Over the past ten years public libraries around the country have been bringing in social workers to connect with and assist customers experiencing life challenges. Some library systems have added social workers to the staff while other systems partner with government agencies and nonprofit organizations that detail a social worker to the library. From Alaska […]
Posts Tagged ‘social workers in public libraries’
As library social workers, we are often asked how to address behaviors in the public library setting. Sometimes this is framed in the question, “How do we address homelessness (insert other social issues) in our libraries?” Despite the fact that people would like an easy answer to that question, there isn’t one, because wrapped up in the question itself are human beings — individuals, people with personal histories they’ve brought to the place they are now, inside your public library.
When people discover I am a social worker at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) Main Library, the first question I often hear is, “Really? Why provide social services at the library?!” I understand this response, but in truth, many patrons experiencing homelessness access the library for refuge and assistance for basic needs. And that is where I enter the picture.
Fundamentally, I see the goal of public libraries as the empowerment of the citizenry. Historically, libraries have empowered individuals primarily through the distribution of information. However, we offer so much more than that. I encourage you to consider the ways in which your library functions as a protective factor for the members of your community and to build upon those strengths so that all our patrons, both privileged and vulnerable, are empowered to reach their full potential.