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More than a shelter: Public libraries and the information needs of people experiencing homelessness.

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Library & Information Science Research, 41(4), 100984

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This paper explores how public library policies, practices, and services in a specific New Zealand region support the information needs of individuals experiencing homelessness.

Through semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with four homeless participants, who were all Māori, and seven librarians from four public libraries, the research reveals that while no targeted policies or services for homeless individuals exist, libraries are perceived as largely meeting their information needs. The study highlights the potential for libraries to strengthen cultural identity among the homeless, suggesting that services should consider socio-cultural contexts. The article notes that the information seeking behaviour of Māori homeless people should be considered, including Māori language material, resources on Māori culture, tribal information, Māori land information and books by Māori authors, which, as the paper notes, were all information sought by the interview participants. Despite the absence of targeted policies, the findings call for the development and improvement of public library services to enable equitable use by homeless individuals without segregating them. The research fills a gap in understanding the unique ways through which the marginalised homeless demographic utilises public libraries in New Zealand, differing from existing studies focused on other regions. It underscores the importance of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity in library services, aiming to inform policies that cater to the diverse needs of all library users, particularly those experiencing homelessness.

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