Homeless Patrons Utilize the Library for More than Shelter but Public Library Services Are Not Designed with Them in Mind
A Review of:
Dowdell, L., & Liew, C. L. (2019). More than a shelter: Public libraries and the information needs of people experiencing homelessness. Library & Information Science Research, 41(4), 100984. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2019.100984
Objective – The study sought to examine the information seeking behavior of homeless patrons and how public libraries meet the needs of homeless patrons.
Design – Qualitative phenomenological study.
Setting – Public libraries in New Zealand.
Subjects – Four homeless patrons who were current library patrons and seven public library workers (senior managers and two front line workers).
Methods – Purposive convenience sample of homeless patrons and library workers to participate in face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. The study utilized Creswell's four-step data analysis spiral to produce a synthesis.
Main Results – Homeless patrons utilize public libraries for far more than daytime shelter, patronizing the collections, and accessing services. The participating libraries did not have existing policies, practices, services, or staff designed for the needs and wants of homeless people, however, current offerings largely met the needs of homeless patrons.
Conclusion – Homeless people use public libraries much like non-homeless patrons and public libraries could develop specialized offerings for them, though they must take care to do so in a way that does not further marginalize this group. Additional research is needed to understand why some homeless people do not utilize the libraries.
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