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Strategies for Libraries Responding to the Critical Issue of Homelessness

2024 Ceo Rt Group

Written by Brooks Rainwater, President and CEO, Urban Libraries Council

Just a few weeks ago, we gathered more than 40 library directors and CEOs from across North America for our 2nd Annual CEO Roundtable in Los Angeles, CA. Held in partnership with the LA County Library and the Los Angeles Public Library, the event focused on strategies for public libraries’ responsiveness to the critical issue of homelessness. Through compelling personal narratives and dynamic panel discussions, we learned about the innovative solutions that Los Angeles area leaders and others have created and tailored to meet the needs of the unhoused.

Roundtable conversations highlighted the pivotal role public libraries play in supporting those experiencing homelessness. This is such an important topic for all our communities, and it is evident that a multifaceted approach — emphasizing empathy, collaboration, and proactive efforts to make the “invisible visible” — is essential. Additionally, advocating for policy changes and securing increased funding are crucial to effectively address homelessness.

2024 Ceo Rt Laleaders

We were privileged to have Tommi Laitio, a distinguished urban strategist and ULC ally, as one of our facilitators. Tommi offered four strategic takeaways for ULC members to use to advance their work in supporting the unhoused and responding to the homelessness crisis:

  • Partnerships — Libraries can create impactful support by partnering with housing authorities, social services, and nonprofits.
  • Sense of Urgency — Libraries should leverage their strengths in storytelling and education to highlight individual stories about those impacted by homelessness.
  • Convene Stakeholders for Learning — Libraries, as non-partisan learning spaces, can convene stakeholders and decision-makers to foster understanding, open minds to new approaches, and align resources for collective action.
  • Talent Management — Libraries should invest in trauma-informed training and immediate support for staff after traumatic situations, framing understanding homelessness and personal responsibility as professional standards.

You can read more of Tommi’s Roundtable thoughts, as well as interviews with staff from the Los Angeles Public Library, in his latest Substack newsletter.

2024 Ceo Rt Brlistening

In the coming months, ULC will build on these strategic takeaways and share engagement opportunities with our members. Homelessness is a universal issue for the ULC community, and ULC commits to being a resource for leaders to find common ground and effective solutions.

Reminder: ULC Member Business Meeting on June 20

All ULC members are encouraged to RSVP to our annual business meeting on Thursday, June 20 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. This is a time for our membership to come together, hear about what we accomplished so far this year, learn about what’s ahead for the summer and fall, and vote on the proposed slate of Board of Directors. RSVP at this link for this virtual event.

Photos courtesy of Mike Baker, LA County Library, and Los Angeles Public Library.

Recap of 2024 CEO Roundtable

Learn more why homelessness is a universal issue for the ULC community