Librarians are being told to turn community libraries into makeshift homes for homeless during opening hours, but the prospect horrifies some staff.

The notion of opening up libraries to those living on the street has been raised at this week's Library and Information Association of New Zealand conference in Christchurch.

A speaker at the industry gathering encouraged librarians to open their doors to house homeless people during the day.

It comes as librarians are being taught how to handle violence after an inundation of homeless people using the free public facilities.


LIANZ executive director Joanna Matthew said libraries had to adapt and work with communities to meet their information needs.

Where a community had a significant number of homeless people there was an obligation to develop services for that portion of the community.

Matthew said it was the same as a rural community offering different services than a central city library.

But at least one Christchurch librarian has been left horrified by the idea.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said dealing with homeless people went well beyond the scope of her skills.

To cater for the complex needs of the homeless required a set of social work skills she did not have.

She said that although conference organisers were well-intentioned they had forgotten the purpose of a library.

However the Auckland libraries network has said that part of its purpose was to be a welcoming, inclusive and save environment for everyone - including the homeless community.


Head of community libraries, north and west at Auckland Council Darryl Soljan said this inclusive nature of its network of libraries was something it was proud of.

"We're dedicated to providing our services to all members of the community, and homeless customers are just as entitled to these as anyone else."

In fact Auckland libraries offered services specifically for the city's homeless community - including a regular homeless book club at the central library.

"These activities are in line with the very reasons libraries exist, and the work we do with the homeless community falls within our mandate of supporting literacy, learning and the world of information."