The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness

PLAN is pleased to offer Ryan Dowd’s “The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness” course to our members.

This is a self-paced online training course that will remain available until September 30, 2023, for registered attendees. The entire training can be completed in less than 4 hours. It consists of 49 short videos, most of which are less than 5 minutes each. You can do one video, exit, and go back and watch another video later — the course does not need to be completed at one time.

This online training course teaches a three-part strategy for modern libraries:

  1. Understand the homeless experience.
  2. Recognize that—because of that experience—threats and punishment are ineffective with homeless patrons.
  3. Learn how to use the tools and skills of “Empathy-Driven Enforcement” instead.

You and your staff have way more influence over your patrons than you realize. Little details in your behavior cause big changes in their behavior, for example:

  • Turning your body by 15 degrees lowers patron aggression.
  • There are six phrases you should never use with homeless patrons.
  • The way most people provide ‘back-up’ to their colleagues makes the situation worse.

The training has three goals:

  1. Your staff are more confident.
  2. Your library is calmer and safer.
  3. Your library is inclusive, serving homeless patrons alongside everyone else.


This course is hosted on the Niche Academy platform.

If you have a Niche Academy account, login to your account at, and browse the courses to find this course or search for “homeless.”

If you don’t have a Niche Academy account, you can create an account at Use your library email address to create an account yourself. For example, if you work for West Florida Public Libraries and your email ends in (such as, you’ll be able to create your own account. After you create an account, browse the courses to find this course or search for “homeless.”

In addition to this course, there are webinar recordings with Ryan Dowd on Niche Academy, including:

  • Advanced Body Language
  • Body Odor: The Dreaded Conversation
  • Burnout, Vicarious Drama, and Compassion Fatigue
  • How to Deal with Problem Behaviors Related to COVID-19
  • Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault
  • Homeless Q&A with Ryan (2 parts)
  • Homelessness 201: A Deeper Understanding
  • Jerks with Homes: How to Deal with Members of the Public Who Are Being Jerks About Homeless Folks
  • Supervisor Training: Tips for Managers
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Invisible Causes of Homelessness

Niche Academy also hosts dozens of other training courses on a wide variety of topics.

If you need assistance, please send us an email.

Note: Due to our licensing agreement, this training is only available to PLAN members. If you are not a PLAN member, please contact your multi-type library cooperative to check if they are offering this or similar training for their members: