There’s no need to choose between books and digital – we have both! There’s something for everyone at the library.
There’s no need to choose between books and digital – we have both! There’s something for everyone at the library.
Thanks for reading the PLA blog over the past several years! We are closing this site, but invite you to check out our exciting new web presence (PL Online) over at www.publiclibrariesonline.org.
PL Online is the online companion to Public Libraries, PLA’s official magazine. Like the print iteration, PL Online focuses on issues and topics that matter to public libraries and public librarianship. Updated daily, the site features selections from the print magazine as well as unique content. With well over thirty energetic bloggers, the site covers a very wide range of topics.
Take a look at some of our recent posts:
A look at women in Fantasy Fiction An overview of OverDrive Read A look at using Zinio to offer digital magazines at your library An article on the dangers of sitting at your desk too long A look at how Boston Public Library used social media to ‘be in the moment’
In addition to these varied and useful posts, the site offers hundreds of other posts on library topic in addition to author interviews and soon, book reviews. Posts are comment-enabled so you can share your ideas on the often thought-provoking topics, as well as share your own story or experiences. To stay up to date with what we are doing over at PL Online, like us on Facebook – http://www.palisadepubliclibrary.com, or follow us on Twitter @publibonline and Pinterest – http://www.palisadepubliclibrary.com/2015-conference/.
We are always seeking new writers to join our ranks – so take a look at the site and see if it is something you might like to do. If so, send an e-mail about why you want to write for us to Kathleen Hughes at [email protected] with the subject line ‘I Want to Be a PL Online Contributor’ and we’ll send you more information about writing for us.
At 1 p.m. CDT on Oct. 17, the Public Library Association (PLA) will host a live, hour-long webinar, ‘ Make Way for Makerspaces at the Library ‘ with Lauren Britton, transliteracy development director at the Fayetteville (N.Y.) Free Library, and creator of the first public library makerspace, the Fayetteville Fab Lab.
Makerspaces are innovative spots that introduce patrons to tools, like 3D printers and makerbots, not normally found in the library and offer patrons the opportunity to explore their interests, use new tools and develop creative projects. During this PLA webinar, participants will learn all about makerspaces including what they are, why public libraries should think about developing them and what elements need to be incorporated. Lauren will share project and programming ideas and examples of current library makerspaces, as well as answer attendee questions.
Registration for ‘Make Way for Makerspaces at the Library ‘ costs $28 (PLA Members), $31.50 (ALA Members) and $35 (Nonmembers). Groups of any size can register for individual webinars for $129.
Reminder to join us at 1 p.m. central today for the Facebook Forum – ‘Help! I’m Not a Social Worker.’ Ask questions and share ideas about dealing with the challenges of patrons who need extra service and come to the library to find it. No registration necessary. Just visit http://www.palisadepubliclibrary.com and join the conversation at 1 p.m.
The following open letter was released by American Library Association (ALA) President Maureen Sullivan regarding Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin refusal to provide access to their e-books in U.S. libraries. The open letter states:
It’s a rare thing in a free market when a customer is refused the ability to buy a company’s product and is told its money is ‘no good here.’ Surprisingly, after centuries of enthusiastically supporting publishers’ products, libraries find themselves in just that position with purchasing e-books from three of the largest publishers in the world. Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin have been denying access to their e-books for our nation’s 112,000 libraries and roughly 169 million public library users.
Let’s be clear on what this means: If our libraries’ digital bookshelves mirrored the New York Times fiction best-seller list, we would be missing half of our collection any given week due to these publishers’ policies. The popular ‘Bared to You’ and ‘The Glass Castle’ are not available in libraries because libraries cannot purchase them at any price. Today’s teens also will not find the digital copy of Judy Blume’s seminal ‘Forever,’ nor today’s blockbuster ‘Hunger Games’ series.
