May 11, 2018

Rachael Rivera | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Advocates

Rachael Rivera


Manager, Central Library Experience, Auckland Central Library, New Zealand


MLIS, Victoria University of Wellington, 2007


@MCrtt on Twitter

Photo courtesy of Rachael Rivera


Making Way for “Rough Sleepers”

Monday morning movie screenings at the Auckland Central Library (ACL) give the local homeless population—aka “rough sleepers” in New Zealand—a sense of community and normalcy. The DVD shown is voted on by the 30–40 attendees. There’s also a book club of about 20 regulars who are “voracious readers” and often ask for help creating Facebook pages or résumés, says ACL’s Rachael Rivera.

Those programs thrust Rivera into the national spotlight. In September 2017, after she and fellow librarian Hamish Noonan gave a presentation at the NZ National Library Conference on serving the homeless, one conference attendee—who saw the talk as a call for libraries to house the homeless—phoned a national radio talk show expressing concern that librarians are ill-equipped to do what amounts to social work, adding that it was an unfair expectation that didn’t align with a library’s core purpose. Several media outlets picked up the story. The talk show host, Larry Williams, invited Rivera on to respond. She explained, “We have book clubs in Mandarin, books clubs for young professionals, for babies. The club for rough sleepers is just another targeted program.”

“You don’t need any special skills, other than being open, welcoming, and listening to your customers, to deliver good service,” she argued. “You don’t need to be a social worker to engage with someone who happens to be without a home.”

“This got a whole lot of people talking,” says Rivera, who welcomed the conversation. “In some cases, [it] forced people to check their stereotypes and fears,” she says.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. The real deal! Rachael is a wonderful human being, full of caring and compassion, and is doing some amazing things for her community.

  2. Alexis McCullough says:

    What Justin said! Rachael has both a huge heart and serious smarts and those make her the awesome advocate that she is.

  3. So proud to work at Auckland Libraries where connecting with our customers is such a priority!

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