“It’s the beautiful messiness of human interaction,” said Alison Kastner, a reader services librarian at the Multnomah library, describing the core idea of My Librarian, and the distinction between it and the coolly logical computer algorithms that comb a shopper’s tastes at sites like Amazon.
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The United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls upon the United States to take corrective action to address laws that effectively criminalize homelessness, which in the U.S. disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities. The statement is part of the committee’s concluding recommendations following a review of U.S. government compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Among the laws cited as discriminatory were laws that prohibit activities such as loitering, camping, begging, and lying in public spaces.
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“The city drops folks from three shelters off here every morning and picks them up in the evening. So they come here because of that,” said Badalamenti, a social worker who in May became the D.C. Public Library’s first health and human services coordinator.
“But they would come here anyway,” she continued. “The library’s a great place to spend the day for anybody. You get access to computers, you can look for jobs, you can connect with your family and friends on Facebook and e-mail, use [photo software] and do lots of creative things.”
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”(Libraries) are on the front line whether they want to or not,” said Jeremy Rosen, director of advocacy at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy group.
Homeless outreach is part of an overall 47 percent increase in library programs from 2004 to 2011, according to a June report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
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J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, located in downtown Dallas, produces a podcast about homelessness , put together by AmeriCorps volunteers and library employees such as Jasmine Africawala. The podcast has drawn nearly 5,000 plays and downloads since first airing in March.
Ryan Smith, the technical director for the podcast, said the success of the program is due to the show’s focus on equality and respect. “Homelessness is a situation you find yourself in,” Smith said. “It’s not who you are as a person.”
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