Library, IC team up to help homeless
IC sociology students Marissa Casteel ’20, Corinne Monroe ’21, and Alyssa Olagbegi ’21 are conducting a study to help the Jacksonville Public Library determine how best to serve its homeless and housing insecure patrons.
Library, IC team up to help homeless, by Rochelle Eiselt, Journal-Courier
Jacksonville Public Library is teaming up with Illinois College students to look at how the library can help ease the challenges of homelessness.
After New Directions Warming and Cooling Center recently reverted to be closed during the day following several years of 24-hour accessibility, the library saw an influx of homeless individuals and families using the library for extended hours during the day.
“In our community, we have definitely seen an uptick in homelessness at the library this past winter,” said Sarah Snyder, Adult Services librarian.
The increase led the library to seek help in figuring out how best to support its visitors, which led to a partnership with Illinois College sociology students to study how the library can better serve those experiencing homelessness or in need of other assistance.
Snyder asked Jaclyn Tabor, an IC sociology assistant professor, to help her determine what services the library can provide to be more useful to the homeless.
Tabor’s sociology students Marissa Casteel ’20, Corinne Monroe ’21, and Alyssa Olagbegi ’21 are conducting the study as part of a senior capstone course.
The students will survey homeless people visiting the library and then analyze the data for class.
“I think I have really good students who are well trained and sensitive,” Tabor said. “The project is aimed at assessing the services and resources available for low-income and housing-insecure folks” at the library.
The students will benefit from learning the study methods and gaining field experience while collecting data this month and in February. They then will compile the data and present their findings to their class and Snyder in April.
The library also brings in each semester a social work student intern from MacMurray College who is able to offer library patrons help with searching and applying for unemployment benefits or social service benefits; providing resources and support for people to advocate for themselves in matters of employment, housing and personal safety; providing referrals to social service agencies, if needed; and providing emotional support.
“While the library does as much as it can with the resources available, it always helps to focus on what is actually needed by asking those that are experiencing homelessness rather than trying to come up with programs that no one actually needs or wants,” Snyder said.
Patrons are welcome to stay at the library during its regular business hours as long as all policies are being followed, Snyder said, adding that the library is a welcoming space for all.
Like any other library patron, those experiencing homelessness are welcome to make use of any of the library’s in-house resources, including online databases, computer access, wireless internet and print resources, she said.
They also are free to attend any of the programs in the library’s meeting spaces, including movie screenings, career training programs, technology training, and recreational programs such as crafting or lectures.
“I would say the most important thing the library does is offer a community space for those experiencing homelessness,” Snyder said. “Libraries are about the only place in society where a person can just ‘be’ without any expectation of spending money.”