Not all publishers are following the path of these three publishers. In fact, hundreds of publishers of e-books have embraced the opportunity to create new sales and reach readers through our nation’s libraries. One recent innovation allows library patrons to immediately purchase an e-book if the library doesn’t have a copy or if there is a wait list they would like to avoid. This offers a win-win relationship for both publishers and library users since recent research from the Pew Internet Project tells us that library users are more than twice as likely to have bought their most recent book as to have borrowed it from a library.
Libraries around the country are developing mobile applications and online discovery systems that make it easier to explore books and authors on the go. Seventy-six percent of public libraries now offer e-books – double the number from only five years ago – and 39 percent of libraries have purchased and circulate e-readers. Public libraries alone spend more than $1.3 billion annually on their collections of print, audio, video, and electronic materials. They are investing not only in access to content and devices, but also in teaching the skills needed to navigate and utilize digital content successfully.
Librarians understand that publishing is not just another industry. It has special and important significance to society. Libraries complement and, in fact, actively support this industry by supporting literacy and seeking to spread an infectious and lifelong love of reading and learning. Library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books, with the library serving as a de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.
Publishers, libraries and other entities have worked together for centuries to sustain a healthy reading ecosystem – celebrating our society’s access to the complete marketplace of ideas. Given the obvious value of libraries to publishers, it simply does not add up that any publisher would continue to lock out libraries. It doesn’t add up for me, it doesn’t add up for ALA’s 60,000 members, and it definitely doesn’t add up for the millions of people who use our libraries every month.
America’s libraries have always served as the ‘people’s university’ by providing access to reading materials and educational opportunity for the millions who want to read and learn but cannot afford to buy the books they need. Librarians have a particular concern for vulnerable populations that may not have any other access to books and electronic content, including individuals and families who are homebound or low-income. To deny these library users access to e-books that are available to others – and which libraries are eager to purchase on their behalf – is discriminatory.
We have met and talked sincerely with many of these publishers. We have sought common ground by exploring new business models and library lending practices. But these conversations only matter if they are followed by action: Simon & Schuster must sell to libraries. Macmillan must implement its proposed pilot. Penguin must accelerate and expand its pilots beyond two urban New York libraries.
We librarians cannot stand by and do nothing while some publishers deepen the digital divide. We cannot wait passively while some publishers deny access to our cultural record. We must speak out on behalf of today’s – and tomorrow’s – readers.The library community demands meaningful change and creative solutions that serve libraries and our readers who rightfully expect the same access to e-books as they have to printed books.
So, which side will you be on? Will you join us in a future of liberating literature for all? Libraries stand with readers, thinkers, writers, dreamers and inventors. Books and knowledge – in all their forms – are essential. Access to them must not be denied.
At 1 p.m. CDT on Sept. 19, the Public Library Association (PLA) will host a live, hour-long webinar, ‘ Alternative Reads: Discovering and Sharing Great Indie Fiction with Your Patrons,’ to introduce attendees to the wide array of books from small and independent presses, hybrid publishers and self-published works.
Presenters Dedra Anderson and Lisa Casper, both from the Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, will provide insight into this burgeoning field and offer readers’ advisory to help you connect your patrons to lots of great reads off the beaten path.
Registration for ‘Alternative Reads: Discovering and Sharing Great Indie Fiction with Your Patrons’ costs $28 (PLA Members), $31.50 (ALA Members) and $35 (Nonmembers). Groups of any size can register for individual webinars for $129.
Public libraries and librarians play a significant role in literacy programming within their communities. The Public Library Association (PLA) is interested in learning about which types of literacy programs your libraries have offered, are currently offering, or are planning to offer, and the types of literacy programming that you would like to learn more about, in order to offer programs to your communities.
Completing this short survey will help us plan to meet your needs more closely and as a thank-you for your time and effort, all completed surveys will be eligible for a random drawing of one free group registration to a PLA webinar of your choice. The survey will close on Friday, September 21. Thanks in advance for your participation!
