Public Libraries and the Social Inclusion of Homeless People: A Literature Review
Keywords:Homelessness, Information needs, Social inclusion, Canada, Public libraries, Library services, Public spaces, Social participation
Public libraries have an ethical and professional responsibility to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for their entire patron community, including those individuals experiencing homelessness, in part by providing equal and equitable access to information and library services. This literature review examines the small but growing body of LIS literature—both internationally and in the Canadian context—on the self-reported informational and social needs of people experiencing homelessness, and their use of public libraries. Key findings reveal that while some homeless people use public library spaces to meet basic physiological needs, most visit public libraries for many of the same reasons as their housed counterparts. Importantly, homeless library users indicated that spending time at the library contributed to their sense of belonging and social inclusion. The literature also demonstrated a clear trend toward partnerships between public libraries and professional support agencies to better address patrons’ needs. Services relevant to homeless people should be developed in consultation or collaboration with this target group to ensure that resulting recommendations are appropriate to their needs, reduce or remove barriers to equal access, and contribute positively to social inclusion.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Melanie Forrest
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