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Monday, 31st May 2010

Quiet in the Library: an Urban Dilemma

From the Article:

Maybe it's that they don't have DVDs. Or maybe they don't have time for big novels. But for whatever reason, in the winter in Salt Lake City, the homeless tend to congregate near the periodicals.

It's something Chip Ward saw every year when he was assistant director of Salt Lake City's public library system. Ward was trained to organize information, to file papers and data. But his job, he says, was as much about knowing regulars as it was shelving books.

There was Crash, a happy drunk with a deep scar that cleaved his face from forehead to chin. There were Mick and Bob who suffered seizures. Margi had dementia. John, open wounds he wouldn't treat. For each, the library was as much a home as anywhere else.

Ward worked at Salt Lake City's central branch, an architecturally arresting five-storey structure that opened in 2003.


Ward spent five years at the branch. After he retired, he wrote an essay about his work. Published online, the piece became a minor sensation. It was e-mailed from library to library before breaking into the mainstream. Emilio Estevez is now reportedly producing a movie based on its themes.

The article continues to talk about similar issues at other urban public libraries in Edmonton, Toronto, Washington D.C., and San Francisco.

Source: Edmonton Journal

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