“Libraries are the last bastion of democracy."
May 25, 2015 4:31 PM   Subscribe

 
I love that NatGeo is taking this on, and bringing some humanity back to homeless library patrons with the great photos; a lot of the time, people treat them like they're not people and tell homeless patrons to stay out of the library. Which, if you're telling someone to not be in the place that is dedicated to shoring up our democracy, you're basically telling them to not be. Good post.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I just started taking an Library Information & Technology course (a four-year part-time online program) and this article came up in one of our discussion groups. I thought I'd share it!
posted by Kitteh at 4:49 PM on May 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


“Libraries are the last bastion of democracy."

This is very much true. During the recent protests in Ferguson, the library played a key role in helping to provide a safe place for individuals, groups, children and community to gather during all of that distress.
posted by Fizz at 5:02 PM on May 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


I worked across the street from a library for about 7 years. One thing that was interesting to me were the diverse views of the librarians and other staff with regard to the many homeless patrons.

Of course my view isn't definitive because for one thing the only employees I came into contact with were fellow smokers. But I heard everything from pride in being able to provide services that could greatly help the homeless educate themselves of find work to utter disgust with some of the homeless in the library. It seemed to me that the homeless patrons were a major source of conflict in the library.
posted by chaz at 5:13 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


At the Sunnyvale public library in the center of Silicon Valley there are always tons of people who seem to be doing nothing in particular on their laptops - in some cases even watching online videos with headphones. I can only speculate that they don't have internet service at home, or they have crap internet service, so they just tote their laptop to the library to get online. Some of them may even be homeless for all I know as you can't always just tell by looking at someone.

Anyway, it always struck me as odd but then again I've never been economically on the edge. It does make me glad the library sees its mission as giving information access in many forms.
posted by GuyZero at 5:20 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of a recent Colorado Public Radio story on the Denver Public Library's recent hiring of a full-time social worker.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:30 PM on May 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


i was just doing a search about social services in libraries.
i hope more cities hire full-time social workers--SF and DC have them too.
posted by JBD at 5:38 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


As an unassuming-looking white woman who sometimes uses library computers, I sometimes get asked by patrons for help with computer problems.

They're usually middle-aged men, and they are almost always applying for blue-collar jobs. "Can you help send this?," they'll ask. "Can you show me where this goes?"

And if I have enough time myself, I'll take the time to show them how to attach their resume to an online form or an e-mail, how to send documents through to the printer. But it always strikes me how all these pieces--jobless blue-collar workers, being unfamiliar with computers, libraries being so many people's primary point of computer access-fit together.

Tl;dr this library social worker thing is a brilliant idea, and I'm really glad to see cities acknowledging that libraries have many functions beyond loaning out media.
posted by ActionPopulated at 5:52 PM on May 25, 2015 [56 favorites]


ActionPopulated, your comment made me smile. Thanks for being a decent human.
posted by Fizz at 6:04 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I didn't have air-conditioning, I would sometimes go sit and read in the public library on really hot days. There aren't too many climate-controlled spaces where you can hang out without having to justify being there.

It's really a great idea to have a social worker at the library. I was thinking about that in that thread about the police chief who said they'd find drug treatment for anyone who came in to the police station: a library would be a much better place to do that, because it's non-threatening, and anyone can go there without worrying about stigma.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:05 PM on May 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


See also S.F. library's main branch bathrooms a mess. Unfortunately for every heart warming story of a down-on-his-luck person using the library to look for jobs online or just to pass the time in some semblance of safety and decency, there's also a story of someone taking a bath in the bathroom sink or passed out in the stacks.

It's not clear our libraries can both be a bastion of democracy and also a poorly equipped care facility for people with mental illness and/or addiction problems. (Although see this proposal on being poorly equipped).

It's great that SFPL is doing its best to help the people there who need help. It's a complete travesty and abrogation of basic moral responsibility to the mentally ill that our very well funded city services aren't doing more to effectively help the people in San Francisco who need it.
posted by Nelson at 6:12 PM on May 25, 2015 [30 favorites]


I've been working in libraries since 1990, got my professional degree in 1993, and think that having a professional social worker on staff or at least on call is a great idea. WRT what chaz wrote above about the difference of opinions among library staff regarding serving the homeless, it's possible that you'd get completely different responses from the same staff on different days depending on whether they'd had someone come in to thank them for helping them with that online application and breaking the cycle, or whether they'd been stuck with being the one to deal with the guy who was casually sponge-bathing himself in the sink of the one men's room. And, you know, that's not to say that that guy's need to get clean somehow is an illegitimate one, it's that not only is the library not really equipped to meet that need, but its staff may not be trained or equipped with the information resources necessary to help that guy get a shower somewhere more appropriate.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:14 PM on May 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


Or, you know, pretty much what Nelson said.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:15 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not clear our libraries can both be a bastion of democracy and also a poorly equipped care facility for people with mental illness and/or addiction problems.
The thing is, they don't really have a choice. They're open to the public, and the public includes people with mental illness and/or addiction problems. (And hell, a lot of ordinary, non-bathing-in-the-bathroom patrons probably have mental illness and/or addiction problems.) It seems like a good idea to deal with that proactively by having someone on site who is qualified to help people find more appropriate places to access the services they need, because I'm not sure I entirely understand what the alternative would be.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:19 PM on May 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


See also: Kreimer v. Morristown, in which a homeless man sued a New Jersey library (and most of the rest of the town government) for banning him. I attended a talk by the former library director who was very bitter about the fallout from the case; the patron in question (according to her) was of concern mostly because he'd place himself in the line of sight of one public service desk or another whenever there was a young female library staff member there, and stare at them for literally hours on end; however, the people who supported Kreimer (including the ACLU and, amazingly, the American Library Association) fixated on the part of the library policy that mentioned bad hygiene.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:23 PM on May 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


I found the photographs very human and moving.

