homeless and libraries and the high cost of perceived safety

There is a theme in today’s posts. I was contacted by a nice lady from the media asking to talk to me about homelessness and libraries, no doubt brought about by this AlterNet post (originally here) written by the retired assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System. I’d seen the link earlier but read about it, and participated in some discussion, on MetaFilter. I pointed people to the American Library Association’s Library Services to Poor People policy, and encouraged a visit to ALA’s Hunger Homelessness and Poverty Task Force website which is full of resources and thoughtful discussion.

When I was in Australia I went to many urban libraries and didn’t see the same homeless populations that I do in most urban US libraries. I also saw a lot of security cameras in the libraries, on the streets, everyplace. I’m fairly certain Australia has a better social safety net than we do in the US, but it was clear that keeping a close eye on the population may be part of that, which I was reminded of by reading Aaron’s post today about cameras in London. All the cameras just made me feel … weird.

2 thoughts on “homeless and libraries and the high cost of perceived safety

  1. If our industrial relations legislation in its current form persists, don’t worry, you will see more homeless people in our libraries, Jess – right now there is at least a medical safety net, but the financial one is getting more and more holes in it as we speak.

  2. This is a sad state of affairs. I noticed this last week when I went to the Boston Public Library. It’s a shame because my observation was that the homeless in the library weren’t reading the books! This to me was the worst part about it. Moreover, my frustration with the comfy chairs being overrun by the homeless means, I’ll likely avoid reading in the library and just end up doing it at home.

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