Libraries Learn from Eviction Focus

WebJunction /

As a continuation of the Improving Access to Civil Legal Justice initiative, WebJunction focused on the eviction crisis, developing resources that strengthen library staff’s ability to respond to eviction questions with confidence and help close the justice gap in their communities. The complexity of eviction law and the high stakes involved make this a tricky reference topic, but we’re confident that you can expand your reference skills with the help of these resources.  

We recommend you bookmark Eviction Resources for Libraries, where you can find key resources for understanding eviction. The webinar, Understanding Eviction and How Libraries Can Help, introduces basic information about the eviction process and the role libraries can play. An accompanying resource briefly summarizes the Five Phases of Eviction. One of the biggest takeaways from our subject matter experts is the importance of eviction prevention; if libraries can help patrons early in the process, eviction can be delayed or prevented. A tenant behind on rent can benefit from seeking relief through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) before an eviction is filed in court. Find information on how to apply for ERAP in resources from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

From our webinar and two follow-up sessions, we’d like to share a few things we have learned about eviction and how libraries can help:

  • Many library staff are still concerned about crossing the line from legal information into legal advice as they answer patron questions. If you’d like to explore this important distinction more, a video, Legal Information vs Legal Advice, is helpful.
  • Consider what partners, in addition to legal aid, could assist you in answering patron questions—public law libraries and court law libraries love to help!
  • Any patron education that you can offer about the process of eviction and tenants’ rights before a patron is in crisis is beneficial. Many libraries offer tenants’ rights education on a regular basis.
  • Some libraries indicated they need to market their legal information services, especially around eviction, so that patrons know they can get help at their branch. This customizable marketing template can assist in marketing your eviction resources to patrons.

If you want inspiration in thinking about how to partner with community organizations around eviction, listen to Lee Patterson from the Richland County Library and Joe Schottenfeld from the NAACP discuss their collaboration (from 7:29-24:39). Library staff were trained as informal housing navigators to support people during the eviction process, meeting the needs of 500 patrons!

We have three new resources on our eviction resources page:

One of our webinar participants offered a helpful summation: “This is such important work…I hope I can muster the courage that I know I'll need.” It is important work, and we hope we these resources support you in doing this work.