Homeless people using the library is not new -- I worked in a library almost 30 years ago (geez, that makes me feel old) and a significant number of the patrons were either fully homeless or maybe had a place to sleep but didn't have a warm and safe place to be during the day other than the library. We had a policy that sleeping was ok as long as it was in a chair and no loud snoring, as part of trying to hit the right balance of serving all patrons. Non-homeless people would complain about the sleepers sometimes, which seems incredibly heartless in the depth of winter.

That said, it feels like a huge societal abrogation of our duty to help our fellow people that libraries have ended up being almost the only safe and semi-welcoming public places remaining. We should be doing better than that, both for homeless people and for libraries.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:40 PM on May 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


There has been a huge study in Edmonton, about how library resources are allocated, anonymous and well constructed, by people standing at the front doors and asking the questions. i don't know what to do--i use the library to work and there are fewer adn fewer resources to actually get that work done, and i am not a tech utopian, but i also know that people need to find jobs, file taxes, and to kill time...i ont know how to balance it.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:52 PM on May 25, 2015


i don't know what to do--i use the library to work and there are fewer adn fewer resources to actually get that work done,

I don't know if you meant it this way, but it sounds like you are suggesting that other people's use of the library to 'find jobs, file taxes, and to kill time' is something that is in conflict with your use of the library to work and that you would be open to seeing these usages restricted in order to benefit your usage? What is it that you are saying needs to be balanced?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:01 PM on May 25, 2015


The library is not a social service for the homeless. It's nice that librarians are often being kind to them, but rather than create social services for the homeless because they happen to be coming to libraries, it'd be better to spend that funding on better social services at the existing social service locations.
posted by corb at 7:06 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


The library is a social service for everyone.
posted by box at 7:14 PM on May 25, 2015 [26 favorites]


"Why should all of these necessary services get shoehorned into one institution with a flagging budget? Because the brash obtuseness and anti-communitarianism of today’s mainstream politics means that only established and universally beloved institutions like libraries stand a chance against the austerity-crazed slashings of the “bipartisan” government, and therefore new ideas must seek shelter in old houses. That’s the cold truth Palfrey glosses over—that libraries aren’t lagging behind the digital revolution because of a lack of inspiration and gumption. Instead, it’s because the government refuses to create new institutions to solve new problems as it once did. Thus libraries have become the ad hoc receptacle for all of our country’s gaps in social services—with shrinking funds. "

From: why libraries matter more than ever
posted by saucysault at 7:16 PM on May 25, 2015 [26 favorites]


The library is a social service for everyone

No. Not it fucking is not. The library is a place with books and information services. It doesn't need to be a food bank, day care center, or a whole host of other needed things. There are other places for that.
posted by corb at 7:20 PM on May 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm not quite sure I get the democracy angle. I think it's simultaneously laudable that a library have a social worker on hand, and a problem that libraries have to deal with homeless populations so proactively. Last bastion of social services may be more like it, since it's come down to this. Making easier to marginalize both social services for homeless and libraries in one fell swoop.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:22 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think we can all agree that there should be other places for that, at least.
posted by uosuaq at 7:23 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think we can all agree that there should be other places for that, at least.

Like a home?

$53,041 per capita GDP and we have people without homes. It should be a national fucking embarrassment.
posted by Talez at 7:30 PM on May 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


No. Not it fucking is not. The library is a place with books and information services. It doesn't need to be a food bank, day care center, or a whole host of other needed things. There are other places for that.

Yes, it fucking is. No one said it was a food bank or day care center, and you handwave your other situations to imply there are lots so you won't have to name them, when there aren't actually a huge number. The homeless listed in the article, while some of them are sleeping (because they have no other place for that, which contradicts your premise), are not asking for food and are not leaving kids. And many of them are using those books and information services, as they are entitled.

BTW, the comments on the article are generally very nice for a change.
posted by JHarris at 7:31 PM on May 25, 2015 [26 favorites]


There is a huge tension between the public library and the homeless. A lot of stems from smell--people living on the streets don't get the chance for a lot of showers--but there's also too many folks who would vastly prefer that the homeless were actually invisible instead of functionally so.

It's quite easy to burn out, as a librarian or library staffer, working with folks whose needs are in many ways bottomless because they've been failed--and themselves fail--by so many different segments of the social net. The boundless compassion necessary is sadly beyond my ability so I salute my public library sistren.

As for whether libraries should provide social services: in an ideal world they wouldn't be. We don't live in such a world. Social workers and other social services are the practical response to years of acrimony between libraries and homeless folks. Far better to acknowledge that the homeless aren't going to leave libraries any time soon and instead of trying to marshal the law against them, provide services to potentially improve lives.

Also? "To provide services that improve lives" is what a library is actually about. Not books.
posted by librarylis at 7:33 PM on May 25, 2015 [19 favorites]


The library is a social service for everyone.

The library is not an effective social service for someone shouting threats at every random person sitting near them in the public library. It's not an effective social service for someone who is shooting heroin in the library toilet. It is not an effective social service for someone encrusted in their own shit. The library is not very effective at helping the person who needs serious mental health help and it's definitely not helping the homeless library visitor who more or less has their shit together and just wants to read a book or look something up online, in peace.

San Francisco is failing to treat people who are shouting threats, shooting heroin, and encrusted in shit. Despite an enormous budget for social services. Thousands of people live in our city's streets in abject misery. We are allowing that to happen and it is our city's greatest shame. The fact the SF Public Library is trying to do its own little bit to make it a little better is admirable, but it is a symptom of a deeper problem, not a solution.
posted by Nelson at 7:34 PM on May 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


"The library is a place with books and information services. It doesn't need to be a food bank, day care center, or a whole host of other needed things. There are other places for that."

Yeah, the thing is, you're wrong in many places. It does need to be those things, or at least be a resource for connecting people to them. In a world that continues to criminalize simply having the audacity to look poor in public, it also is critical as a place for people, all kinds of people, to just be able to be.

