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Problem Patrons: The Needs Of Homeless And Public Libraries

1727 words - 7 pages

The purpose of this paper is to better understand the needs of the homeless population and how the library can best help them. In this paper I am also examining problem patrons, who may or may not be homeless, as well as some ways that librarians have come up with to deal with them. Each homeless patron has unique needs which can be anything from help with substance abuse to having some help getting a GED. The two most important roles that a library has in the life of a homeless person is a place to get the information and help that they need to better their lives and a safe and comfortable environment. A place to find a book and enter into a new world even if for just a short time may be the best thing and perhaps the only thing that a library can do for their homeless population. Libraries need to focus on training staff on what the homeless population for their area require and how to meet those requirements. The libraries also need to identify and fulfill the needs of their particular patrons in programming and policy.

Introduction and Overview
The focus of this paper is research that has been done in a number of articles about the problem patron specifically the homeless patron. One of the questions that this article is trying to answer is what the needs of the homeless patron are and how libraries can fill those needs. Even though this study is primarily focused on the homeless patron it also examines the emotional labor that librarians go through when they deal with problem patrons. Librarians like other employees who work with the public must put on a professional face when at work. This face was created to hide the more negative reactions that librarians experience when being confronted by an aggressive or annoying problem patron.
The first section of this paper focuses on the problem patron in general followed by a case study about the mentally ill patron. The next section goes into what emotional labor is and how librarians use it to deal with problem patrons. The next three sections are all about the homeless. The first part is about what the homeless actually use the libraries for. Next we look into the question of whether or not the homeless view themselves as being intellectually poor because they cannot always get their hands on technology. The final section is about what library outreach programs can do for the homeless.
Literature Review
Problem Patron
“Problem Patrons: The Other Kind of Library Security” is a questionnaire survey that looks into the topic of problem patrons. The questions that this survey are trying to answer are: how widespread is the problem patron dilemma, who has the responsibility of dealing with the problem patron, what information is there on how to deal with the problem patron, and if the librarians knows of anything that can be done professionally about the problem patron. (Brashear, Maloney, and Thorton-Jaringe, 1981, p.343). Of 228 surveys to a mix of small, mid-sized, large, and academic...

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