New Models: The Library as a Social Service

November 27, 2019 § Leave a Comment

In this post, I want to focus on community needs and what the library is doing to meet those needs. In my community, a huge need is to connect community resources to those who are homeless and poor. As a resident of L.A. county, I have often interacted with the those who are homeless. I have volunteered at soup kitchens and as a library employee, I have helped them many times. Because these populations visit the library everyday, I really think it is time that libraries need to embrace the social services aspect. Some do but a few are still resistant.

I find that there are some community members, government representatives, and yes, even library employees, that view the homeless and poor populations as an issue and an eye sore. This is problematic and detrimental to the community as a whole because it creates an “Us versus Them” mentality. The idea that certain populations ruin a community creates physical and social boundaries. Libraries can break down those boundaries

I have had the privilege of working in a city library and I currently live next to a county library. The overall mentality and approach between the two libraries and their interaction with those who were homeless, poor, and/or suffering from mental illness are very much different. In the city library, though these populations did indeed visit the library, there were some employees that were not compassionate and found them to be an issue. At the county library, programs are implemented that help connect underprivileged patrons to community resources. The library calls this program The Source. One can argue that maybe there is a bigger need at one library than the other, and though there may be some truth to that, I say that the overall mentality approach should not be any different.

A new model of the library is embracing social services. It’s not enough that we merely give information about social services but we physically connect patrons to social workers who will help them one on one. Ideally, this is meeting the patrons to where they are at and bringing the aide to them. This breaks down barriers and boundaries that are caused by lack of physical mobility. It’s what I see libraries becoming and what they should be doing.

On that note, I think libraries and librarians can take a proactive steps in changing certain mentalities towards our underprivileged patrons. On his video lecture, Michael Stephens brings up the concept of a community closet (n.d.). That is where staff and other community members donate things that other patrons may need. Inside the closet, maybe there will shampoo, soap, new toothbrushes, and other basic needs. This to me can be the first step in embracing the library as a social service and that it is more than just books. It is a place to tear down boundaries, even if that boundary is merely a lack of a toothbrush.

References

Stephens, M. (n.d.) New models . Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=d68f4501-b7e5-4a2e-b927-aad60122498e

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