We are dealing right now in my city with a new "patron policy" which is very clearly set up to allow for enforcement of the "GTFO poors" mentality that the city wants to push there. However, the city is the one that sends a lot of people there in the first place, by not helping them with their illnesses and addiction, by pushing them out of other spaces (like our nearby city common) where they don't want certain types of people to be, and actually by telling people that the library is a place of refuge. It's one of our primary designated cooling and warming centers for people to escape extreme weather. Just leave your shit outside and hope it doesn't get stolen, don't try to steal a nap even if you didn't sleep last night because you were on the streets, and I hope you had a shower before you come in.
posted by rollbiz at 7:39 PM on May 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


(my wife is a librarian at the very library I mentioned, by the way, so I do have the benefit of a few different perspectives including staff perspectives)
posted by rollbiz at 7:41 PM on May 25, 2015


No. Not it fucking is not. The library is a place with books and information services. It doesn't need to be a food bank, day care center, or a whole host of other needed things. There are other places for that.

For starters, regarding social workers in libraries, their goal is not to provide services at the library, but rather to direct people to resources that exist within the community. From the link to Colorado Public Radio posted earlier,
Denver Public Library is one of the first libraries in the nation to hire a full-time social worker. Elissa Hardy began as the new Community Resource Specialist in February. The goal, she says, is to "remove barriers to resources" for library patrons that need help. The position allows Hardy to approach people, initiate contact and offer to connect them to services that, in many cases, they didn't know existed.
Another example is Baltimarket at Enoch Pratt in Baltimore, where the library is essentially providing a digital marketplace, and a pickup location for ordering healthy and affordable food in places that are otherwise food deserts, and serviced largely by bodegas and fast food joints. The library is using its abilities as an information hub to bring several services together, and providing some floor space for the program at its branches, but essentially its acting as a connector to social services that already exist (in this case the organization is run through the health department).

Trust me that libraries that are forward thinking enough to implement these policies tend to have thought it through as more than just putting the social service burden on libraries, as you mistakenly seem to be assuming. Instead they're doing what libraries tend to be designed to do, which is to act as a means of distributing access to information more equitably, although the information in this case is taking a slightly different format than the written word or visual media.

Secondly, the fact is that the public library is necessarily public. That's where the idea of democracy comes in in the FPP. By excluding people based on their socio-economic means, then a library is failing in a core aspect of its intrinsic purpose. Some libraries see homeless populations as less a problem to be solved, and instead see them as a population with needs to be met. It's unfortunate that our larger society often fails at taking care of these needs, but instead of setting up a defacto antagonistic relationship, many librarians instead try to do what I described above, which is to connect homeless people with services that will improve their lives, which is at its heart an information service.

Although it's not a direct analogue, teenaged populations often pose a similar challenge to public librarians. Kids within walking distance of a branch (or who are dropped off by working parents) will have built up energy, or use the library as a place to socialize, or just have different ideas of what calm is relative to adult bookworms. Libraries can either hold antagonistic relationships with these patrons and kick them out at the slightest infraction, or they can have a skilled YA librarian who provides good programming and knows the informational needs of the population and is able to direct them to activities that are better for both the teens, and for the larger population of users.

The mark of a skilled library staff, and the real challenge of running a library, is to meet a diverse set of needs with exceedingly limited resources. The goal of a library should be to act as an enriching and empowering part of the community, since it is often the single place that all parts of a community have a chance of interacting with one another. This is a very difficult task, it's hard to do without making someone get mad that their vision of a 'library' isn't what they see when they walk in the door, and it's frequently not well supported by local politics. However, despite this difficulty, I've found that often the worst solution is exclusion.
posted by codacorolla at 7:43 PM on May 25, 2015 [60 favorites]


No. Not it fucking is not. The library is a place with books and information services. It doesn't need to be a food bank, day care center, or a whole host of other needed things. There are other places for that.

Instead of directing your rage at the public library that's often needed for other things than being a book warehouse, and the staff who help those in need regardless of the designated purpose of the building, why not direct it at the hordes of elected officials who leech money from both public libraries and needed social services?
posted by blucevalo at 7:47 PM on May 25, 2015 [22 favorites]


The library is not an effective social service for someone shouting threats at every random person sitting near them in the public library. It's not an effective social service for someone who is shooting heroin in the library toilet. It is not an effective social service for someone encrusted in their own shit.

In fairness to the SF public library system this also describes:

- high-end shopping district Union Square
- the BART
- SF Muni busses
- the whole east side of the Embarcadero
- the Tenderloin
- SOMA
- etc etc

As wonderful a city as it is, San Francisco still today has a unbelievably terrible problem with homeless people many of whom are clearly also mentally ill and it by no means restricted to public libraries. I think residents of the city are a bit inured to it as some sort of urban background radiation, but it's just a generally terrible problem.
posted by GuyZero at 7:50 PM on May 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Friends I have, who are librarians, and who tend to be liberal/progressive, have told me some pretty awful stories, about homeless patrons who sleep in the comfortable chairs intended for people using library resources, who harass or otherwise behave with hostility to people using the resources, and who generally take up space that is intended for people who are there for information services. Homeless men often make women and girls uncomfortable with leering and inappropriate comments. Welcoming the homeless by and large tends to disrupt the use of the library for its intended purpose which is the dissemination of information.

(Plus this has been my experience in a couple of big cities with a lot of poverty.)
posted by jayder at 8:03 PM on May 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yes GuyZero you're right, and it is San Francisco's greatest shame. FWIW I live here and I am not inured to it, it alternately enrages me and disgusts me and breaks my fucking heart depending on the day.

Back to the original post, the nice thing about this NatGeo spread is it humanizes some of the homeless people who use the SF Public Library. And bless em, I hope they get good services from their library. I have zero problem with folks in a bad situation being in the library, whether they're reading, staying warm, or just dozing quietly in a corner. I draw the line at violently dangerous people and people who no longer have any basic sense of modesty and hygiene, whether through mental illness, addiction, or simple hopelessness. People that bad off don't need a library, they need a city that provides effective care. And San Francisco fails to provide that care effectively, despite being quiet well funded to do it. We are failing in our moral responsibilities to our less fortunate neighbors.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


So let's address those behaviors and write policies regarding them, jayder, not ones that regulate how people smell or how big the bags they bring in can be, or that (this is one of our new ones) you can only eat in the library if you're of means enough to have purchased your food at the cafe.

