Public Library Services for the Poor: Doing All We Can

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Among public institutions, the library has great potential for helping the poor and disenfranchised. For many, the library is the only refuge for information, literacy, entertainment, language skills, employment help, free computer use and even safety and shelter. Experts Glen and Leslie Holt, with decades of service to inner city communities between them, challenge librarians to do more for poor people. While recognizing the financial crunch libraries are under, the authors offer concrete advice about programs and support for this unique group, showing you how to

  • Train staff to meet the unique needs of the poor, including youth
  • Cooperate with other agencies in order to form partnerships and collaborations that enrich library services to the poor and homeless
  • Find help, financial and other, for your library

This ground-breaking work demonstrates how five Key Action Areas adopted by the ALA Council (Diversity, Equity of Access, Education and Continuous Learning, Intellectual Freedom, and 21st Century Literacy) apply especially to this disadvantaged population, and motivates librarians to use creative solutions to meet their needs.


Part I Think and Plan
1 A Library Commitment to the Poor
2 Ambivalences about Poverty
3 Doing Our People's Work

Part II Act
4 Getting Started: Principles of Success
5 Getting Started: Service Continuum
6 What Keeps Poor People from Using Libraries?
7 Communicating with Poor Constituents
8 Finding Help for Your Poor: A Librarian's Guide
9 General Library Programs That Help the Poor
10 General Services: Public Access Computers and Their Implications
11 Specific Library Services That Help the Poor

Part III Big Challenges
12 The Homeless: How Should Our Libraries Help Them?
13 Partnerships and Collaborations That Enrich Library Services to the Poor
14 Evaluating Library Services to the Poor
15 Poverty and Library Essentiality


Leslie Edmonds Holt

Leslie Edmonds Holt, past president of ALSC, has 25 years of experience working in public libraries, including a stint as Director of Youth Services and Community Relations at the St. Louis Public Library.

Glen E. Holt, Ph.D.

Glen E. Holt, Ph.D.,editor of Public Libraries Quarterly, is a pioneer in providing statistically quantifiable benefits of library services.

"At a time when the news is full of stories of people resorting to their public libraries during the economic downturn and of libraries experiencing drastically declining budgets, this book could not be more useful or necessary, with its thoughtful theoretical and practical advice for providing public library services to the poor."
--Library Journal

"Almost all employees in public libraries interact with people in poverty on a daily basis, and in our current economy, the population of homeless and poor citizens continues to grow. Instead of simply tolerating this population, we have the chance to empower these individuals and form connections that will make the library an essential part of their lives. This book will provide inspiration as well as practical tools and suggestions for librarians or administrators who want to do all they can to provide services to the poor. This book would be a useful addition to any public library professional development collection."

"Some of us entered the profession with a desire to serve others who were less well off, yet in recent years surprisingly little has been published on the topic of public library services for the poor. Perhaps there has been a tendency for librarians to serve identifiable minorities and excluded groups, rather than addressing the broader, daunting issue of poverty? Holt and Holt, experienced innercity librarians, have written a short and timely introduction to the topic."
--The Australian Library Journal

"Critical reading for librarians who sincerely want to help the poor by providing essential library services rather than simply putting up with their foibles and personal idiosyncrasies to the detriment of other users. New times call for new ideas and the authors give readers the necessary tools to build strong relationships and do everything possible to serve the poor."
--Public Libraries