Libraries and Homelessness
An Action Guide
by Julie Ann Winkelstein
July 2021, 267pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-6278-6
$55, £41, 48€, A75
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6279-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

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

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 this support can be 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
Julie Ann Winkelstein, MLIS, PhD, is an activist, writer, 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."


"Essential for every library’s staff collection. An excellent resource not only for libraries but also for government, social service organizations, schools, and religious congregations."—Library Journal, October 1, 2021

"Julie Winkelstein has written a deeply relevant and useful guide for library workers at all levels who want to support members of their communities who are unstably housed. The detailed and comprehensive glossary alone is a gold mine of a resource that will help demystify service jargon. By combining robust and compassionate explanations of the contexts for homelessness in the United States, practical and useable templates, and step-by-step guides to action, Winkelstein’s book will help libraries begin or expand important and needed work that is often overwhelming to consider." —Vikki C. Terrile, Assistant Professor, Queensborough Community College CUNY

"Winkelstein's advice for policies, actions, programs, and services is rooted in practical research, including stories from real library users, policies from libraries that have undergone change and transformation, and inspiring programs and services from a range of library types and sizes. Throughout this action guide, her approach centers our humanity, considering both the needs of those experiencing homelessness and the realities of library workers."—Miguel Figueroa, President and CEO, Amigos Library Services

"Winkelstein’s excellent book is a much-needed practical resource for the contemporary age to help libraries address challenges of homelessness in their diverse communities. The extensive and exciting coverage includes action-oriented strategies and planning tools that libraries can easily implement to become more inclusive and responsive to the needs of community members experiencing homelessness. The step-by-step easy-to-follow action guide operationalizes social justice head-on for libraries to extend themselves in support of a culturally misunderstood and stigmatized population."—Bharat Mehra, EBSCO Endowed Chair in Social Justice and Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama

"It behooves all librarians to become mindful of this social issue and provide appropriate resources and services."—Booklist
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