Public library services for people who are homeless

Last week Public Library Services hosted a day exploring Public library services for people who are homeless.  Dr Justine Humphrey provided key research data about young people who are homeless.  Mobile phones are critical mobile, as is mobile internet access because of mobility of people who are homeless . Young people who are homeless have very high need of using their mobile phones to engage with essential government services. Desktop computers in libraries are critical for people who are homeless for data intensive activities which are hard on mobile.  Wifi is also critical. You can read the research report Making Connections: Young People, Homelessness and Digital Access in the City.

Research about young people and homelessness, showing three young people

Research about young people and homelessness, photograph of a slide from Dr Justine Humphrey.

Digby Hughes from Homelessness NSW  highlighted the challenge of accurate data, in 2011 around 28,190 people who were homeless in NSW. City of Sydney does indepth research, which makes very interesting reading, you can see his presentation here.

Heather Davies completed some research in the Australian context, producing Libraries are for everyone: providing quality services to people who are homeless . You can download her Radio National Interview about the research project and see her presentation.  Jody Rodas spoke about the implementation of these, including the importance of consulting with service providers for people who are homeless and with people who are homeless for library planning.  Is your library working  with your local interagency group? This can be helpful for connections for working with people who are homeless.

Lisa Cunningham from Tamworth Library discussed the library’s involvement with the local Homelessness Connect highlighting the importance of children’s services in the mix. The library staff take library bags for children and children's books, and story time fliers for to the homelessness connect day. For author events at Tamworth, people who are homeless are encouraged to participate, and to enjoy the catering too. The roving services at Tamworth Library increases engagement with all clients, including those who are homeless.  This is yet another excellent reason to have roving services.

Taryn Kelly from Richmond Upper Clarence Library spoke about the library’s participation in Share the dignity, you can see her presentation. There was a gig response to #itsinthebag collection at Casino and Kyogle Libraries with 125 bags collected.  Shoalhaven Libraries has also participated in this and commented on strong community participation in their area too.

Kieran O’Donoghue spoke about a local studies project involving people who were homeless, you can see her presentation. They used crowdfunding, and sales of the book will help to fund future Hunter homelessness connect days. This highlighted the need to consider the inclusion of people who are homeless in who and what is collected for local studies.

Roslyn Cook from PIAC provided information about referrals to legal information for people who are homeless. People were also reminded about the Find legal answers resources.

Norman Booker, a volunteer with Orange Sky explained about the services provided.  This could be an opportunity for libraries to provide a pop-up or mobile service, enabling people who are homeless to join the library and to borrow/download material straight away.

Are mobile libraries and pop up libraries providing services in areas with lots of people who are homeless?

Through the day there was discussion of different approaches to library membership.  The main issue libraries need to address is people borrowing without an address, and several libraries have already reached effective solutions about this.


Other information

Ellen Forsyth and Mylee Joseph

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