More and more, I have heard through librarian friends and library school professors, librarians are being cast in the role of not just information specialists and educators, but also social workers. Libraries are often one of the few refuges for the homeless population. Some librarians see serving the homeless as part of their overall mission to serve the public. Others assert that libraries are not social service institutions meant to serve the homeless in any way further than in the way that they innately serve the general population and that local and state governments ought to pour more funding into shelters that are equipped precisely for this purpose, as they feel libraries are stretched to the max. Still others state that whether librarians want to or not, the homeless issue is here to stay, and therefore, libraries better have a plan for helping this population in a way that is helpful and fair to the homeless, as well as conducive to other patrons and to library staff.

Before you take a side on this issue, here are some articles and blog entries that may help you learn more about this thorny topic:

Intriguing blog piece by Michael McGrorty about the homeless in LA County libraries and his proposed solution

Article (from 2004) about a new library in Seattle that was designed with the homeless issue in mind

ANOTHER article (an opinion piece) about that same Seattle library, wherein the author argues that if libraries are built with the homeless in mind, then they will drive other patrons away

A fact sheet from the American Library Association about Libraries and the Homeless