Tips for Use in the Library
- Implement materials or a collection that reflect a culturally diverse student community.
- Select books on poverty and homelessness to enable homeless students to see themselves in the collection and their housed peers to learn about those conditions.
- Promote an emphasis on privacy.
- Stock libraries with basic supplies commonly needed to complete assignments.
- Welcome new students and provide a library map, brochure describing library usage policies, a brief tour, and orientation to library resources.
- Assign a library buddy for elementary students.
- Set clear, consistent rules that provide structure to library use.
- Provide individual support and frequent encouragement to students as they seek resources and work on assignments.
- Provide the one-on-one attention homeless students often desire.
- Respect students’ privacy in library usage and personal confidences.
- Remove fines and other financial barriers to students. Reserve a collection of books that children can keep, possible from donations.
- Help students plan where library books can be stored safely, and provide a calendar showing the day library books are due.
- Seek ways to give students books to keep. Janesville elementary school librarian Karen Forst recounts, “I give away books nearly every week.
- Seek alternate ways to replace lost/damaged books such as asking a local service organization to establish a small fund for that purpose or “I know I can speak for all our school librarians. Literacy is our business. We do not limit access to materials or checkouts.” offering students the option to work in the library to pay for a fine or book replacement.
Tips for Use at Your Institution
- Understand the rights of the homeless or other marginalized groups.
- Staff Sensitivity Training can eliminate the antagonistic policy trend towards persons experiencing homelessness.
- Provide guides or literature to help faculty/librarian perceptions of homeless students.
- Collaborate with administrators and faculty to identify students who need additional services.
- Share lesson plans and resources with teachers about students living in poverty and experiencing homelessness.
Ideas for Outreach Programs and Services
- Social Worker Services in the library
- Pairing arts and crafts and literacy programs to develop skills at which this population already excels.
- Partnering with schools and public libraries that address homelessness in youth (these may vary from state to state or city to city).
- Bringing services to food banks, shelters and other community organizations working with persons who are homeless; consider partnering with these organizations to offer relevant information sources, outreach services, social interaction and entertainment.