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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

WFTV wants you to know that homeless people are using our libraries

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 4:58 PM

click to enlarge SCREENGRAB VIA WFTV
  • Screengrab via WFTV
Local television station WFTV has a hot scoop: Homeless people are using the library, and they're getting kicked out sometimes.

In a report titled "Downtown Orlando library, a homeless hotbed," reporter Karla Ray, who also ran the incredibly baseless "Lake Eola is a terrorist soft-target" segment, discovered through court records that 90 percent of the 220 people who were banned in 2017 from the downtown Orlando library branch, one of the largest in the state of Florida, are in fact homeless. 

That's right. People without homes are using public libraries.

According to the report, out of the people banned (mostly for things like bathing in restrooms, eating or sleeping), three of those were either flashers or were caught jacking off.

Though no one from the library spoke with Ray on camera, she did interview Andrae Bailey, CEO of Lead Homelessness Initiative, who says that libraries are basically homeless shelters. 

"That’s the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about," said Bailey. "You're as likely to find someone who is homeless in our library as you are to find your favorite author's book."

It's really tough to nail down what exactly this story is about. Is it that seeing a homeless person is kinda scary? Is that homeless people break library rules occasionally? Is it that poor people shouldn't have access to the same privileges as people with homes? It's unclear. The only thing that is certain is that this story seems to have been produced by someone who's either never been to a public library or has no idea what a library does.

The irony here is that this is what libraries are supposed to do. Poor people, just like everyone else, need the internet to access social services and apply for jobs. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 30 percent of people who use libraries are looking for jobs or seeking job assistance.


Nowhere in this segment does it mention this, nor how small of a percentage 220 people are in the total number of those that use Orange County libraries daily. Most importantly, the story fails to mention the role of the modern library system as more than just a place to borrow books or use the internet.

If you weren't aware, the downtown branch actually offers a ton of useful classes, most of which are free to the public. People can get help with a résumé, learn photography or sound engineering, or further their job skills on Wordpress, PowerPoint or Excel.

There's a million reasons to go to a library.

But the worst thing about this story is its failure to mention any of the factors that contribute to Orlando's homeless problems. It only highlights the symptoms. Hell, it would have been nice if the story even briefly mentioned that there's a shelter literally half a block from the library, or that this particular branch is one of the only public places downtown to use the bathroom.

Unfortunately, the only thing this story accomplishes is scaring people away from libraries, which is too bad because everyone, home or no home, should be using what they offer.

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