thus, I think it is essential that libraries devise alternate routes for assisting all types of people. However, as with everything else, budget is an issue. The social worker in the video is paid by the library. Yet, Sand Diego’s library is one of the largest in the country. I do not believe that the strategy of hiring an on-site social worker would work for smaller institutions unless the funding was there. For these libraries, I am afraid that other solutions must be reached.

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