Social Services

How to Have the "Hygiene Talk" with Patrons Who Really Need It

Library patrons talking at a table

So a patron has — for whatever reason, and there can be many — a significant body odor, dental odor, or other hygiene problem. This is not a patron who rode his or her bike to your library and didn't towel off properly. This is a person who we can all smell from several feet away. It could be a combination of body odor, mouth odor, a personal toiletry problem, or unclean clothes (wearing the same unwashed garments day after day). Either way, this a library workplace issue, which can really start to bother the staff who have to serve or work near this person. It demands a "patron coaching" conversation.

How Memory Cafés Help Families Cope with Dementia

Man playing a guitar in a memory café

With memory loss affecting 40 percent of all U.S. adults over the age of 65, an increasing number of individuals and the loved ones who care for them are finding themselves isolated from the life that they once knew. Knowing that this significant population of people wasn't able to utilize many of their traditional services, public libraries started to look for a way to integrate this group. In 2013, they came upon the idea of Memory Cafés  —  a support group with a special twist.

How Public Libraries are Linking Social Workers to Homeless Patrons

Harold Washington Library

Editor's Note: This article on one of the most important current library trends originally appeared in Medill Reports, which features journalism by students in the graduate program at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Out in the bitter cold air, Daniel Palmer waves his crumpled cardboard sign — "homeless anything helps" — at people and cars passing by. Every day the 34-year-old stands here, at the intersection of South LaSalle Street and West Congress Parkway, patiently panhandling for hours. This is his "spot," he says.

It's not only about the busy traffic flow. From here, he can easily take a five-minute walk to the Harold Washington Library, where he goes to stay warm if it "gets too cold" in the wind, to read the newspaper, and check on the weather forecast, like many other homeless people.