Also we might want to actually help people who have problems which manifest themselves in these ways, and to maybe view them as the persistent and major problems they are for them rather than the discomfort they cause for you and yours, but I'm not too hopeful about that happening honestly...
posted by rollbiz at 8:10 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


No. Not it fucking is not. The library is a place with books and information services. It doesn't need to be a food bank, day care center, or a whole host of other needed things. There are other places for that.

And people have a lot of different needs when it comes to "information services." A young child might want picture books. A high school student might want help researching a history paper. A grad student might need access to academic journals. A job seeker might need to type a resume or access job postings online. An English-language-learner might want texts to help improve their proficiency. And anybody might just want to pick up something interesting to read. The library serves all of these members of the community.

But some people have needs of a more basic caliber. They might need food or shelter or a shower or health care (physical and/or mental) or drug treatment. And conveniently enough, reasonable quantities of people with these needs with these needs are already coming to the library. Libraries don't have to be the ones to provide all those services, but providing referrals and helping patrons navigate the services available in the community (what a social worker does) is an information service too.

Now, the reality is that these services very often don't exist, are inadequate, or have conditions attached that make people not want to use them. We should fix that too. Libraries can't solve these problems on their own. But they also shouldn't ignore the fact that some of their patrons need information and the library is in a position to provide it.

And personally, I'm far more amenable to the library enforcing rules against disruptive homeless patrons when they are also able to make referrals and do something other than throw people out. If someone is using the library bathroom as their sole source of personal hygiene, they need a clean and secure shower and a washing machine, or at least information on where to find one and help getting there, not an escort out from a security guard.
posted by zachlipton at 8:17 PM on May 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


I agree with rollbiz. Our public library had info booths set up for folks needing all sorts of help. I have also seen staff personally help these folks.
Last year a lady with some serious problems started dumping books, cursing. The staff handled the situation with compassion not comparing them to "stinky"people.
posted by clavdivs at 8:27 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Elissa Hardy, the social worker in the story I linked above, did a training panel with some colleagues for the Colorado State Library "Reaching Out: Creating Meaningful Library Services for Patrons Experiencing Homelessness." The slides available at that page indicate that they take seriously the complexity of the issue, demonstrating how to both communicate with patrons about library codes of conduct [pdf] while also making space for services beyond what the library can provide [pdf]. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation.
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:33 PM on May 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


The library is not an effective social service for someone shouting threats at every random person sitting near them in the public library. It's not an effective social service for someone who is shooting heroin in the library toilet. It is not an effective social service for someone encrusted in their own shit.

What such people need are mental institutions. The mentally ill did not disappear when their institutions did, so now our other public institutions are forced to substitute for them. Libraries, public transportation, public parks, and as a last resort, jail -- these are all we have for them now. We can at least try to help them where they are. Even when a guy is mumbling or sleeping or emitting a five-foot radius of body odor, he has as good a right to be there as any of us.

(Still, it's a damn shame if Kreimer has worked that angle the way that he has so that he can stare at young women. That rule ought to have been better worded so that it could be addressed purely as a security matter.)
posted by Countess Elena at 8:33 PM on May 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


So let's address those behaviors and write policies regarding them, jayder, not ones that regulate how people smell or how big the bags they bring in can be, or that (this is one of our new ones) you can only eat in the library if you're of means enough to have purchased your food at the cafe.

Thing is, I don't think the things you describe are necessarily bad regulations. Offensively smelly people, homeless or not, snoozing with their worldly possessions discourages library use by people who are not so smelly, like it or not. There's a balancing act performed here between humane treatment and falling into a trap where the library is effectively a day care for the homeless. And when it becomes the latter, goodwill from voters when it comes to funding library improvements is eroded.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:42 PM on May 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yes, so we should deal with the problems that leave people being at the library whilst smelly, extremely tired, stoned/drunk/etc., as I said in the second part of my comment which you declined to address.

Meanwhile, we have the mentally ill and addicted populations having nowhere to go where they are welcome or helped, and honestly their concerns trump one's comfort with using a library that has some smelly/ill/addicted people in it, to me, but it's another instance in which this sort of thing only becomes a problem insofar as it inconveniences the better off members of the community, and instead of addressing the problems we just tell them to go elsewhere over and over until the concentration of the problem crosses the tipping point everywhere and there is nowhere left to go but jail.
posted by rollbiz at 9:04 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, whether or not you think it's "bad" regulation in your eyes to allow some patrons to eat in the library but not others, or to limit bag sizes, or to regulate hygiene or "loitering", it's discriminatory policy and I have personally seen it play out as being discriminatory in practice.

When a lawyer comes into the building with a massive rolling suitcase, they are not told to get rid of it or leave. When a well-dressed old woman comes in reeking of some horrible perfume, she's not told to leave because her odor is offensive. When a well-to-do looking mom is feeding her kids snacks she brought in, she's not told to stop or leave. When I am there just hanging around waiting for my wife to finish work, I'm not told I'm loitering and need to leave.

These are policies that are used in a discriminatory fashion to police what people are rather than what they do, and if you're OK with that...well, that's unfortunate.
posted by rollbiz at 9:11 PM on May 25, 2015 [18 favorites]


What such people need are mental institutions.

Yup. Sadly, people with severe mental problems sometimes don't realize they need mental institutions. Which is why you need involuntary commitment. But that idea is political anathema, particularly in San Francisco. So instead under the guide of "homeless rights" in San Francisco we allow violent, mentally ill people to just wander the streets. And hang out in libraries muttering threats to the patrons there to, you know, use the library to access books and the Internet.

Fun fact: California has a special tax on very wealthy people; anyone making over $1 million a year pays 1% tax on the excess, funds specifically earmarked for mental health. This tax specifically affects stock option millionaires in San Francisco, among others. San Francisco refused to accept those funds to help treat violently mentally ill people for 10 years, because of politics around involuntary incarceration. They finally agreed to take the money last year, so that's something.

