NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jeffery Bailey spends nearly every day at his public library. It’s not just that he loves books. For the 43-year-old who sleeps in a tent outside a local church, the library is pretty much the only place he can go that won’t charge him to provide safety, warmth, useful services and entertainment.
Many public libraries discourage homeless people from hanging around all day. “It could be the way you dress, the way your hair is,” says Bailey, whose scruffy denim jacket could use a good wash.
But just as Bailey needs his library, the library needs him: In this digital age, many people who used to depend on libraries can find what they need online without leaving home. Menaced by budget cuts, many public libraries are effectively failing to justify their relevance, reducing their hours year after year.