Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2015 Issue

Libraries Morph to Homeless Shelters

05cf43ba-85b7-41ca-851f-94f468fb2250

Homeless patrons at the San Francisco public library which has been the focus of recent heated controversy. SF Examiner photo.

Libraries have always attracted a certain number of people who just want to come in out of the rain, use the bathroom or snooze away the day in the cool reading room. But a review of recent media coverage makes it clear that something much more intense and widespread has been occurring in public and college libraries throughout the US in recent years.

 

The reports come from just about every urban area: Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, DC, Nashville and Honolulu are just a few of the cities where homeless patrons not only access the library facilities, but overwhelm them: arriving early in the day, staying until closing time, bringing all their worldly goods in shopping carts, populating the stacks, monopolizing the resources, especially the computers, devastating the public restrooms, performing acts of vandalism on the buildings and their contents, and in some case committing acts of violence and intimidation against other patrons.

 

Even as libraries evolve and change from a repository mainly for books and their contents to a digitized and multi-media information hub with a broader focus and a wider user base, a parallel transition is also taking place. The library facilities designed to serve the information needs of our entire population are becoming de facto outposts for delivery of services to America’s homeless, a role for which they have little or no training - and a task that has not been in their job description before.

 

In some cases this evolution is benign and even welcome.

 

For example, a Dec. 2014 report on the death of Roger Boucher, 58, of St. Albans, Vt. notes: “(He) was a daily visitor to the St. Albans Free Library; where he had been staying longer in recent days. ‘He was kind of part of our little library family,’ said library director MaryPat Larrabee. Barbara Hamm, a long-time board member of Martha's Kitchen, knew Boucher for many years. ‘He was a very honest person,’ she said. ‘He found, I don't know how many wallets. They were all returned to their owners…..At the library, Boucher would offer to help as soon as he spotted a staff person moving boxes or getting out a ladder,’” said Larrabee. "He was always wonderful at the public library;" said longtime library trustee Sue Wade, adding that he was very polite, as well as helpful.”

 

But that kind of tribute is rare and it’s easy to find countless articles and videos that focus on the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps the most explicit is the long article in Harper’s Magazine in Nov. 2012 by Robert Andrew Powell who wrote about his own experiences as a homeless person among hordes of other indigents in the then brand new Seattle facility.

 

“The bathrooms," wrote Parker, “are located on the first, fourth, and seventh floors, and all of them are as busy as bus terminals. The toilets on the fourth floor are the least used. There are only two stalls, and it is common for occupants to remain in them for an hour or longer, until guards making their rounds order them to wrap things up. In a fourth-floor stall I once found a pyramid of empty Busch tallboys.

 

“The seventh-floor bathroom is the best: three urinals, three toilets, five sinks, and a guy wearing a face mask who mops up every few hours. Excessive grooming is prohibited in the library’s rules of conduct, but every day I saw teeth brushing, clothes washing, hair washing, and even hair cutting. In a seventh-floor sink one Saturday I found a nest of curly black pubic hair. People hung out in the stalls for long stretches even though the doors were deliberately designed to be too short to provide privacy. Everyone could see everything. I learned not to make eye contact.”

 

And it’s not just the public libraries, in March 2015 KPIX the CBS-TV affiliate in San Francisco aired these observations related to a nearby college: “Students at San Jose State University say the campus has a problem with homeless that is getting out of control. Trent Nunz is a fourth year business student who says the problem is so bad that students “can’t walk out of any individual building without seeing at least a couple homeless, anytime of the day. Anytime.”

 

“Madonna Ebrahimof says it’s not just the volume of homeless people living on campus, but that they have become intimidating and aggressive...Inside the library, students clash with the homeless over desk space, and open computers.”

 

That same note is sounded in Honolulu where a July 2015 video shows homeless cueing up to enter the building before it opens, and as a group have become the library’s primary patrons during the course of the day, far outnumbering other kinds of library users.

 

The response of Edna Weeks, library section head, who spoke to the KITV - Honolulu television reporter, was compassionate and level. She said that as long as those who come to the library are orderly and follow the rules the facility is there to serve all. But others library users who spoke to the camera had comments that ranged from “I feel like regular people are being pushed out” to “I just don’t go there any more.”