I hate the politics around this. On one side you have homeless advocates saying it's horrible and heartless to compel mental health treatment, or expect aggressively violent people to be institutionalized, and how wonderful it is that our democratic libraries are now also mental health centers and homeless shelters. On the other side you have a bunch of apathetic people who just ignore the problem, move to the other Muni car or the other side of the library when another schizophrenic looks too threatening. Where is the compassion in the middle?

Full respoect for the librarian who shows compassion, and I'm glad they're trained to deal with San Francisco's particularly endemic homeless tragedy. But it feels kind of broken if libraries are the only option. The money is there; the institutions are failing.
posted by Nelson at 9:22 PM on May 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Like most libraries, we had a lot of homeless, despite mostly being a research library. Many of them were mentally ill and had no place to go. In the library, you are dry and warm and not bored. You don't have to worry about someone beating you up or verbally attacking you or getting raped at the library. If you are homeless in my town, you have three places you can be during the day. You can be on the street, getting rained on and yelled at. You can be at the homeless soup kitchen, which is crowded and fraught with drama. You can be at the library where it is clean, quiet, and entertaining. On my good days, I felt a little protective and happy to contribute to their quality of life. On bad days, someone would take a shit in the middle of the floor or get caught drinking 40's behind the rolling stacks and my idealism would be confronted with stinky realism.

It would be better if there were more social services to serve the needs of the homeless like mental healthcare, space to perform personal hygiene, plenty of safe places to crash, and help with addiction but they are being bled dry or are already dead. The library, as one of the few readily available public spaces, has found itself on the frontline of homeless services and, until we truly start funding the social services the homeless need, it will stay there.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:59 PM on May 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's not an effective social service for someone who is shooting heroin in the library toilet.

Clean water, soap, private stalls, etc. are a valuable service for intravenous drug users. Obviously there are legitimate safety issues regarding sharps disposal and a real safe injection site would be be better but good luck with that in most cities.
posted by atoxyl at 10:17 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Safe injection facilities remain controversial in the US. Do you really think the public library should be the vanguard facility?
posted by Nelson at 10:26 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I know that there needs to be a place for information to be distributed, for people to feel safe, for food banks and daycares--esp. now that churches are straining to do this. I am not a snob about libraries--esp. when the shelters kick people out at 7 am, don't let them back in until 8 pm, and it's 40 below or 30 above, and all of the other public spaces have been harassed out of existence. I know that the next statement makes me a bourgie fucking asshole--but as a writer and scholar, who is right now absent from an academic library--all of these other things that a library does, WHICH ARE NEEDED, prevent me from accessing the stacks, for example.

Also, they keep cutting database subscriptions, perodicals, and actual books so they have these trendy makers spaces or have some motherfucker make his mixtape. I really don't think that my writing about whatever i am writing about, is any less of a cultural space than the mixtape or the job app or the food bank or the story time or the casual reader (god knows i have taken my share of media and books to read for the sake of reading) or the daycare or the making sure people feel safe--but i feel like librarians think that it is, i know how funding works, and i know that i have niche interests, and i also feel like the work i need to do in spaces that have been historically for me, because of the systematic dismantling of the social safety network, less and less likely for that to occur.

intellectually, i am okay with that...but i can't afford a subscription to jstor on my own, and i am not in a phd right now, and you shouldn't have to get a phd to do this kind of work.

i don't know what to do.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:14 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Safe injection facilities remain controversial in the US. Do you really think the public library should be the vanguard facility?

Not at all - my point is that it has to happen somewhere so if you don't want it to happen in the library I hope you are in favor of the creation of an appropriate space.
posted by atoxyl at 12:19 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


the scourge of homeless men is obviously punishment for the library industry's decision to shift to a "consumer" focused circulation driven model in the 80s in response to Reagan era cuts to public funding of social services and proof that God is an ironist.

also, for the cost of one college-educated social worker I bet you could hire two or three homeless guys to handle the homeless population in libraries... you can also bet that program would get shot down quickly: "why is the library giving a salary to a heroin addict?" but then, libraries represent the great shibboleth of progressive liberal social theory: that poverty is ameliorated by education and knowledge and democracy is based on an educated public rather than a society where "the people" have actual power in their day-to-day lives, but "knowledge is power", right?
posted by ennui.bz at 4:52 AM on May 26, 2015


also, for the cost of one college-educated social worker I bet you could hire two or three homeless guys to handle the homeless population in libraries...

I'm not going to personally call you an idiot, but I will say that this idea is profoundly idiotic. Idiotic in such a fashion that anyone who gave it more than a few seconds of thought to write it into a reply box on an Internet discussion thread should be able to see the glaring flaws in it.
posted by codacorolla at 6:27 AM on May 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Aside from being a frequent library user and now a library studies student, it is interesting to see what people think a library is supposed to be or should be as opposed to what it actually is. It really isn't solely about books; it's about information services, community services and assistance (to a degree), and active presence and participation in its area. I am learning that and I find it heartening and fascinating.

I don't know how to fix the schism between people who want a library free of homeless or poor people and helping those that need proper help, but I suspect the answer lies in holding the government/municipal/etc authorities accountable as they are the ones who are constantly finding reasons to cut social programs, as well as finding reasons to declare libraries no longer necessary.
posted by Kitteh at 6:46 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


In L.A. I was struck by how the downtown public library seemed to be the only (or one of the only) public restrooms in that area that was readily accessible to the homeless. (I very well could be wrong but it seemed that way.) And I.wondered why in a huge city's budget, money cannot be found to provide public restrooms plus pay attendants to watch over and clean them in.a thriving downtown area.
posted by jayder at 8:08 AM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The library is a social service for everyone.
posted by box at 7:14 PM on May 25 [18 favorites]


If that is the case, then libraries should just sell all their books and replace the stacks with cots and start serving hot meals.

