What they didn’t teach us in library school

The linked essay was written some time ago by Chip Ward, a retired Librarian from the Salt Lake City Public Library.  Even with a health care system in place, the issue of helping the homeless also comes up in libraries in Canada.  It is Ward’s note that homelessness is usually associated with mental illness that is of particular interest to me at this time.  While I have worked in the past in a public library where I met many individuals who were homeless and suffering from mental illness, I now find myself working in a community college library where I am not dealing with the homeless to the same degree, but still dealing with the mentally ill.  We have (in my short time here) had one homeless gentleman come into the library asking the students for money and I apologized to him when I told him he could not do that here.  We also, however, have at least two regulars who suffer from mental health issues but do not appear to be homeless.  One is angry and loud.  As an alumni he has a right to be here and he comes in and let’s you know under no uncertain terms that this is so.  The other is depressed and sad.  He has a new research project every time I see him (which is almost every day) and requires reference assistance to complete it.  I am happy to have the reference practice.  He was looking for some materials the other day that he could not have access to from here because they were available through the databases which, by virtue of our agreements with the vendors are intended only to be accessed by registered students with their passwords, so I checked the public library’s web site and told him what was available to him there.  He indicated that he did not want to go to the public library because they – well – they don’t help him in quite the same way.  Ward discusses this issue with compassion.   See more in his blog.  Message to Chip Ward – we did discuss this in library school, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that people suffering from mental health issues exist in and are a part of every community and should be treated with the same respect as everyone else.  Thank you.

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