Questions about the survey, contact Kathleen Hughes, [email protected]
The January/February 2013 issue of Public Libraries will focus on Literacy Programming at the Public Library. We’re looking for feature articles and shorter opinion pieces on that subject. Take advantage of this opportunity to share your library’s literacy programming efforts with colleagues across the country. Your article can focus on any type of literacy programming, examples include:
Adult Basic Literacy Skills – Literacy for adults.
Cultural Literacy – Ability to understand one’s own culture and the culture of others.
English as a Second Language – Fluency in the English language from a non-native speaker.
Early Childhood Literacy – Literacy for children.
Digital Literacy – Ability to use technology such as a computer or the internet on a basic level.
Financial Literacy – Ability to understand basic financial principles and manage one’s own finances.
Global Literacy – Capacity to understand the world on a global basis.
Health Literacy – Ability to understand healthcare information and make decisions towards one’s own healthcare choices.
Information Literacy – Learning to find and analyze information to solve a specific problem
Media Literacy – The ability to understand mass media.
PreGED or GED preparation – Learning the skills to fulfill the requirements of the General Educational Development.
Transliteracy – Literacy across various forms of media and platforms.
Feature articles are generally 2500-5000 words and Verso columns (opinion pieces) are 1500 words. For this special issue, we will select three feature articles and two opinion pieces. Please submit by November 17 to be considered for the literacy issue. All submissions will go through a peer-review process. More information about writing for PL can be found here. Please submit articles via our article submission system. Send queries or requests for more information to PL Editor, Kathleen Hughes, [email protected]
At 1 p.m. CDT on Sept. 19, the Public Library Association (PLA) will host a live, hour-long webinar, ‘ Alternative Reads: Discovering and Sharing Great Indie Fiction with Your Patrons,’ to introduce attendees to the wide array of books from small and independent presses, hybrid publishers, and self-published works.
Presenters Dedra Anderson and Lisa Casper, both from the Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, will provide insight into this burgeoning field of fiction and offer readers’ advisory to help you connect your patrons to lots of great reads off the beaten path.
Registration for ‘Alternative Reads: Discovering and Sharing Great Indie Fiction with Your Patrons’ costs $28 (PLA Members), $31.50 (ALA Members) and $35 (Nonmembers). Groups of any size can register for individual webinars for $129.
When: Tuesday,August 28 – 1:00-2:00 p.m. Central
Where: Every Child Ready to Read Facebook page
Guest: Saroj Ghoting, early literacy consultant
If you haven’t used Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) yet and need a nudge-join us for this facebook conversation! If you have used the kit and want to learn more-join us for this facebook conversation! Ask questions, share your ideas, and connect with other libraries about early literacy programming during this one hour Facebook Forum.
Gathering at the Waters – Celebrating Stories, Embracing Communities will be held September 19-23, 2012 at the Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
The conference includes:
*Over 70 programs, 40 poster sessions, preconference programs, and more
*Opening General Session featuring Sonia Monzano
*Youth Author Luncheons featuring: Lauren Myracle and Sharon Flake
*Adult Author Luncheons featuring Da Chen and David Treuer
*Closing Session speaker Jamal Joseph
*Exhibits, social events, tours, and much more.
Registration and housing are now open – go here for more conference information and to register.
Did you know that In some cases, libraries pay 3-5 times MORE for eBooks than consumers do?? It’s true!
Right now, Canadian libraries are lobbying for fair eBook prices, and more flexible purchasing models, so that we can offer even more eBooks to members of our communities.
Want to learn more? Visit http://www.palisadepubliclibrary.com today!
The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System maintains popular, diverse, distinctive and specialized collections throughout its 37 libraries, eight of which are City Branch libraries. Each offers its own unique facility, atmosphere, services and collections. You can use your library card at any of the public libraries in Erie County. Click here for a map of the Library System or here for a full list of libraries and their hours.
Click here to see today’s open libraries.