I know this is going to sound really crazy to a lot of people here, but it's actually ok to have government services that are for some people and not others, or that aren't directly involved in provisioning the needy.
posted by Avenger at 8:28 AM on May 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


The callousness of your comment aside, if you want to sound less crazy, then you should stand up for the funding of libraries and social services that provide help and assistance for the homeless/mentally ill and poor. Because the library isn't providing social services for homeless people to spite you, it is providing it for everyone.
posted by Kitteh at 8:49 AM on May 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I know this is going to sound really crazy to a lot of people here, but it's actually ok to have government services that are for some people and not others, or that aren't directly involved in provisioning the needy.
I don't think it sounds crazy, but it flies in the face of the entire point of a public library. The whole idea is that information is a right, because an informed citizenry is a requirement of a democratic society. Libraries, like public education, were created specifically to create a more level playing field for people who couldn't afford access to information. Wealthy people didn't need public libraries: they could afford to buy books or pay for membership in a private lending library. Public libraries exist to level the playing field so information is available to everyone, not just those who can afford to purchase it. The idea that libraries serve everyone is not some recent bleeding-heart innovation. It's built into the entire rationale for having a system of public libraries.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:57 AM on May 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Social services (subsidized housing, food, energy, healthcare) should be fully-funded and 100% free to those who have no money. Hell, they should be free for everyone.

We all agree with that. We're all in agreement.

I just also happen to think that libraries should be about books and dissemination of knowledge rather than being safe, warm places for people to shoot up heroin.

I realize this makes me some kind of callous reactionary by Metafilter standards and I'm at a loss for how to respond.
posted by Avenger at 9:00 AM on May 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


And I guess that, for me, that's sort of the beauty and the radical potential of a library. It's one of the few services in American society that is open to and genuinely used by everyone. It's not some day shelter patronized only by the destitute, and it's not a private club open only to the middle-class and above. It's a universal service, in a way that few things are at this point. It serves the community, and the reason that there are homeless people and/or people with untreated mental illness or substance abuse issues there is that those people are part of your community. If you find that disturbing, your recourse is probably to figure out how to better serve your neighbors, not to kick them out of the library so you don't have to encounter the most vulnerable and suffering members of your community.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:02 AM on May 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


If you find that disturbing, your recourse is probably to figure out how to better serve your neighbors, not to kick them out of the library so you don't have to encounter the most vulnerable and suffering members of your community.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:02 AM on May 26 [1 favorite +] [!]


I'm fine with the most vulnerable and suffering members of the community coming to the library to read, learn and be educated. Everybody should be welcome to partake in those activities.
posted by Avenger at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2015


Social services (subsidized housing, food, energy, healthcare) should be fully-funded and 100% free to those who have no money. Hell, they should be free for everyone.
We all agree with that. We're all in agreement.


Even on metafilter there are people who disagree with that. If thats one of your baselines, you need to state it for other people to know where you are coming from.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:10 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


For fuck's sake, there's a lot of idealism here, which is great, but also a fundamental lack of understanding of the realities of homelessness and of social service programs.

First and foremost: in most major cities, there is at least one place where homeless can shower and wash up and maintain hygiene. The issue is not that there is nowhere to go shower and so homeless people are forced into using libraries. Now, that place may be inconvenient to get to. It may not be as 'nice', mainly because a lot of people with poor hygiene are using it to get better hygiene. It may also have a lot of homeless people there - and this cannot be said enough, it's not just the 'mean bougies' who don't like being around large quantities of homeless people, it is often the homeless people themselves who don't like being around large quantities of homeless people.

In most major cities, there are also what are known as 'adult day centers'. These are places with heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, where homeless people can go and spend the whole day. They often even have books and computers and referrals to social services! But the same issues as the above may apply. Maybe they're inconvenient, or dirty, or full of homeless people. The only time people get barred from those locations is when they threaten or fight with other people. Homeless people are not forced into using libraries because there is nowhere else. They go to libraries because libraries are nice and they like them.

And here's the third thing. I work with the homeless on a daily basis. Some are perfectly charming, civil individuals. Those people should absolutely be able to use libraries. But others are mentally ill, incapable of proper hygiene, disease vectors, and severely sexually harassing. And libraries should not have to tolerate that behavior under the guise of 'well, they're homeless'. And in fact, it's an insult to homeless people to assume that. Many, or most, homeless people do not act like that. The ones that do rightfully should be barred from public facilities until they are able to use them in a manner that lets other patrons use them.


posted by corb at 10:07 AM on May 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


but also a fundamental lack of understanding of the realities of homelessness and of social service programs.

And in your case, there is a fundamental lack of understanding what a library actually is. So call it even.
posted by Kitteh at 10:20 AM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I certainly get that it's not all glory and roses. I have personally seen a man who seemed to be trying to eat the entire current periodical holdings of the Main Library at the SF Public Library (I tipped off the nearest staff member and skedaddled).

But despite the problems, the majority of homeless patrons in the library are doing comparatively well. If someone is washing themselves in the library bathroom, they are with it enough to find the library, find the bathroom, know that they need to wash, etc... Many, like those in the pictures here, are well behaved and coming to read.

SF does have some adult day centers, but not that many (and they, of course, have all the problems that you mentioned). We did just open up a temporary "one-stop" center (it has some overnight capacity too) in the Mission, something advocates have wanted for years, based on the idea that someone should be able to get a shower, shelter bed waiting list slot, and receive other services without trekking over town and without having to agree to much in the way of initial conditions (pets, for example, are allowed). But given the number of people who spend the day sleeping in the subway stations, it's simply not good enough. And, of course, the one-stop center still has to find willing and able visitors a home, which we don't have a real surplus of around here.
posted by zachlipton at 10:41 AM on May 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's reasonable to have some standards of behavior in the library, but I don't think they should be limited to or necessarily targeted at homeless people. I've seen plenty of disruptive or icky behavior from people whom I thought were probably not homeless, and I've seen plenty of perfectly well-behaved patrons whom I thought very likely were. You can mandate that people not eat the periodicals without singling out, overtly or covertly, the homeless population. I realize that gets into a lot of difficult gray areas, but I think that's the tack that I would take.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:05 AM on May 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Library of the Damned

This thread brought it to mind. It's not funny, so of course it is.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:16 AM on May 26, 2015


But others are mentally ill, incapable of proper hygiene, disease vectors, and severely sexually harassing.

