Sunday, January 4, 2009

Homeless at the library

The Post Crescent today published a story about a homeless couple who hope to get married. The couple spends a substantial part of their day at our library, apparently using resources to look for work, reading and watching movies.

The responses in the paper's online comments have been coming thick and heavy. In between the personal attacks such online discussions generally devolve to, there's been some good discussion of homelessness and societal response, as well as the appropriateness of homeless people spending time at the library.

Like the post a couple days ago about sleeping at the library, this issue is not simple or one-sided. We know there are people in the community who would rather not have these folks at the library. I imagine these homeless folks would like to have more alternatives -- like a job or a place of their own. But their time at the library is limited only by their behavior: if they want to use the library and they're not interfering with other people's use of the library or bugging the staff, they're welcome.

What follows is my response on the newspaper's website:

Replying to susan1032003 [who said]:
First of all Appleton Public Librairy should not be a place for the homeless to hang out and look for work. That's what Job Service is for! I won't or can't stand going to the public library anymore because it does smell like, dirty socks, and underwear, PU!
The public library is for everyone who wants to use it and can behave decently. In over thirty years here, I've always seen people using the library to look for work -- as well as using Job Service, Workforce Development and other agencies.

The library is a source of Internet, newspaper classifieds, job and career info, and books with tips on resumes & interviewing. And, of course, the library offers opportunities to learn about almost anything.

On rare occasions, we've asked people to leave because they smelled so badly that it interfered with other people's ability to use the library. That's a sad situation, but most of the time, people are tolerant. We get more people all the time -- a broad cross-section of the community, with people from all economic strata. It's important to be available to all.

Terry Dawson, APL

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