Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One Year Anniversary and a Social Worker

On Thursday, October 2, 2014, The North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries had their one year anniversary as a cluster meeting.  There were significant differences between this meeting and the one we had one year ago.

Most significant, are the interactions between all of the staff.  It is friendly, loud and full of camaraderie.  A year ago, most of the staff were suspicious of the whole idea of being in a cluster.  Now that they know the reality of it, and have attended a year's worth of meetings, most are unafraid of offering opinions and more importantly, ideas.  We are operating in a try-hard-to-say-yes to every idea that come forward.

Another difference is that now the hosting library plans most of the agenda of each meeting.  I have become an agenda item, rather than the driver of the entire meeting.  At this particular meeting, I handed out a quiz similar to this:  First I had everyone work on it alone, then with their friends, then mixed the room so they were working with people they did not know as well.  We discussed how it is sometimes better to go outside of your comfort zone in order to get the answers you need.

The meeting was held at Ramonita deRodriguez Library, and at the librarian's request, Charles Pitts, the Social Worker now stationed at Central Library, came to the meeting.  Charles, and another social worker, Michael Raab, are on loan to the Free Library from Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health.  Charles relayed a little of what it is they are doing at the library, and their plans to propose suggestions for models of cooperation between the two departments in the future.

Charles was then met with a tsunami of worries and concerns about the types of social issues library staff are forced to confront every day.  He listened carefully and empathized.  Occasionally, when it was possible offered advice.  Mostly, people were able to vent some of the pent up frustrations they have been feeling about this aspect of the work day.

Our plan is to try to invite Charles or Michael to our Cluster Meetings every other month, or so, and to have one targeted topic to address at that time.

Social Work in the Libraries

The following was written by Ann Dougherty, Childrens' Librarian, at Kensington Neighborhood Library.

Lauren Carrasquillo, our work/study social work intern, has made a big impact on our library community in the few short weeks she has been working with us at Kensington. Lauren, who is currently studying Social Work at Temple University, has been able to help several of our patrons deal with problems in their lives that threaten to overwhelm them. Her skill sets from Temple University have allowed her to successfully serve those seeking better housing, those who are hunting for jobs, and veterans.   Lauren works at the Kensington branch every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:00 PM to 5:45 PM. She holds court in the computer lab, where she meets with patrons in half hour increments. Lauren has only been on the job for two weeks, and in that short time span she has helped a single mother search for housing for herself and her child, helped a grandmother who had custody of her grandson search for a better living arrangement, and helped a veteran with job-hunting strategies. Marcela, the branch manager, and I see Lauren’s role as a logical extension of our mandate to provide timely community information and referral services to our patrons.

Several librarians in our cluster feel it would be helpful to have a social worker or a social work intern rotate among the North Philadelphia cluster libraries to help patrons connect with services in the community, such as SNAP, housing, resume writing, obtaining warm clothing and services for veterans.

“When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you.”—Keith Richards