If you work regularly with homeless patrons, you've likely encountered uncomfortable situations where communication seems to fail despite your best efforts. This article describes three common mistakes that can turn a merely uncomfortable situation volatile: "parenting" a patron, waiting, and worrying about gender. The advice here comes from Ryan Dowd, a man with decades of experience serving and working with the homeless. This article defines those three mistakes and offers guidelines to counteract them to help you diffuse, rather than escalate, tense situations.
The common mode, especially in large urban public libraries, is to speak of the challenges presented by our homeless patrons. They make other patrons feel uncomfortable, there are stories of staff confrontations, bad odors, and property damage... All of these are valid concerns. This article, however, will make the case that your library's response to homeless patrons can let you shine a bright light on the relevance and power of a 21st century library in a way that few other issues can. And at the best-run libraries all around the country, it already is.
The issues surrounding homelessness present a poignant set of challenges and opportunities for public
libraries. In the abstract, libraries have a core mission to serve the underprivileged and help close gaps in opportunity and information access. Helping the homeless improve their own condition is one of the most important services a library can provide in its community. As a practical reality, however, many homeless people have problems the library is not equipped to address: serious mental illness, addiction, chronic physical health challenges... Also, the presence of obviously homeless people in the library can alienate the families and the more affluent patrons that libraries rely upon for funding support.
How, then, do effective libraries balance these competing priorites? What best practices have the most effective libraries implemented?
Stephen Abram and I were both working for SirsiDynix about 6 years ago. Stephen was VP of Innovation and I was Director of Product Strategy. We caught up again about a month ago and Stephen related some of what he'd learned from a recent survey of public perception of libraries in Ontario. He had commissioned the study as part of his library advocacy work with the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (he's currently the Executive Director of FOPL.
The Niche Academy platform provides value to libraries by helping them deliver their own educational curriculum more efficiently. The ready-to-use tutorials we offer are an essential element of that value. We get a common question when we first introduce people to the Niche Academy tutorials:
“How are your tutorials different from the tutorials provided by the vendors?”
This post highlights 5 things that differentiate our tutorials.
I must be feeling bold this morning because I’m about to predict the future of public libraries.
Libraries of the future will become first class, publicly funded educational institutions that fill gaps in the formal or traditional education system.
Examples of those gaps include the following:
- Early childhood literacy
- Personal enrichment learning
- English as a second language
- Entrepreneurship and small business training
All too often I hear people say, “I didn’t know xyz resource was available from the library.” Then, inevitably a little while later I hear, “How does it work?” Or worse, “I couldn’t figure it out, so I gave up.”
The other day I was talking with a good friend. He was telling me about how his high-functioning autistic son is a voracious reader. Wanting to provide a constructive outlet, he would regularly buy eBooks for his son on Amazon and he was lamenting to me how much it was costing him. I asked him why he didn’t simply use his local library. He told me his son preferred to read eBooks on his iPad, not regular books. I then went on to tell him that his library most likely had eBooks. We looked up his library and sure enough, they have OverDrive and Axis360. He can now not only provide enough books for his son, but he can do it for free.
Sometimes you want to go out and sit down at the pizza restaurant. Other times you want it delivered so you can eat it wearing pajamas while you watch reruns on TV.
At Niche Academy, we wanted to help libraries offer their patrons and staff similar options. Using Niche Academy, Libraries can create their own stand-alone academies. These academies can be a learning destination where patrons and staff can go to understand library resources, programs, policies, staff tools, etc. Libraries also now have the option to present users with Niche Academy tutorials without ever leaving the comfort of their library website.