If I’m really good, in my next life I get to be a librarian

Librarians noticed something about their clientele.

Of the 5,000 people who visit the San Francisco Public Library every day, about 15 percent of them are homeless, PBS reported. After years of watching this underserved demographic float through to get Internet access, a restroom and often, just refuge from the cold, the library realized…

Wait. Before we go on, allow me to channel my inner Libertarian/Republican.


Actually, that wasn’t their response. They realized…

it was in an auspicious position to stage effective interventions.

So, in 2009, the library hired Leah Esguerra, who is believed to be the nation’s first psychiatric social worker to be employed full time at a library, SFGate reported. Since the program started, about 150 homeless people have received permanent housing, and another 800 have enrolled in social and mental health services, according to PBS.

The success is due in part to the fact that the library has become a hub for homeless people, and that those involved in the program approach homeless patrons with empathy.

Holy christ, Jesus has returned to Earth as a swarm of librarians.

That is so awesome. That is exactly how a community should respond to the underprivileged and needy, by helping them.

Do you have to take a test for basic humanity in order to become a librarian? I’m not sure I’m angelic enough to ever meet the requirements.

And if that tingled your feels, you are now required to read this Superman comic.


  1. Larry says

    Actually, the libertarian/gop solution would be to close all the libraries so nobody could use them unless they are privatized and somebody could make a profit off them.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Wow, one FTE employee, and almost a thousand people helped. I call that both cost efficient, and a socially desirable outcome.

  3. lakitha tolbert says

    Yes, actually. We tend to be nice people in general. The library where I work recognizes and acknowledges the reasons we have so many homeless visitors.
    Our job isn’t to oust people from the library, but welcome all of them. That Kim Davis crap wouldn’t work at my job. It is our duty and purpose and privilege to be respectful and courteous to absolutely everyone.
    Even those of us who are not professional social workers end up doing a certain amount of social work, in providing legal resources and safe spaces to women and children suffering domestic abuse and bullying, providing information and resources for the homeless, after school activities for latchkey kids, etc. Every day we do more than just provide free WiFi.
    We CHOOSE to be public librarians.
    And we love our jobs.

  4. Gorogh, Lounging Peacromancer says

    I don’t quite agree that’s how a community should work. It is better than doing nothing, of course. However, a community being willing to just be taxed some amount more for the general good, that is then relayed to those in need without having to rely on the volition/charity of people (which could be withdrawn as they please), seems like a better solution to me.

    Again, I don’t mean to diminish the value of charity. I just think it sucks to depend on it, and I’d rather have a more structured, reliable solution.

  5. says


    I don’t quite agree that’s how a community should work. It is better than doing nothing, of course. However, a community being willing to just be taxed some amount more for the general good, that is then relayed to those in need without having to rely on the volition/charity of people (which could be withdrawn as they please), seems like a better solution to me.

    Better than nothing? Seriously? So, your plan, taxes. Right, how will taxes help when there are zero social safety nets in place? How will taxes help when every program has been cut down to the ground and burnt to ashes? Yes, that’s so much better than people being empathetic and caring when they see fellow humans in a bad way.

  6. says

    Robro @ 8:

    Check out the Lava Mae bus.

    That’s some serious good work going on there. I will be donating. Getting cleaned up makes a huge difference in how you feel. Thanks for link, Robro.

  7. says

    a community being willing to just be taxed some amount more for the general good, that is then relayed to those in need without having to rely on the volition/charity of people (which could be withdrawn as they please), seems like a better solution to me.

    Historically, that hasn’t worked super well.

    Governments tend to like to divert tax money to things like nuclear weapons, bureaucratic expansion, establishment of a police state, and stuff like that. Because the wealthy put themselves in the position to be the ones to decide how tax money is spent and by some coincidence it tends to get spent on them.

  8. Paul K says

    Sweet! I’ve always known my wife is a hero. It’s great to have it publicly confirmed.

    Sadly, as someone with a librarian in the family, I notice the attacks that libraries often face, and have faced since their inception as publicly-funded entities. I’ve heard the argument that we don’t need them anymore because of the internet, but the internet has actually made them busier. I’ve had to remind lots of folks that, no, everyone does not own a computer and/or smartphone. Nor do they have internet access at home. Yet, if they want a job, or access to lots of things that make life more livable, they need to get online. Libraries are lifelines for these folks, even if they are not homeless.

    I see this library as much like the ideal of the church, only much better: a community-building help center, but without the scam.

  9. says

    Where’s the surprise? The American Library Association were the people who fought tooth and nail to prevent the NSA and FBI from spying on library patrons.

  10. says

    What the hell? Gorogh seemed to be making the perfectly reasonable argument that needed services are probably better and more reliably supplied when they’re considered the responsibility of the entire community and provided through public funding and workers rather than charity and volunteers. This is a pretty basic and uncontroversial argument on the left. It’s an argument against cutting social programs and for using tax money to support people in need and the community as a whole. Stating this position isn’t an attack on or criticism of anyone who is volunteering or donating to help people in the absence of adequate public services.

    It actually isn’t entirely applicable here, in any case. This program seems to involve mainly a full-time worker at a public library, paid for with taxes, coordinating services with other public organizations (it also seems to have come about because of the inadequacy of the shelter situation). So arguing against the position that “a community being willing to just be taxed some amount more for the general good, that is then relayed to those in need without having to rely on the volition/charity of people (which could be withdrawn as they please), seems like a better solution” is arguing against this very sort of program.

  11. blf says

    If I’m really good, in my next life I get to be a librarian — and your mastery of Ook! will be Oook!

  12. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    I’m also gonna +1 Gorogh, Lounging Peacromancer, with a slight correction, as SC (Salty Current) pointed out in #16, none (or little) of this appears to be charity.

    The psychiatric social worker was hired by the library (tax money), the employed former homeless people were trained and then hired by the library (tax money). The SF Homeless Outreach team which helps get people permanent housing appears to be mostly of completely tax funded.

    This entire program is a newly introduced social safety net, mostly connecting patrons to existing systems. It was devised by front-line workers but had to have been approved by their superiors.

    Also, +1000000000000000 to librarians.

    My view on taxes is that we shouldn’t generally fight to pay less; we should instead fight to get more for what we pay. The end result of those two approaches is vastly different. Granted, I’m in Canada so I’m generally happier with where my tax money goes than I would be in the US.

    On a related note, I will not support any company that is willing to do work under the table, aside from personal friends sharing their time/skills. Now that I’m older and more cantankerous, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll tear a strip off any business that offers me such a deal.

  13. Gorogh, Lounging Peacromancer says

    Thanks for the corrections, SC (Salty Current) and Golgafrinchan Captain. I may be a bit cynical in that I do not trust people reliably providing support (hence the tax angle, concerning which I also condone Golgafrinchan Captain’s position) – too libertarian for my view of human nature.

    In any case, I should have read the entry post more fully. Being in a rush is a bad excuse, obviously I felt confident in posting. Sorry about that. For what it’s worth, the fact that it was the library’s initiative to hire that person (as opposed to a dedicated service ensuring standards of living), is an analogous situation: Better than the library not doing it, but worse than their being sufficient safety nets in place to amend the situation to begin with.

    That said, even with those safety nets (not necessarily talking about the US), it is tough. Not all people are capable or willing to use those safety nets – the “psychiatric” in “psychiatric social worker” is there for a reason…

  14. unclefrogy says

    I would suspect that the success rate would be superior to just picking people off the street as they are pre-selected in a sense and might be more receptive to assistance by virtue of they went to a library and not a liquor store or a dope house. The library is a place that would supply more than just physical shelter but a place for learning which is a kind of self improvement. Where to look for those to help is as important as who and how.
    what is required is support from the greater society to make it more effective.
    The library is a place for seeking and the librarian is someone who assists those who seek. What could be more natural than they could assist those in need to find other options.
    uncle frogy

  15. Tethys says

    Libraries are my happy place. I have always loved reading and learning to an inordinate degree. I taught myself to read and insisted I be sent to school at age 4 so that I could have access to all the books. (green eggs and ham got old after a few readings) I even got to work in the reference library for awhile in high school, and learned how to do basic repairs. I guess I am predisposed to a fondness for librarians.

    It is nice to read news that demonstrates how easy it is to help the homeless, in a far more cost effective manner than doing nothing. Libraries in my city are also accessible via public transportation, which is another barrier to connecting with a social safety net. Placing a public health worker in the same place that their clientele are using solves the accessibility problem, and removes the indignity of waiting in an office to explain to a overworked case worker why you need food and shelter.

  16. says

    As a child of two librarians (one an accedemic and the other public) our dinner table conversation ran to comparisons of Dewey Decimal vs LC cataloging. And also to discussions of what libraries were for. At the time (1960’s and 70’s), psychiatric social workers were not on the agenda. But ideas of how to serve all members of the public, of any condition of mental, social or financial health, were very much present for my parents, even in the small, conservative Midwestern town where I grew up. Librarians rock!

  17. wcorvi says

    Yes, this is great – getting people into homes, and better clothing, and good food – next we need to get them jobs, so they can pay taxes, and help support the library. Why is it we assume that homelessness is bad? Because WE don’t want to be homeless. But who are WE to enforce home-ownership, better clothes, good food – and, yes, jobs, and taxes – on people who have done nothing to us at all?

  18. Gorogh, Lounging Peacromancer says

    wcorvi @24, not sure if you’re being serious. I find the line here not very difficult to walk (at least not as difficult as in, say, preventing people from suicide, suicide being an irreversible action, whereas homelessness is reversible) – you can just ask the affected persons? Sure some may have non-mental health-related ideological reasons for remaining homeless, and I don’t know that anybody would force them. But many presumably don’t find that situation desirable.

    In any case, that’s an empirical question. You hopefully don’t argue that the current situation in the US is preferable to providing more support, because you say so?

    Or what are you getting at?