Free wireless Internet access is available at all Buffalo & Erie County Public Library locations. All Library Computers now have access to USB ports. Scanners are available for public use. Most libraries have convenient, onsite drop boxes.
Would you like to tell your legislators how important your library is to you? Find their names and how to find contact information in our Legislators page.
Free wireless Internet access is available at all B&ECPL locations.
All Library Computers now have access to USB ports.
Most libraries have convenient, onsite drop boxes.
At PLOS, we believe that research articles should primarily be judged on their individual merits, rather than on the basis of the journal in which they were published. In March 2009, we inaugurated a program to provide Article-Level Metrics (ALM) on every article across all journals. Article-Level Metrics (ALMs) capture the manifold ways in which research is disseminated and can help users determine the value of an article to them and to their scientific community. The regularly updated data include the following metrics:
The article metrics are made available rapidly after publication and are continually updated. Each source captures different behaviors and thus its natural activity will vary by time (i.e., publication age) and research area of the article. Further discussion of known limitations to individual metrics is detailed in the section below.
PLOS is committed to the open provision of these metrics. The entire dataset of all cumulative ALMs are made available as a summary file, updated monthly. We also provide an API and accompanying documentation for the automatic retrieval of ALM data.
Licensing of PLOS ALM data is under Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication (CC0).
PLOS provides data on each article for usage activity across the following sites:
- PLOS: PLOS articles are provided in three different formats- page views, PDF downloads, and XML downloads – and we record the online activity of users across these three formats. This ‘usage,’ comprised of the three types, is provided as an aggregate metric or broken down, month-by-month in graphical format. Online usage via the PLOS platform is presented according to industry standard definitions of usage and is COUNTER-compliant.
- Pubmed Central: We also display COUNTER 3-compliant PubMed Central (PMC) usage data for each article. PMC individually counts the number of page views and PDF downloads of the article on their site. The results are only made available to PLOS once a month, not in real-time. As a result, articles may experience a lag with the display of PMC data of up to one month. This will also impact the data shown on recently published articles, which may not show PMC usage data for their first month of publication. The total article usage data displayed on the Metrics Tab is an aggregate of both PLOS and PMC usage.
- figshare: All PLOS figures, tables, and supporting information files are available on figshare. figshare individually counts the views, downloads, and shares on its site. These counts are aggregated individually for each figure and table, but presented as a cumulative number for the supporting information package. The detailed breakdown for the three counts are available on the respective figshared page.
Online usage data should be interpreted with caution. In general, it is dependent on the age of the article and its subject area. Robot activity may also impact usage data. We comply with COUNTER 3’s requirements to exclude its defined list of robots from reports, and we employ more stringent benchmarks with an expanded list of offending robot IP addresses.
Robot activity may impact online usage data. PLOS has excluded all that are identified on this growing list, however PMC will be excluding a different list. No robot list is exhaustive and some level of robot usage will undoubtedly remain in the data. Differences in PLOS usage data for article published prior to July 1st, 2005: Usage data reported for these articles is shown as an HTML view but actually represents a ‘combined’ figure made up of the 3 view types. This primarily affects articles published in PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine. Usage between HTML, PDF and XML view types cannot be separated due to problems with early log files before July 1st, 2005.
PubMed Central usage data: PMC statistics are COUNTER 3-compliant to the extent that they exclude internal use and crawlers/bots, and do not count duplicate requests for HTML pages or PDFs that are made within the limits specified by the standard. They are not compliant in that NLM does not provide usage data by specific IP, user, or organization. PMC began making their usage data available to PLOS on January of 2010. Articles published before then will not have PMC data prior to that date. We receive monthly reports from PMC of the prior month’s usage and so there may be a lag in the display of data up to one month’s time.
PLOS provides citation data on each article as computed by the following third-party citation measuring services:
Each displays a single number (article citations) and links to a landing page containing information related to the citing articles. PLOS also collects data for articles cited in Wikipedia encyclopedia entries. There is no external link for the Wikipedia landing page at this time.
