An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What they didn't teach us in Library School

Libraries as 19th century lunatic asylums

This essay in Tomsdispatch describes why I do not work in public libraries anymore. People use them for anything but places to read or research. People use them as free day-care for their children, and also as day facilities for homeless mentally ill people. We're not trained for this and caring for possibly dangerous deeply disturbed people is not what most expect when entering the library profession. But the unwillingness of the rest of the society to deal with this population means, at least during operating hours, we librarians have to.

Librarian Chip Ward wrote an incredible and very imporant essay on his real life experiences dealing with homeless mentally ill people on a day to day basis. Read the essay and introduction for yourself.

The most interesting part of this was the reference to studies that show we pay between $20,000 and $150,000 per mentally ill homeless person per year, depending on the city, for the costs of caring for them when they do go to the hospital or have to be incarcerated. I hope to find more information about these studies and will post them here if I can. If the figures prove verifiable then we are paying an awful lot to ignore people.

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