EDUCATION

More public libraries, their relevance at stake, see helping homeless people as a core mission

  • In this Feb. 19, 2015 photo, Larry Lawrence, left, who slept on the street the night before, works at a computer at the Nashville Public Library in Nashville, Tenn. As cuts to social services and mental health programs continue to drive the homeless and disadvantaged to use libraries as day shelters, some libraries are beginning to view services for that population as an important part of their mission. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    In this Feb. 19, 2015 photo, Larry Lawrence, left, who slept on the street the night before, works at a computer at the Nashville Public Library in Nashville, Tenn. As cuts to social services and mental health programs continue to drive the homeless and disadvantaged to use libraries as day shelters, some libraries are beginning to view services for that population as an important part of their mission. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Feb. 19, 2015 photo, people work at public computers at the Nashville Public Library in Nashville, Tenn. As cuts to social services and mental health programs continue to drive the homeless and disadvantaged to use libraries as day shelters, some libraries are beginning to view services for that population as an important part of their missions. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    In this Feb. 19, 2015 photo, people work at public computers at the Nashville Public Library in Nashville, Tenn. As cuts to social services and mental health programs continue to drive the homeless and disadvantaged to use libraries as day shelters, some libraries are beginning to view services for that population as an important part of their missions. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Feb. 19, 2015 photo, people wait to enter the Nashville Public Library as Rick Reed, right, the library's superintendent of plant operations and maintenance, unlocks the front doors in Nashville, Tenn. Many public libraries discourage homeless people from hanging around. But more and more libraries are beginning to view services to the homeless as an important part of their mission. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    In this Feb. 19, 2015 photo, people wait to enter the Nashville Public Library as Rick Reed, right, the library's superintendent of plant operations and maintenance, unlocks the front doors in Nashville, Tenn. Many public libraries discourage homeless people from hanging around. But more and more libraries are beginning to view services to the homeless as an important part of their mission. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)  (The Associated Press)

Jeffery Bailey sleeps in a tent in a churchyard at night. He spends his days surfing the Internet, reading, and enjoying music and movies.

He does all this at the Nashville Public Library, a place of warmth and shelter in this freezing winter.

Twenty-five years have passed since the American Library Association adopted a policy advocating for full access to poor people. But the association's Sanford Berman says many libraries need to do more to make serving the homeless a core mission.

Nashville's library is an exception, replacing magazine racks with computer terminals and bringing in social workers trained in mental health care. Bailey, for one, is grateful to feel welcome.