 

Virtually all the recent coverage contains some combination of compassion mixed with fear and dismay. In San Francisco (where the interaction between the library and the homeless has been loud and protracted) the library has hired a social worker, beefed up security and negotiated with advocates for the homeless over policy and rules to make the library more friendly and equitable to those with no place else to go.

 

This kind of outcome has pleased advocates for the homeless, but others, especially those who are professionally trained librarians, comment “I didn’t get a master’s degree in library science to be a social worker.”

 

The professional organizations and journals have also noticed the trend. American Libraries wrote about it in Nov. 2014 and added a list of resource material including a link to an eight page pdf produced by the American Library Association Office for Literacy and Outreach which gives guidelines for delivering services to homeless as another segment of the population who are entitled to fair and non-discriminatory library policies.

 

“Helping homeless and mentally ill clients is a challenge that libraries all over the country are grappling with,” observed the website Phys.org just last month, “but library science curricula don't seem to have caught up….According to one newly minted librarian who received her master's degree in library science a few years ago, contemporary library education typically includes no coursework in mental illness. It focuses on the techniques and technology of library services, especially meeting the needs of patrons for access to information.”

 

An even more down-to-earth note was sounded in a column by the “Annoyed Librarian” who wrote in the Library Journal in Oct. 2014 that the list of prohibited activities in the San Francisco library controversy has 32 items and specifically includes: “shampooing your hair in the restrooms, having a shopping cart in the bookstacks, having luggage in the library, having a bike in the library, having a dog in the library, smelling really bad, fighting, shouting, panhandling, sleeping in the library and ‘depositing bodily fluids’ on furniture.”

 

“That’s quite a list,” Annoyed observed, “and gives a good indication of what the library staff is up against.” The article went on to say that “if the San Francisco public libraries have become de facto homeless shelters, as National Public Radio (coverage) suggests, then making them more like de jure homeless shelters might be the best solution to the problem.

 

“People smell bad?” the librarian wrote, “Offer showers. That’ll also make it less likely people will try to bathe in the restroom sinks.”

 

“Their clothes still stink? Laundry facilities. ….People changing clothes in the library? Changing rooms, right near the laundry room and the showers. People sleeping all over the library? Offer cots. They can come with a time limit. Carrying their luggage around the library? Lockers.”

 

“..... Considering how many librarians want the nature and function of public libraries to move away from books, information, and literacy to become community centers and maker spaces,” the writer said, “this shouldn’t be an outrageous suggestion.”

 

“If libraries are already loaning tools, why not washing machines? They already have toilets, so why not showers? …. Libraries can’t solve any problems with homelessness, and this isn’t a solution for homelessness problems. This is a solution for library problems…. if the mission of public libraries is now to provide whatever services the public wants or needs, then this makes complete sense.”

----------------

 

 

Links to some of the sources cited in the text:

 

ALA pdf on homeless engagement and outreach (not dated)

 

Phys.org news

 

Harper Nov 2012 - long article about the Seattle Public Library inundated with homeless patrons

 

Tribute to homeless man a regular at St. Albans, Vt library 2014

 

Honolulu video July 2015 KITV

 

The Annoyed Librarian offers plan B in Library Journal 2014

 

San Jose State and homeless KPIX-TV, CBS affiliate report March 2015

 

American Libraries Magazine 2014

 

 

Other related links

 

Salon website March 2013

 

The Conversation web site Aug 2015

 

April 2015 Nat.Geo pictorial homeless in California libraries

 

Nashville 2015

 

Atlantic 2014- Libraries and Mental Illness (short)

 

Washington Post feature article August 2015


Posted On: 2015-09-01 18:22
User Name: KALAMOS

I am old enough to remember serving indigent clients in public libraries in the UK in the 1960's and later on even in more affluent Toronto. The point to note is that the quantitative rise in their numbers is a reflection of the underlying economic situation where there are fewer jobs, less pay and consequently more homeless citizens, just as during the 1930's.

