Call for Papers

Library Services to People with Special Needs Section

The Homeless and the Libraries - the Right to Information and Knowledge For All


10 August 2012


Tallinn Central Library, Tallinn, Estonia

Conference Theme and Focus

Colleagues from around the world are invited to submit an abstract for consideration for the Satellite Program sponsored by IFLA's Library Services to People with Special Needs Section (LSN) and Tallinn Central Library; Tallinn, Estonia.

In 1990 the American Library Association approved Policy #61, Library Services to the Poor. This policy was created based on the belief that "it is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies." The policy, overseen by ALA's Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, includes sixteen objectives to accomplish this goal, from promoting food drives to eliminating fees for those who can't afford to pay them, as well as creating low-income programs and services.

The "Poor People's Policy," as Policy #61 is called, is a statement of belief and a list of general tenets that all libraries are encouraged to adopt, similar to the Library Bill of Rights. However, as Sanford Berman described in a 2006 article in "Street Spirit," the Poor People's Policy has not been accepted as widely as that older document. Berman's observations on the tension between library ideals and reality are an insightful and passionate reflection of our profession's unintentional hypocrisy. Library services, in general, serve the haves and exclude the have-nots, a circumstance he labels "classism." Examples of classism include the small number of libraries carrying major serials on homeless issues; the fact that libraries in the lowest income areas are often open the fewest hours; and policies and laws banning "offensive body odor," bathing, or sleeping.

How do librarians measure the impact of what they do? What have we learned about evaluation and assessing impact the homeless may gain through active participation at their local public library. Libraries, especially public libraries, can play a major role in initiating, partnering and/or seeking out new ways to support the homeless in their community. Libraries can actively experiment with a variety of approaches and adjusting services and programs based on the feedback they receive. Libraries can take the lead within communities in building an environment of sensitivity and accommodation, to embraced the Poor People's Policy and serve as model examples of a library-community agency partnership created for the benefit of the homeless in their areas.

Topics for suggested papers include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Measuring the impact of homelessness on libraries: what models should we be using?
  • What should we be assessing? We all gather data on usage but what does it actually demonstrate?
  • Developing partnerships between the library and community agencies. Papers on successful partnerships are most welcome.
  • How can libraries develop qualitative methods to measure impact and demonstrate value?
  • Why should libraries/city governments/management the poorest of their city's residents?
  • How aware are we of the needs of poor and the underserved and the issues that currently concern them?
  • We know what we do is valuable but how do we get it across? How do we communicate the findings of research and evaluation needs to be tailored to the audience needing the message.

It is anticipated that presentations will range between 20 and 25 minutes with time for questions at the end of the session.

Important dates

Friday March 17th 2012: Deadline for submission of abstract

Friday March 30th 2012: Notification of acceptance/rejection

Friday June 1st 2012: Deadline for submission of text

Submission Guidelines

The proposals must be submitted in an electronic format and must contain:

  • Title of paper
  • Summary of paper (250 - 350 words maximum)
  • Speaker's name, address, telephone and fax numbers, professional affiliation, email address and biographical note (40 words)

The final paper should preferably be presented as a paper (that may be published on the IFLA website and as an option in the IFLA Journal). If the final presentation will be in the format of a power point, a substantial abstract will be required, including references such as URLs and bibliographies.

Submissions should be sent by email to:

Veronica L. C. Stevenson-Moudamane; MSLS, MA
Chair, IFLA Library Services to People with Special Needs Section, 2011-2013
E-mail: by 05:00 PM (Pacific Coast Time) Friday 17th March 2012.

Proposals will be reviewed by a sub-committee of members of LSN Standing Committee.


All proposals must be in before 17 March 2012.

Please note

All expenses, including registration for the conference, travel, accommodation etc., are the responsibility of the authors/presenters. No financial support can be provided by IFLA, but a special invitation can be issued to authors.

Congress Attendance Grants

The Finnish National Committee and IFLA have worked hard to secure funds for Conference Participation Grants. Up-to-date information is available on our Conference Participation Grants webpage.

Last update: 13 January 2012