Citation counts will vary between services, as each draws upon a different database of journals that they index. To attain the most comprehensive view of citations, consult all lists and ‘de-duplicate’ the results. If there are missing citations from one of the sources, please contact the appropriate vendor for more information.
Scopus Citations: Scopus sometimes significantly undercounts the number of citations to a specific article. This is due to the existence of double records in their database for many PLOS articles. Hence, citations are spread across both records. PLOS is working with Scopus to improve their database in this respect, and so Scopus citation counts may increase in the future.
ISI Web of ScienceⓇ Citations: The Web of ScienceⓇ count reflects the sum total of citations for an article across all years and all five citations indices in their database. Individual users who search from their account may obtain lower results than the quoted Times Cited count if they do not have full access to the complete suite of ISI Web of Science® databases. To read more about how the ISI Web of ScienceⓇ counts citing articles, please visit their help file.
CrossRef Citations: These citations to the article are provided by the CrossRef Cited-by Linking service. The data are limited to journals participating in CrossRef’s Cited-by Linking service.
Online reference management services – CiteULike and Mendeley – have become common ways for researchers to bookmark papers, collate references, and share sources with their community. The ALM application captures the number of times the research article in question has been bookmarked by individual researchers or research groups. Each is linked to a landing page that allows users to navigate to other services such as subject tags and other bookmarked articles.
The CiteULike landing page captures total number of individuals and groups who have added the article to their CiteULike bookmarking account. There may be multiple users attached to each posting on this landing page, and they are found hyperlinked by the article listing. For example, the listing with the description: ‘posted by UserX along with 2 people and 1 group’ will have a total count of 4. The Mendeley count is an aggregate of the number of individuals and groups who have added the article.
With the establishment of a networked landscape in research, researchers today employ a host of tools from which to share and discuss each other’s work. PLOS has integrated the leading channels within these three areas into the ALM data suite to offer a more comprehensive view of the article’s impact after publication.
Blog posts serve as a common dissemination channel for articles published in PLOS journals. To identify and link to them from each article, third party blog aggregators are used:
- Nature Blogs
- Research Blogging
For each service, the count reflects the number of blog articles which have discussed the paper and depends on the method of aggregation specific to each service. To attain the most comprehensive picture of how many (and which) blogs cite the article in question, consult all the constitutive lists and de-duplicate repeated entries.
We also track the dissemination activity of articles through Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. Given the ease and scope of digital propagation, researchers increasingly employ this social channel to recommend and discuss articles. This activity thus represents interest in the article, in a similar manner as usage data and provides insight into the reach of the article.
- Twitter: number of tweets which share an article on Twitter, a social networking and microblogging service.
- Facebook: aggregate number of Facebook Likes, ‘shares,’ ‘posts,’ and ‘comments’ for an article on the largest social network.
- Reddit: aggregate number of posts and comments on the user-generated news links site. The score based on the number of upvotes and downvotes for the post containing the article mention is also included.
General online activity
- General article coverage: we aggregate the list of external websites that directly link out to PLOS articles. This is a varied set that include the following types of sites: news media, blogs, reference material, institutions, etc. The entire list is available as well as the staff curated selection.
- Encyclopedia: we also collect data for articles discussed in Wikipedia encyclopedia entries. We include references found across the Top 20 Wikipedia language sites and Wikimedia Commons.
- Journal comments: we also track article discussion on the PLOS publishing platform, which allows users to leave Comments about an entire article or specific parts of the article, respectively. Comments cannot be anonymous and must adhere to PLOS’s guidelines for commenting. Commentators must declare competing interests (when they exist). PLOS staff monitors all comments. Although we provide information on the number of Comment threads that have been created, each Comment thread may also contain multiple replies, which are not separately counted in the Metrics tab. Under the Comments tab, the full text can be found, accompanied by all replies.
