Survey report on library services to the poor

ALA has an important policy, Policy 61, on library services to poor people. This policy was brought about in the mid-90s through the dedicated work of SRRT’s Homelessness, Hunger, and Poverty Task Force (HHPTF), with the leadership of Sandy Berman.

The HHPTF is still going strong as one of SRRT’s more active Task Forces, and has recently turned its attention to the question of implementation and awareness of the policy.

Partnering with ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, they recently completed and analyzed an ALA member survey on Policy 61. The resulting report provides the text of the policy, summarizes its objectives, reports on and analyzes the survey responses, identifies issues and trends, and makes recommendations.

Although the report is brief, I think it is very important and deserves wide attention among librarians and in ALA.

One comment on “Survey report on library services to the poor

  1. I attended the session at ALA-Anaheim that went over this report. The session had about 10-12 audience members–pretty poorly attended–imho. The OLOS staff and committee members who presented were amazing, though. They emphasized how important this policy is and encouraged librarians to discuss this policy and the issues surrounding it with staff at their institutions. Nothing will be done if librarians don’t do anything to implement this policy. Further, we can’t do anything if we don’t have a discussion about how we’re currently serving the poor and how we want to serve them better. I feel strongly that librarians need to create partnerships with local community agencies and organizations to better serve the poor. I don’t see that happening enough. And when it does happen it is usually funded by a grant–short-term money. We need to invest dollars into creating support systems within our communities (libraries working with other organizations) for people in poverty. I work in an urban academic library that serves the public as well as students, faculty and staff. Many of our community members are homeless or in poverty. Our library offers drop-in computer classes (free) for anyone, and allows community members to use computers in a segregated area. We are not a public library and I understand why the institution will only offer so much to these patrons, but our public library is only two streets away. Why aren’t we working with the public library, local homeless shelters, and social service agencies to actually help? The answer I’ve heard is, “that’s the public library’s problem.” I don’t agree. I think we should be reaching out–even as an academic library–and doing what we can to support people in need within our communities.

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