Libraries and Homelessness

An Action Guide

by Julie Ann Winkelstein


aAddress issues surrounding homelessness in the lives of your community members.

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Cover image for Libraries and Homelessness

August 2020

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 200
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Adult Services and Programs/General
  Children's and Young Adult Services/General
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Advocating a strategic approach, this book shows how to form a plan, secure funding and support, and create effective programs for adults, children, and youth who are experiencing homelessness. You'll find guidance for creating partnerships, training staff, and advocating.

Taking a holistic approach that will help you to better understand the experience of homelessness within the context of your library community, this book offers new strategies and tools for addressing the challenge of meeting the needs of the entire community, including those who are unstably housed. With basic facts, statistics, and conversations about homelessness, the author makes a case for why libraries should provide support, explains exactly which needs they may be able (or unable) to meet, and shows how you can do that as a natural part of the library services you already provide.

Topics discussed include trauma-informed care, harm reduction, and mental and physical health challenges; brief stories and concrete examples illustrate the principles and guidelines discussed. Citing innovative services such as Dallas Public Library's "coffee and conversation" program and San Francisco Public Library's social worker program, the book offers both food for thought and tools for action as public librarians strive to understand and meet the needs of a population that has traditionally been stereotyped and excluded.


  • Discusses specific short-term and long-term actions that libraries can take to better address the needs of community members who are experiencing homelessness
  • Outlines steps libraries can take to balance the needs of all library users
  • Shows how to identify and work with potential partners
  • Describes new ways libraries can and are addressing common barriers to library services for those experiencing homelessness
Author Info

Julie Ann Winkelstein, MLIS, PhD, is a librarian, writer, activist, and teacher who focuses on the intersection of social justice and public libraries. She created and currently teaches a library school course on homelessness, poverty, and public libraries at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She worked for 20 years as a public librarian, in a range of roles, from jail and prison librarian to family literacy coordinator to young adult and children's librarian. She was also a contributing author as well as primary editor of the IFLA "Guidelines for Library Services to People Experiencing Homelessness."

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