Gifts from the poor

I’ve noticed that in some public libraries homeless patrons are viewed as “problems” and there doesn’t seem to be much effort to consider what might be of service to them (in terms of the library space and the services offered)–instead, there seems to be more concern for not making other patrons feel “uncomfortable.” I think addressing this kind of exclusionary treatment of certain patrons is something that every library would benefit from. Just a story I’d love to share with everyone, from my day at work today, at the public library where I work: I patron came up to the ref desk, and from his appearance, I guessed that he was most likely homeless (but I could be wrong). In any case, he asked me if I had some earphones. I opened a drawer and found a pair, pulled them out and was about to offer them to him, but before I could, he quickly said he just wanted to see if the library needed earphones. He opened a case that looked like a case for eyeglasses. From the case, he pulled out a tangle of cables and placed them on the desk. He had just given me four sets of earphones, two black ones and one blue one and one pink one. He said he and his friends had a whole bunch of earphones and that the library could have them if the library wanted. I said “thank you so much” and took them and carefully untangled them (at one of my coworker’s recommendation, they went into a bin of recyclable electronics). What this patron did was the most generous and thoughtful gesture I experienced at work today.

2 thoughts on “Gifts from the poor

  1. This is an awesome post. With my background working for non-profit agencies that serve people who experience mental health challenges, I often wince at how dismissive and hostile some librarians can be to those they perceive as “problem” patrons. That’s what the focus of my INFO 285 Research Proposal will be this semester. A lot of those reactions are based in fear, I realize. If, however, they would just stop, listen and take a moment to figure out the best communication method, they’ll realize the patron is not at all a problem and is, in fact, a treasure.

    • I loved reading your response and thoughts. I had another library moment this week, which I will blog about…I think sometimes we do get territorial about our libraries, even though we know full well that it is a shared space…

      I will blog later this week about a new library moment…it helps me process these moments emotionally and it also is wonderful to notice just how many illuminating encounters one can have in a library setting…

      You are right… people… patrons… are a treasure… and we surely all have our own weird idiosyncracies… some more noticeable than others and some of us better at hiding ours really well… 🙂

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