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Jean E. Coleman Lecture Abstract 2005


The Sixth Annual Dr. Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture Series


2005 Coleman Lecture Abstract

By Sanford Berman

Classism In The Stacks:  Libraries And Poor People


Evidence mounts that despite the American Library Association's own Policy 61 (Library Services to Poor People), barriers to library use by low-income people abound and the profession itself has largely ignored Policy 61's strictures to involve poor people and anti-poverty advocates in local decision-making, lobby for poverty-reducing legislation (like living wage laws, affordable housing, national health insurance, and adequate welfare payments), promote greater public awareness of poverty-related issues and relevant library resources, and eliminate economic obstacles like fines and fees.  Worse, some institutions have actually imposed onerous, criminalizing restrictions on borrowing and even entering and remaining in buildings--clearly targeted at poor, especially homeless, persons.  Others, whether consciously or not, direct far more resources to affluent than to low-income areas.

Interspersed with the words and "voices" of poor people themselves, this lecture will examine the current scene, citing failures to provide equal and deserved service to low-income persons, suggesting remedies that might tangibly implement Policy 61, and underscoring that the "problem" is not "smelly, unkempt patrons," but rather poverty itself and our unwillingness to combat it.



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