Social media: appropriate use of the social network data types will aid the discovery of related papers as well as reveal the article’s readership reach. In collaboration with Cameron Neylon, this informational video discusses the power of such metrics as a research and discovery tool.
Twitter: we began collecting tweets for PLOS articles on June 1, 2012, and the Twitter ALM count does not include data prior to this time period. We search and pull tweets based upon the DOI of the article, which is embedded in the article URL. Shortened URLs substantially modify this original URL structure, however. To the extent possible we attempt to reconstruct the long-form, original tweet URL and collect it for display.
Blogs: in many cases, blog authors do not reference the article in a way that allows for automated aggregation, and the aggregating services we link to cover only a selection of all possible blogs. Therefore, there will potentially be many more blogs about an article than these aggregators are able to identify.
We provide data on sources that capture formal endorsements of PLOS research articles via a platform such as an online recommendation channel. F1000Prime is a directory of recommended articles by their expert team of scientists and clinical researchers in biology and medicine. Each reviewer provides a numerical score to their qualitative evaluation. The metric is the cumulative score from all reviews, received by the recommended article.
PLOS ALM relative metrics are a set of summary statistics aimed to provide context to primary ALM data. These metrics are statistical interpretations of the direct measurements that come directly from each of the ALM sources, and can be used to inform readers of the scope, meaning, and coverage of the primary data. The relative metrics set is still expanding, but at the moment, we offer the following: views-downloads ratio and average usage.
Though the research community engages with the article in numerous ways, the most basic mode is article access (‘Usage’). The views-downloads ratio gives readers a view into the level of engagement on this particular dimension, based on the premise that a PDF download denotes expanded consideration of an article. We divide the HTML views by the PDF downloads to arrive at the percentage of views leading to a download. This ratio automatically normalizes articles by article age. In the event that an external link points directly to an article’s PDF download, readers will arrive at the PDF download without creating an imprint on the HTML page. This occurrence will slightly inflate the proportion of downloads and lead to a lower views-downloads ratio.
The average usage calculation is a proximate measure of how a paper’s total usage compares to the overall usage of a group of related papers. We define this reference set based on likeness across two dimensions, subject area and age, and then calculate the average from the usage count amongst this group. We use the median as the measure for central tendency.
We group articles based on age so as to control for large-scale institutional changes in reader behavior over time. We then group based on the seed article’s subject matter, using its first and second level subject categories based on user selection. From this reference set of related papers, we calculate the average usage on a month-by-month basis. In this fashion, month X usage of the focal article is compared directly to the average usage for month X usage of all papers in its cohort and controls for the small variations in publication age amongst this set. Results are displayed as a line overlaid on the historical cumulative usage chart of the seed article.
The context provided in the average usage is limited to the PLOS corpus as usage data is not widely available beyond PLOS journals at the moment. We begin displaying the average usage three months after an article’s publication date to ensure there is sufficient data to compute a summary statistic. Due to the average usage methodological design, which groups articles based on publication year, an article may display a curtailed line depending on its publication date relative to the calendar year. Younger articles will reach a point in which they have been fully calculated and no longer have data to contribute to the monthly calculation. We cease to calculate the average usage at the point in which the first article drops out of the reference set. In the event that a reference set does not meet the minimum size for statistical significance (less than 25 articles) or usage data availability disruptions occur for an article in the reference set, the average usage is not computed. In the former, we suppress the subject category so that it is does not appear as a selection item. This situation may arise in certain niche subject areas that are not frequently covered. In the latter, the average usage line will be displayed up to the point in which such event occurs.
PLOS no longer collects data from the following discontinued services:
A medley of people wait for the San Francisco Public Library to open in the morning. Students on a deadline. People who really need a library book. Retired folks. And people checking email.
As the doors open, patrons stream into the atrium at the main branch near the Civic Center in downtown San Francisco. Some head to their favorite reading nook; others to computers to start surfing the Web.
