Saturday, March 5, 2011

Occassionally, when I am really good, I get to read....

One afternoon earlier this week, I took what felt like a 30 minute vacation and read this Master's paper. When I have some time to read at my desk in the basement, I like to put my feet on the desk. I know, how unseemly! I remember my dad doing this, and chewing on the end of his pen or pencil, in his office in All Saints, Verdun. It's a little thing I can do to channel that.

So, the doc.:

Harvey, Aisha A. Homeless perspectives of the public library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2002. Web. 2 March 2011.

What an interesting paper: Harvey rightly points out that "While hardly any homeless people are asked about their perceptions of libraries many librarians are asked about homeless patrons," and her paper takes one step towards remedying that situation. Harvey conducted five interviews with homeless individuals who visited the Durham Public Library's central branch (located across the street from the Durham Urban Ministries homeless shelter); the five participants' personalities jumped off the page, alternatively moving me to laughter and (honestly) tears. Harvey paid the participants $10 each as an honorarium; one gentleman "folded the ten-dollar bill five times before placing it in his shoe."

I would highly recommend this study to anyone interested in use of libraries by homeless populations in an urban/suburban area. Here are some other interesting bits (and sorry for the bullet points):
  • "Most of the informants did indicate that they had gone to libraries as children." And later, "There is some evidence that the current relationship that the informants have with the library, stems from positive experiences that they had with the library earlier in their lives. Some of the informants indicated that they had used the library as children."
  • Almost all the individuals interviewed were really pleased with library services and the interactions they had with staff. One individual had a bit more of a colourful experience to report, and although some of his comments could probably be taken with a grain of salt, one phrase struck me as being pretty accurate: he said "Well basically, I wish they would get a GED class going over there, something to help people. It would be useful. Like classes to help people learn to get their GED or whatever. Basically, you are helping yourself. I don’t see any activities they are doing over there to try and help anybody."
  • That being said, "from the informants’ responses, it can be concluded that most of them believe that they welcome at this public library. This feeling of acceptance encourages them to ask for help when they need something and can play a power role of encouragement and support in their lives."
  • "It is interesting to note that all of the informants except for Informant #5 went to the library either every day or more days out of the week than they did not." That absolutely holds true with the experiences I have had, as well.
  • Again, something I have heard patrons say: "Some informants indicated that presently the library was also used to combat drug use. While most of the informants said that the library collection held nothing to help them stay clean, some informants said that because the library is free from the pressure to use drugs that they encountered on the streets, that it was an agent of sobriety in their lives."
  • "All of the informants said that they read in the library. [...] Most of the informants use the library to gain knowledge of many topics. In many ways, the library may appeal to the informants more than the classroom as a learning environment."
In related news, my colleague drew my attention to this article about the 10th anniversary of the Calgary Homeless Foundation "Plan to End Homelessness," which, instead of focusing on services to the homeless, actually gives homes to the homeless. "In its first three years CHF has housed 1,300 chronic and episodic homeless people, almost half the foundation's 2018 goal. Roughly 90% have stayed housed." Not an easy solution, nor one I would have expected a major urban city to try out, but so far, a pretty successful one.


  1. So interesting! I'm always happy when I hear about useful qualitative research being conducted in library/information settings. This is what research is all about. You could never get these kinds of findings with a survey.