In 2012, the county offices for El Paso County, Colorado, moved to a centralized location in a northern part of Colorado Springs. In many ways, this combining of services is convenient because of the “one-stop shopping” capabilities that people now have. However, for many citizens who live on the outskirts or outside the city, this move also causes a hardship as public transportation can make it difficult to get there. It can take a person two hours and three transfers on two different bus systems to get from Fountain, Colo., a town just south of Colorado Springs, to the county offices if he or she is dependent on the bus system. When situations like this one arise, it becomes even more important to form partnerships and share resources between agencies, and the library can and should be a part of this process.
For many years, representatives from various agencies serving Fountain have been meeting on a monthly basis to discuss how to ensure that adequate services are being provided to the people in this outlying community. Members include people from the Division of Human Services, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, local church groups, the school district, Fort Carson (our local Army base), the library, and many more. During these Fountain Community Services (FCS) meetings, we are able to share information on what resources we have and are offering to the people in the area. Many times someone working for one organization may have information that is highly beneficial to another. For example, Workforce Center representatives were able to let people from the school district know about a youth work program.
Not only do we meet to share information, but also to pool our efforts. Our group has put together a document with information on the various agencies, what they do, and how to contact them to use as a referral tool when someone needs assistance. Every year, the school district has a back-to-school fair. Most of the FCS-involved agencies will set up a table and help with this event. We are constantly discussing what we might be able to do as a group to make more social services readily available to the people in Fountain. We also have high hopes and big dreams to apply for a grant that might assist us in providing something more for the people in our area in the future.
Fortunately, some of the county offices still have limited service hours in the town. However, for more in depth assistance, people do have to make the trek up to the main building. Being a part of this group has been a wonderful way for our library to be more involved in some community efforts in our area, especially during these tough economic times. It also allows us to share information about our great resources. For example, we regularly share information about our career databases with agency representatives who work with job seekers on a regular basis. If you don’t have a group like this in your area, perhaps you could be the one to start it!