The library is by nature a transitory place. Most people come and go. But Craig, who didn’t want his last name used, is usually here all day. Craig is homeless. Like thousands of other homeless people, he comes to the library when he has nowhere else to go.
‘It’s one of the few buildings that’s open 7 days a week, – and thank God for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, when it’s open until 8,’ he says.
Craig sits in a sunny room and reads the newspaper. He eats some bread and bananas. If he’s bored, he dozes off.
‘I come to the library basically because it’s quiet and it’s clean. It also doesn’t have the atmosphere that a lot of the drop-in centers have. A lot of the drop-in centers, you just feel like you’re homeless,’ says Craig. ‘I’d never been homeless up until 3 months ago, so this is a new experience for me.’
San Francisco’s public library system has become known for its digital innovations, special collections, and reading events. The Civic Center branch has also become known, for better or worse, as a homeless hangout. That has prompted a new kind of innovation.
What started as a tough situation – staff members worried about people washing up in the bathrooms, or acting badly – turned into an opportunity. The library, which has always thought of itself as a resource, found it had nothing to offer people who came in asking for help finding housing or places to sleep. The city’s solution? Bring in a social worker assigned to deal with the needs of homeless people.
That’s how, in 2009, Leah Esguerra became the first homelessness social worker in the country to be based out of a library.
‘What I’ve learned from being here is that the library’s goal is to include everybody, to make the library accessible for everybody, and not to screen anybody out,’ she says, adding that the goal has been to help its homeless patrons and to make the library safer.
‘Having a library is a true part of democracy in our country, and democracy meaning you include everybody,’ adds Esguerra.
Since the program’s inception three years ago, Esguerra has reached out to nearly 1,200 homeless people at the library and referred them to city services. So far, 74 of them have also found housing.
Esguerra doesn’t advertise her services. Instead, she relies on her outreach workers, also known as Health and Safety Associates. Kathleen, who didn’t want her last name used, is one of them.
‘I hang out in the library,’ says Kathleen. ‘I check the bathrooms out, trying to get people to comply with library rules, like, don’t wash your hair in the bathroom sink and that kind of stuff. But the bigger picture is to give them options.’
Just a few years ago, Kathleen was also homeless at the library. She used to be a house painter in Sacramento. Then the recession hit.
‘October 31, 2008 was the last day I worked and Lehman Brothers had just crashed and it was just like, the light switch… Someone flipped it off and there was no more work. It just stopped,’ she recounts.
Kathleen and her partner lost their house and started living in their car in San Francisco. When the car broke down, they spent rainy days drying off at the Mission Branch Library. Eventually some homeless outreach workers found them and helped them get back on their feet.
‘It was my time to accept help. So everybody in their lives will have that time, they will hold out their hand, and if we can just be there, that’s a hand up,’ she says.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, more than 3.5 million Americans may be homeless on a given night. Libraries across the country have become a destination for the poor and homeless to seek help with everything from finding a job to finding a place to sleep.
‘This question is always huge in urban libraries, around how much should a library take on of the homeless problem,’ says Jill Bourne, San Francisco’s Deputy City Librarian. ‘Having the program is helping, but the bigger social issue is still looming and that’s kind of the bigger challenge.’
Hundreds of city libraries across the country, including San Francisco, have tried to address that ‘bigger challenge’ by opening job centers and adding resume workshops. The city’s social worker program has become a national model. Sacramento now has a homeless outreach worker on call at the Central Library. San Jose’s Martin Luther King Jr. Library brings social workers and lawyers in for free.
But just as the role of the library has evolved to meet the needs of a population in peril, the group of people who need help has widened, too. Social worker Leah Esguerra says she sees students who have defaulted on their school loans and are living in their cars.
‘I’ve seen families displaced as well, the same situation. They lost their jobs, they lost their homes, they went through their savings and now, where do we go?’ she says.
This story originally aired in 2012. Since then, Jill Bourne has become the San Jose library director. Leah Esguerra is still in her same role in San Francisco.
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