The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness: An Empathy-Driven Approach to Solving Problems, Preventing Conflict, and Serving Everyone

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Homelessness is a perennial topic of concern at libraries. In fact, staff at public libraries interact with almost as many homeless individuals as staff at shelters do. Empathy and understanding, along with specific actionable advice that’s drawn from experience, makes all the difference in working with this group. In this book Dowd, executive director of a homeless shelter, spotlights best practices drawn from his own shelter’s policies and training materials. Filled with to-the-point guidance that will help front line public library staff and managers understand and serve this population better, this resource
  • includes facts about homelessness every librarian should know;
  • debunks widespread myths about these individuals, explaining how they see themselves, what issues they struggle with, and how libraries can shift towards supporting them;
  • shares de-escalation techniques like showing respect, ways to avoid making things personal, and using proper body language;
  • walks readers through dealing with common issues like a sleeping patron, questionable hygiene, offensive behavior, and asking a patron to leave; and
  • advises on how to provide backup to a colleague and when to call the police.

Filled with real life stories that illustrate the effectiveness of Dowd’s approach, this one-of-a-kind guide will empower library staff to treat homeless individuals with dignity.

Ryan J. Dowd

208 pages
7" x 10"


"After experiencing a critical incident with a transient individual at our library, I knew my staff and I needed more training on how to react mindfully, so that we were respecting the individual while keeping ourselves and our other patrons safe. I signed up for Ryan Dowd's webinar on working with individuals experiencing homelessness in libraries and read his book on the same topic. His empathy-driven approached resonated with my existing value system and gave me practical tools I could start using immediately. The poignant vignettes peppered throughout the text gave me confidence that these tried-and-true methods were provided by someone working in the trenches on a daily basis, not sprouting lofty ideas from a comfortable office that would fall apart under the pressure of real-world library work. I haven't looked back.”

— Jenn Carson, Library Director, L.P. Fisher Public Library, Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada

Sku: 9780838916261

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