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College of Professional and Global Education · School of Information

Seminar in Contemporary Issues - Serving Homeless Patrons In Public Libraries
INFO 281

  • Summer 2023
  • Sections 17, 21
  • 1 Unit(s)
  • 06/12/2023 to 07/10/2023
  • Modified 05/20/2023

Canvas Information

This course will be available on Canvas beginning June 12th, 6 am PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Contact Information

Kimberli Buckley
Office Hours: Virtual, Email instructor to set up a virtual meeting.

Course Description and Requisites

What do homeless patrons need? A place to rest, a place to be safe, connections to service providers, and to feel welcome. The library can provide all of this and more.

With homelessness on the rise, many public libraries are serving homeless patrons. This 1-unit course will cover the current state of homelessness, serving homeless patrons at the library, barriers that come up, partnering with organizations, and inclusive programs created for homeless patrons.


INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204, other prerequisites may be added depending on content.

Classroom Protocols


Students are expected to participate fully in all class activities. It is expected that students will be open-minded and participate fully in discussions in class and debate in a mature and respectful manner. Use of derogatory, condescending, or offensive language including profanity is prohibited. Disagreement is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Expressing disagreement should always include an explanation of your reasoning and, whenever possible, evidence to support your position. In accordance with San José State University's Policies, the Student Code of Conduct, and applicable state and federal laws, discrimination based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability is prohibited in any form.

Program Information

Course Workload

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group; contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Goals

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes) Supported

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. C Articulate the importance of designing programs and services supportive of diversity, inclusion, and equity for clientele and employees.
  2. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify the challenges that patrons experience during homelessness and use this information to discuss issues of working with homeless patrons in the public library in order to develop concepts on engaging and interacting in a positive manner.
  2. Analyze and research statistics related to homelessness due to health, housing, and economic issues, and apply social theories as a way to understand these issues and causes of homelessness.
  3. Develop a list of partners and service providers in support of homeless patrons.
  4. Discuss homeless engagement programs, outreach at homeless shelters, and promoting homelessness awareness in the community.

Course Materials


Recommended Textbooks:

  • Burnes, D., & DiLeo, D. (Eds.). (2019). Ending homelessness: Why we haven't, how we can. Lynne Rennier Publishers Inc. Available through Amazon: 1626375070
  • Dowd, R. (2018). The librarian's guide to homelessness: An empathy-driven approach to solving problems, preventing conflict, and serving everyone. ALA Editions. Available through Amazon: 0838916260
  • Winklestein, J. (2021). Libraries and homelessness: An action guide . Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1440862788.

Course Requirements and Assignments

Assignments & Discussions

There are no required textbooks for this course. The books that are mentioned in the textbook section are recommended only. Students do not have to purchase these books for the class, and they are essentially not used in the course, just for additional reference on the course topic. There will be a total of 5 discussions,1 assignment, and a final project. Discussions include watching short videos, watching one full-length movie in week 2, and several readings will also be assigned each week.

Discussions - This course requires weekly reflective discussions based on various topics related to homelessness and public libraries and will be supported by course materials, lectures, and readings. Each discussion entails reading all the posts in the discussion, answering the topic question, and replying to at least two other students' posts. Points will be awarded based on the quality and extent of participation.

For the Week 2 Discussion, students will watch the movie The Public, written and directed by Emilio Estevez. The Public is available to stream on many different platforms. After watching the movie, students will report on the discussion board their thoughts and will share on the discussion board a minimum of 300 words. Students will also reply to two other students’ posts on this topic.

Final Project - Students will create an inclusive collection of Young Adult or Middle-Grade books that feature a character who is unhoused or has food insecurity, has lost their home, or is living in poverty (runaways count as well). Choose no more than 10 titles. Create a slideshow presentation with one slide per book title. On each slide give a short description of the book and share why you chose the book. Students can use PowerPoint, Canva, Prezi, Tik Tok, etc...




Assignments, Movie/Video Viewings, Readings, and Discussions

(CLOs: 1,2,3,4)

60 points (60% of final grade)

Participation in weekly activities is vital for this course; Students are required to participate in all activities listed in the course calendar. There are 5 discussions and 1 assignment.

Final Project

(CLOs: 1,3,4)

40 points (40% of final grade)

The final project will be to create an inclusive collection of Young Adult or Middle-Grade books that features a character that is unhoused or has food insecurity, loss of home, or living in poverty (runaways count as well). Choose no more than 10 titles. Create a slideshow presentation with one slide per book title. The instructor will give further details on the delivery of this project.

Grading Information

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100A
94 to 96A minus
91 to 93B plus
88 to 90B
85 to 87B minus
82 to 84C plus
79 to 81C
76 to 78C minus
73 to 75D plus
70 to 72D
67 to 69D minus
Below 67F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9 (PDF), relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on the Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

Course Schedule







The course starts on Monday, June 12th 

Our week Runs Monday-Sunday

Discussions & Assignments are due on Mondays

Module 1: Week 1

Student Introductions

Background on Homelessness

Statistics & Issues on Homelessness

Discussion 1 - Student Introductions. Please see instructions on #1 discussion board.

Activity: Watch instructor's recorded lecture

Watch 3 Short Videos on libraries that are working with the homeless. Links will be provided.

Assignment 1 - Research homelessness statistics. A list of websites and sources will be provided.

All Week 1 Discussions and Assignments are due on June 18th

Readings: Exploring the Crisis of Unsheltered Homelessness, The Complicated Role of the Modern Public Library, and Give Them Shelter? These can be accessed through the Canvas modules.



Module 2:

Week 2

Barriers & Challenges to Serving Homeless Patrons.

Are Libraries Equipped to serve the homeless?

Start working on Final Project, due on July 10th

Discussion 2 - Students must watch the movie The Public. After watching the movie, write at least 300 words on your thoughts on the movie and post on the Discussion board. Discussion prompts will be given.

Discussion 3 - What are libraries doing to engage and serve homeless patrons?

All Week 2 Discussions are Due on June 26th.

Readings: A Haven for the Homeless and In Plain Sight and the Emilio Estevez article on libraries and homelessness. These can be accessed through the Canvas modules.




Module 3: Week 3

Library Partnerships

Finding Help through Outside Organizations

How can the Library provide a safe space for the homeless?

Continue to work on the Final Project due July 10th

Discussion 4- Service providers, partners, and organizations that offer homeless services

Week 3 Discussions are Due on July 3rd

Readings: Family and Community Engagement: Powerful Partnerships Bring Out the Best in Everyone and Voices of Homeless Youth: Community Partnerships in Library Training. These can be accessed through the Canvas modules.



Module 4: Week 4

Homeless Resources on a Local and County Level

Community Support & Homelessness Awareness

Serving Homeless Patrons During the Pandemic

Final Project is due July 10th

Activity: Watch 2 short videos - A Look at the Dallas Public Library Helping Homeless People, and Dallas Homeless Man Says the Library Saved His Life. Links will be provided

Discussion 5 - Submit your final project on this discussion board and share with the class the program you chose to focus on and why. Comment on 2 other students projects.

Due by July 10th

Final Project -  Create an inclusive collection of Young Adult or Middle-Grade books that feature a character that is unhoused or has food insecurity, loss of home, or living in poverty (runaways count as well). 1 slide for each book title. No more than 10 slides. Students may submit a link to a Prezi or Canva presentation. Please see the Final Project Module for more details.

Readings: Boston Public Library Finds Ways to Safely Serve Homeless and Recovering Patrons Thru Pandemic. These can be accessed through the Canvas modules.