It seems to be a steady and long conversation about the homeless in Redding, and the library is no exception. With the wet winters and the hot summers, the library is required to provide a sanctuary to anyone and cannot deter or encourage the homeless. By law, public libraries are open to the public. Homelessnes is a societal problem, not just a problem of the library, but it seems that folks often expect the library to “fix” it. We recently received a note saying,
“Jean King- You have let the library become a homeless shelter. My kids are afraid to go there. Shame on you!”
According to library staff, part of the issue seems to be perception - it can be visually intimidating. However, if you feel uncomfortable coming in, call the front desk and a security guard will meet you and walk you in. If you see something inappropriate tell someone. The library has age restrictions in the teen and children’s area and unless accompanying a child are not allowed in those areas.
In a recent conversation with Library Director Anna Tracy, she told the story of a woman who lived at the Mission and would visit the library daily to charge her phone while her 4-year-old daughter was allowed to be somewhat unrestricted and disruptive. Over time, Pam, the Youth Services Lead, started to implement some “touch points” with the young girl and shared that connection with the mom. Now the mother and daughter are reading together and joining them in the children’s programs. The impact of our library to that little girl is immeasurable and no doubt changed her future for the better. Anna says, “
Early childhood literacy is so very important to a child’s overall healthy development.
Greg Vogt is the Operations Manager and says of the homeless at the library, “We see enough good ones to outweigh the bad.” Further more, “The ratio of problem people is no bigger at the library than any other public place in Redding.”
Education comes in many forms and points of access. What makes the library system unique is that it is available to anyone, every day; no tuition, no appointment. The library can bring people out of poverty, teach children critical thinking skills, show teenagers opportunities of employment, as well as provide an unlimited resource of information.
As a board member of the Shasta Library Foundation, our primary role is to provide funding, as well as being ambassadors to educate the community about the library, and what a crucial asset is is for us. As Nelson Mandela said,
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”