I will be spending some time on this trip researching programs and/or services that UK public lending libraries provide for homeless patrons. There are a lot of cool ideas for programs and services throughout the US: from hiring social workers and nurses, to bringing story times and summer reading programs to local shelters, to inviting homeless patrons for regular coffee and discussion with the staff. The Public Library Association recently hosted a two-part webinar on the topic and shared some creative ideas. In addition, the American Library Association has a toolkit for library services to people experiencing homelessness. I’m curious about what cool ideas are happening in the UK, whether CILIP has any guidelines or tools for public libraries, what issues arise in providing these services, and whether they are the same issues faced in the US.
I visited the Stratford-upon-Avon Library and spoke with someone there about what services that library provides to library users experiencing homelessness or other hardship.
Photo courtesy of Misti Thornton.
While they don't provide services specific to this population, they do provide a lot of literature and referrals to outside services.
My contact furnished me with a ton of leaflets and pamphlets that they have available to all library users. I noticed that almost all of them stressed the fact that library materials and services are free and available to everyone. The library's website also provides links to information and local services that might be useful for people experiencing homelessness. No doubt, the librarians also make use of these links when signposting and making referrals to library users.
The library participates in a the Reading Well Books on Prescription program, which promotes library materials on health and wellness. Physicians can actually prescribe these books and advise a patient to check them out at the library. Or, library users are free to browse, research, and take the books out on their own.
It was a brief, but successful first research trip. I followed up with more questions for my contact by e-mail later in the week, and look forward to hearing what more information she has to share. I feel like I'm starting to get some traction here.