Mentally ill != antisocial. Be more precise.

And, frankly, it's already been stated upthread: nobody but nobody balks at a mother feeding her kids something in the library. Nobody says anything to the person wearing way too much cologne. There were other examples given. Policies are used disproportionately and discriminatorily against homeless people. There's no dispute about this, however much you may wish to pretend otherwise.

As for the handwavy 'maybe those other places are inconvenient or full of homeless people' nonsense, I suspect you're doing your usual thing where you ignore the actual facts on the ground in favour of your ideology. Fact: homeless shelters can be downright dangerous. Fact: there are never enough beds in homeless shelters. Fact: theft and disease run rampant in shelters. Fact: many forms of mental illness make people far, far more vulnerable to predation. Fact: shelters can be pretty gross. Many of these things are related to lack of funding.

Guess how many of those situations don't apply to libraries?

Someone said once that a society can be measured by how it treats its weakest. Barring homeless people from libraries--that is, societal institutions which are very specifically made for every single member of society to use--has the effect of dehumanizing via telling people they don't get to participate in one of the most basic building blocks of the social fabric.

To say nothing of the fact that depending on their particular circumstances, some homeless people are quite literally living in a different reality where they cannot adhere to society's rules. The only rational response, the only response that is both compassionate and cognizant of the actual reality of homelessness, is to massively increase funding for mental healthcare, for housing, for putting money in the pockets of people who need it most. Not by saying "nah, you don't get to be here where you're bothering the better off."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:21 AM on May 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Those would all be great critiques, if I was talking about shelters. Which I pointedly was not. There is a difference between a shelter and an adult day center, and if you don't understand that difference, then you are not well qualified to talk on the subject.

When I say 'mentally ill' in response to the homeless, I am shortcutting - what I mean is, 'mentally ill to the degree that they would previously have been institutionalized'. I don't mean 'has post-traumatic stress and depression from living on the streets.'

But many of the things you're talking about with regards to the dangers of shelters would also apply to libraries if libraries lost the ability to get rid of disruptive or dangerous patrons.

You mention the issues with shelters, but where do you think these issues come from? Where does the disease come from? The theft? The danger and threat of rape and other assaults? The 'gross'ness?
posted by corb at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2015


I'm well aware of the difference, thanks. And all of your handwavy assertions apply equally to day centres. 'Inconvenient to get to' is probably the worst, actually; how exactly is a homeless person who has a regular place to sleep in a park on one side of town supposed to be getting to the other side of town on a regular basis? The intersection of mental health issues--including PTSD, actually--with homelessness can often have an effect whereby the person in question is comfortable/feels safe in a particular geographic area. Going outside that area is likely to be financially impossible, physically impossible--it's hard to walk miles and miles when food is an unreliable resource--and mentally impossible for safety and comfort reasons. Something something don't understand that you're not qualified to talk on the subject.

Oh and if you're going to sneer at whether or not I'm qualified to discuss this: I talk about it very, very rarely--stigma!--but I have been homeless. I've actually seen how the system works from the inside, as a client.

Don't shortcut. Lumping all mental illness under the same umbrella is stigmatizing to everyone.

You mention the issues with shelters, but where do you think these issues come from? Where does the disease come from? The theft? The danger and threat of rape and other assaults? The 'gross'ness?

Society's general disregard for people who have fallen through the cracks, our lack of caring about mental health issues, and our criminal defunding of programs meant to help the most vulnerable. Which is why I said "The only rational response, the only response that is both compassionate and cognizant of the actual reality of homelessness, is to massively increase funding for mental healthcare, for housing, for putting money in the pockets of people who need it most."

Homes first. Mental healthcare first. Money in pockets first. Then we can have a handwringing middle class discussion about what to do with libraries.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:50 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


nobody but nobody balks at a mother feeding her kids something in the library.

Are you kidding me? Unless the kid is being fed from a bottle or a boob, and often even then. (I have no problem with kids being given bottles or breastfed in a library, but I've seen complaints about those, much less kids being given actual food that can be messy, which should not be done in the library.)
posted by jeather at 11:54 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nobody here who is talking about services for people experiencing homelessness are talking about allowing predatory or disruptive behavior. At all points the special librarians who serve homeless populations have been positioned as directing people to services that already exist, and only in your head is there the case where library funds are being diverted to create new programs where the library is specially responsible for providing said services.

Having information related programs targeted at populations experiencing homelessness is far from idealism - it's pragmatism. The reality is that you're going to have these people in your establishment, policies that kick them out before infraction (for example, luggage ordinances or hygiene codes) are against a public library's mission statement, and connecting them with proper social services reduces future strain on other library patrons and also improves the quality of life for the homeless patron.

Homeless people are not forced into using libraries because there is nowhere else.

Actually, in many places, yes they are. Some left leaning cities have all of the services that you talk about for homeless people, but other right leaning areas (often suburban and rural areas, where homelessness is arguably more difficult given the lack of walkability) pursue active programs to harass homeless people into leaving, which includes slashing funding for shelters to the bone (if not eliminating the shelter altogether). At that point the library becomes the defacto last place you can't get kicked out of, and that's depending on the policy of the system and whether or not they've put in eye wink hygiene and luggage policies to keep homeless people out of there too. In the rural and suburban system I worked in one of the towns would routinely have the cops go through homeless camps, break up their belongings and throw them into a dumpster, and beat the living shit out of the homeless folks they found there. Believe it or not, there was no day shelter in that particular town.

If I were writing the job description for one of these positions, I would include that the person in question serve work to provide professional development for the rest of the staff in how to safely deescalate situations, and how to recognize dangerous behavior before it becomes a problem. That would allow them to pass on the skills to other librarians that would create a safer environment for everyone involved.
posted by codacorolla at 11:55 AM on May 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


If I've learned one thing over the course of almost ten years as a public librarian, it's that everyone has different ideas about what public libraries are, used to be, should be, shouldn't be, will be, won't be...
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:10 PM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


To add to my previous comment; in the recent past I have fielded all of these requests from library patrons:

- get rid of all the computers and buy more books
- get rid of all the books and replace them with computers and 3-D printers
- kick out people who talk over a whisper, or at the very least have a designated "talking room"
- a day care service in the program room
- ban "crazy people"
- get rid of all the overpaid (i.e. unionized) librarians and replace them with security guards
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:19 PM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Homes first. Mental healthcare first. Money in pockets first. Then we can have a handwringing middle class discussion about what to do with libraries.

That doesn't .... really make much sense. We have to COMPLETELY SOLVE the problem of homelessness before we can begin to address the problem of homeless people essentially camping in libraries and inconveniencing/displacing the people there to access the information?

No, I don't think so.
posted by jayder at 1:40 PM on May 26, 2015


Well, when you ripped that statement out of context and misrepresented the point being made, it certainly made for a good strawman.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:58 PM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well, no. What I'm saying is that the reality of the world is such that many necessary services are being provided by libraries, not least the basic human right to have a roof over your head when it's raining. And that policies regarding inconveniencing/displacing are inherently privileged and used to discriminate--as explained, in detail, upthread by people with an intimate connection to the issue.

It's been said, also, that in some places the library is literally the last public place many people have to go. No money, they can't sit in a Starbucks all day (and would be kicked out nevertheless). Here in Toronto in the winter, some homeless people scrape up transit fare and ride buses or subways for hours in the winter just to be warm.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:07 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm homeless and spend many hours every day at the library. At least half of the people I can see from the very seat I'm sitting in while composing this are homeless (my town is small enough such that you see the same people at all the soup kitchens so I can recognize them easily enough). That's pretty typical.

Of course it's not just homeless but low income people. And the elderly (for whom libraries are as they ever were and the digital age has not come).

This library does have strict rules (no sleeping, no harassing, no staring, no "showering" in the bathrooms, no foul odors, etc) but they enforce those rules in, what is to me, a surprisingly compassionate manner. I mean they do enforce the rules but they are very nice and compassionate about it as long as the patron complies and doesn't keep doing it.

As for what my colleagues do while here it varies. Several read newspapers (computer time is limited here and watching TV is not an option so all that's left for news is the newspaper).

One guy I'm watching now and who has some kind of mental issue, spends every waking minute drawing elaborate works on rolled out paper bags (like you get at grocery stores). It all tends to be rather scifi-ish but quite compelling. Every once a while someone will buy one of his art works (or "scrolls" as I think of them given that he keeps them all rolled up) for like $20. I've never talked to him but other than a slight, but always present, odor, he seems nice enough.

A lot of people watch videos on their various devices. There was a recent MeFi post about homelessness and technology and you see it here. The guy across from me is always watching Youtube videos (generally conspiracy theory related -- which, by the way, the prevalence of within the homeless community is definitely something that needs to be studied).

Some people just want a place to hang out and charge their devices (there are never enough places to plug in and competition can get fierce.)

I'm a composer working on a massive project that will take the rest of my life and hopeful that it will eventually lead to a home (or barn, or shack, or something.) I do all this on my laptop. I need free wifi and electricity.

I have no idea what the employees here think of their homeless/low-income patrons but since everyone generally gets along OK hopefully there's no resentment. The folks at the reference desk, for eg, know about all the services available for homeless and low-income people and help these people find their way to those services.

This town is pretty liberal and generous with how it deals with the homeless community and that spirit is definitely a major factor in how most people act with respect to us.

Oh, also, bathrooms. I mentioned in my previous comment in the other thread how difficult it is to find facilities when you are homeless and have little/no money. The fact that this library doesn't open till 10 AM means I walk to 2.5 miles to the local mall in order to relieve myself in the morning (thank god for mall walkers!).

It's an interesting phenomenon. But also because there are plenty of non-homeless people who make use of the library at the very same time we're here. There's a teen reading group that meets near the main homeless hub in the library (the teen section happens to be located there), every night there is some kind of activity in the activity's area (tech support, ukulele lessons, Russian language learning, etc), and of course students writing papers, tutoring going on, etc.

The NatGeo article was interesting. And in some ways a bit disappointing. All the people in the picture are clearly homeless (or some kind of marginalized person). This just reinforces the intuition that most people seem to operate under that the homeless are not the same as them. That homeless people are less human or less deserving of civilized treatment. As I say on almost a daily basis, the only difference between a homeless person and a non-homeless person is the lack of a support network. That's it. I have plenty of friends in the community who do not have mental issues, do not have drug/alcohol problems, do not have criminal backgrounds, but who only hit upon hard times and did not have friends/family (or didn't want to inconvenience said friends/family) with whom they could stay. It happens. A lot.

Not that that should even matter with respect to how we treat people. I only bring it up to reinforce the point that we homeless are not less than human and should be treated with the same respect as anyone else. Not everyone is easy to get along with and can even be very disruptive, but many of those people live in homes also.
posted by bfootdav at 3:40 PM on May 26, 2015 [35 favorites]


bfootdav, I would rather listen to your perspective about actually being homeless and what a library is like for them than a few other posters in here. Thank you for sharing.
posted by Kitteh at 4:35 PM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


> bfootdav, I would rather listen to your perspective about actually being homeless and what a library is like for them than a few other posters in here. Thank you for sharing.

Kitteh, thanks, I could talk for literal days about this subject. I walk at least five miles a day during which I think about all these issues and try to make sense of them. (Of course I also think about my music -- but having two hours to do nothing but think affords one the chance to think about a variety of things.) And then I could also write walls and walls of text about the subject. It is endlessly interesting and observing how people deal with it from all sides is fascinating.
posted by bfootdav at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


And then I could also write walls and walls of text about the subject.

I'd read the hell out of that, if it wouldn't detract from your composition time.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


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