INFO 281-17
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: Serving Homeless Patrons at the Public Library (1-Unit)
Summer 2021 Syllabus

Kimberli Buckley, MA, MLIS
Office: Virtual, Email instructor to set up a virtual meeting

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Canvas Information:   Courses will be available beginning June 1, at 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

This class runs from July 6 - August 3rd. It will be available on Canvas on July 6.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

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.

Course Requirements

Assignments & Discussions

There will be a total of 6 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 (250 words minimum), and replying to at least two other student's posts (50-words minimum). Points will be awarded based on the quality and extent of participation.

Week 2 Discussion, students will be required to watch the movie The Public, written and directed by Emilio Estevez The Public is available to watch for free on Peacock TV. Students can go to and set up a free account. Search for The Public and watch the movie. After watching the movie, students will report on the discussion board their thoughts and will share on the discussion board a minimum of 500 words. Students will also reply to two other students’ posts on this topic (50-word minimum).

Final Project - Students will create a presentation on a Homeless Engagement Program or any partnership or resource available to unsheltered or unhouse community members. After researching what other libraries are doing to reach out and engage with their homeless patrons, students will create a presentation that can be slides with voice narration or a video or any other choice of medium. Students can base their presentation on a program that another library has done. If creating a Powerpoint please include at least 5 slides. Students will also be encouraged to create their own program or service models as well. Student work can be done on PowerPoint, Canva, Prezi, Tik Tok, etc...

Late Work

Late work is accepted. However, it will be marked down half a point for each day late. If you have extenuating circumstances and need additional time or an extension, please email the instructor to discuss options.

Core Course topics include:

  • Challenges and needs of the homeless
  • Engaging with homeless patrons
  • Building partnerships to create homeless engagement programs
  • Inclusive programming for anyone experiencing homelessness




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 6 discussions and 1 assignment. 

Final Project

(CLOs: 1,3,4)

40 points (40% of final grade)

The final project is to create a slideshow presentation on a Homeless Engagement Program( 5 slides minimum). The instructor will give further details on the delivery of this project.

Course Calendar with Topics, Activities, and Due Dates:







The course starts on July 6th - Our week Runs Tuesday - Monday

Student Introductions

Background on Homelessness

Statistics & Issues on Homelessness

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

Activity: Watch instructors recorded lecture

Students are required to watch 3 Short Videos on libraries that are working with the homeless. Links will be provided

Discussion 2 - What are the needs of the homeless and how can the library help? Due on July 12th by 11:59 p.m.

Assignment 1 - Research homelessness statistics.  A list of websites and sources will be provided. Due on July 12th by 11:59 p.m.

All Week 1 Discussions and Assignments are Due on July 12th by 11:59 p.m.

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.



Barriers & Challenges to Serving Homeless Patrons.

Are Libraries Equipped to serve the homeless?

Start working on Homeless Engagement Final Project, due on March 3rd

Discussion 3 - Students are required to watch the movie The Public, After watching the movie, write at least 500 words on your thoughts on the movie and post on the Discussion board.  Discussion prompts will be given. Due on July 19th by 11:59 p.m.

Discussion 4 - What are libraries doing to engage and serve homeless patrons? Due on July 19th by 11:59 p.m.

All Week 2 Discussions are Due on July 19th by 11:59 p.m.

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.




Library Partnerships

Finding Help through Outside Organizations

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

Continue to work on the Homeless Engagement Project due March 3rd

Class Meet-Up on Zoom (not mandatory). Let's meet up and talk about homeless services and resources, organizations to partner with, and other ideas for homeless engagement programs.

The class will meet on Zoom on July 27th at 6:00 p.m

Discussion 5- Service providers, partners, and organizations that offer homeless services

Discussion 5 is Due on July 26th by 11:59 p.m.

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.



Homeless Resources on a Local and County Level

Community Support & Homelessness Awareness

Serving Homeless Patrons During the Pandemic

Homeless Engagement Project is due March 3rd

Activity: Watch these 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 6 - How can libraries promote homelessness awareness in the community and what have libraries been doing to help serve homeless patrons during the pandemic?

Discussion 6 is due on August 2nd by 11:59 p.m.

Final Project - Submit a short presentation: on a homeless engagement program that is already being done at a library. Students are also encouraged to create their own model as long as the target audience is homeless patrons. No less than 5 slides. Students may submit a link to a Prezi or Canvas presentation. Mp4 and MOV videos are also allowed.

Submit the final project to the instructor on Canvas due on August 3rd by 11:59 p.m.

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


Course Workload Expectations

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 Prerequisites

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

Course Learning Outcomes

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.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

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.


Recommended Textbooks:

  • Burnes, D., & DiLeo, D. (Eds.). (2019). Ending homelessness: Why we haven't, how we can. Lynne Rennier Publishers Inc. Available through Amazon: 1626375070arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • 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: 0838916260arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Levy, J., & Johnson, R. (2018). Cross-cultural dialogues on homelessness. Loving Healing Press. Available through Amazon: 1615993665arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

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

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


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, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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