There is an interesting article about library services in he USA during the Great Depression [http://www.desertsailor.info/libs/Depression/Index.php]
that is worth reading. It begins with this observation " "Libraries will get you through times with no money better than money will get you through times with no libraries."

As to the behaviour of some of the library users this the direct consequence of the underfunding of both social housing and mental health facilities, leaving Public Libraries as one of the few agencies open for long hours in the daytime where they can find warmth, washrooms and non-threatening public spaces. The solution will be to provide more social services to such unfortunate citizens, but I am not sure that public libraries - or librarians - can provide such services appropriately, lacking both sufficient resources or training .


Posted On: 2015-09-14 15:36
User Name: colophon2

One first needs to define "Public" and what is the intent and purpose of the facility. The chance that a neglected person will 'make good' from 'using' the library books is slim, although we all wish that could be 99%. Many libraries retain 70% of their collections in the back areas and out of the stacks, which defeats the purpose for most library users. Our country began with Private Libraries, who were subsidized with public funds. If we are going to build multi-million dollar facilities for books, then they should be available to users, and most importantly, these sources should be utilized. An alternative plan is to build small Private Libraries for use by subscribers, and build huge multi-million dollar social facilities for the homeless, who can then utilize these sources to make a credible leap for surviving the ills of this world. But, isn't that what we are presently paying our taxes to accomplish? Where are the trusted politicians who are responsible for addressing and taking action to correct this dilemma?


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Used to Write "A Moveable Feast", Impeccable Provenance From His Biographer A. E. Hotchner. $50,000 to $100,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Samuel Colt, "The Gun that Won the West": 3 Signed Patent Items for "Revolving Cylinder Guns". $40,000 to $50,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Jack Kerouac's Own Typewriter From His Estate Used to Write His Very Last Book. $18,000 to $20,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Rare Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence Printed in 1848. $15,000 to $18,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Superb Tchaikovsky ALS to Napravnik, 4pp on "Mazeppa". $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Wounded Knee Massacre Same Day Eyewitness Account by Participant, "the 7th needn't be ashamed of today's record". $10,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> F. Scott Fitzgerald Signed Gordon Bryant Portrait -- Finest Known. $8,000 to $9,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Neil Armstrong ALS on NASA Letterhead Regarding His X-15 Flights. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> "Damn the torpedoes!" Riveting 24pp ALS of Admiral Farragut's Steward Describing the "Battle of Mobile Bay”. $6,000 to $7,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Order to Suspend Execution. $5,000 to $6,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Bolaños, Joaquín. La Portentosa Vida de la Muerte... (“The Portentous Life of Death”) México, 1792. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Tratado de Paz… entre la República Mexicana y los Estados Unidos. (“Treaty of Peace… Between the Mexican Republic and the United States”) 1848. $80,000 - $90,000 MXN / USD $4,444 - $5,000
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Fabregat, Josep Joaquín. Vista de la Plaza de México… (“View of the Square of Mexico”) México, 1797. $60,000 - $100,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $5,555
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel. Invitación al Coronel Narciso de la Canal… (“Invitation to Coronel Narciso de la Canal…”) 1810. $170,000 - $200,000 MXN / USD $9,444 - $11,111
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Gálvez, Joseph de. Real Cédula de Erección de la Compañía de Filipinas. (“Royal Notice of the Creation of the Company of the Philippines”) 1785. $40,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Colección de Constituciones de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (“Collection of Constitutions of the United Mexican States”) México, 1828. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Ruelas, Julio. Poemario Manuscrito Ilustrado, Dedicado a Lorencita Braniff (“Collection of Illustrated Poem Manuscripts, Dedicated to Lorencita Braniff”). 1903. $60,000 - $70,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $3,888
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Espinosa de los Monteros, Juan J. Aviso de la Junta Soberana al Público (“Notice of the Sovereign Meeting to the Public”) 1821. $60,000 - $80,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $4,444
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos... (“Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States”) México, 1824. $140,000 - $150,000 MXN / USD $7,777 - $8,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Alcaraz, Ramón. Apuntes para la Historia de la Guerra entre México y los EU (“Notes on the History of the War between Mexico and the United States”). 1848. $40,000 - $50,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $2,777
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions