Homelessness is an issue of society at large, but it has a disproportionate impact on public libraries. Many library supporters grapple with a problem that they feel is not of the library’s making and should not be its responsibility. Even the most compassionate librarians and library patrons have sometimes found themselves at a loss to handle certain encounters with homeless individuals in the public library.
The MLK Library Friends – a group of library volunteers and advocates – hosted a half- day conference to help the DC Public Library explore solutions to the dilemmas posed for the city’s central library – Martin Luther King, Jr, Memorial – by homelessness in the District of Columbia.
The session was convened in conjunction with planning for renovation of the MLK Library building, an historic landmark, and was held on Thursday June 26, 2014 at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Civic, religious, non-profit and District agency leaders were invited to discuss their challenges and aspirations. The program was also informed by on-the-ground perspectives of DC Public Library professionals, including new Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilon, whose presence and participation was greatly appreciated. In addition, the MLK Library Friends presented a brief slide show of ideas gathered from other library systems.
The conference, free and open to the public, included an after-session lunch at which discussions continued. The ideas and suggestions that arose from the lunchtime conversations were also incorporated in this Report.
The MLK Library Friends hope these ideas for library-based solutions will provide a starting point for meaningful exploration as part of design development for the renovation of the MLK Library. The Friends anticipate and welcome all discussion of this report. We expect to continue the conversation through the establishment of a committee to work with the DC Public Library on an on-ongoing basis.
President, MLK Library Friends
September 8, 2014