Friday, March 3, 2017

Making a difference in North Philly - one librarian's efforts

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A bit of background for those not in Philadelphia.  The library above is McPherson Square Library, which is in East Kensington, which is in the epi-center of the heroin epidemic.  

Every year, I ask each of my library managers to fill out a self-reflection questionnaire in preparation for their annual reviews. Below are excerpts from the reflections of Judi Moore, the manager of McPherson Square. When I initially read Judi's comments, I was reminded why it is we do this work.  It was rejuvenating. I've removed some names and added others.  I also removed comments not related to this particular topic.  Comments in parentheses are mine. I've added links to appropriate articles or information where possible.

Describe any new goals, responsibilities, or added challenges you have taken on in 2016
The opioid crisis added new challenges for all of us, particularly with the users in the bathroom. I had to learn a lot about heroin and the behavior of the users.  I’ve been reading a lot and watching documentaries.  I know more about heroin than I ever expected to know.
I agreed to serve on the SAC committee for Willard Elementary School.  This is a school and community liaison group. 
I agreed to try to help Willard School fill the gap of not having a librarian.  I go over to their library to do story programs for their classes.  They did ask me to come over to the school “two or three days a week to run the library as an auxiliary of your library.”  In other words, they wanted me to be their librarian. Obviously, I can’t spend half my time at their school, but you can’t blame them for trying. (Philadelphia School District has a total of eight librarians in their schools.)
Identify what you like most about your job.
I like working with the people in the community, both children and adults.  Even though this neighborhood has a lot of challenges for the residents, I enjoy working in this sort of community.  There is a sense of a real neighborhood and family as we watch children growing up.  Many who have succeeded and moved on to “better” neighborhoods come back to visit with their children.  I like that I have patrons here whom I have known for many years, and that I know many members of their extended families.  I enjoy working with the staff at Impact Services to help make the park a better place.  And, this year we have developed our relationship with Jose Benitez and Elvis Rosado at Prevention Point.  I love that we do the afterschool lunch program provided by the USDA, and the way that MPS staff and other FLP staff help Maria and her cousin feed the homeless.  I love our children.  They are, in many ways, unspoiled and excited to do almost any kind of craft or other project we suggest.  We have our regulars who come in every day, for their daily dose of attention, so we really get to know them and get attached to them.  It is so sweet to just have the time to talk to little people. (McPherson has a regular crowd of 40 - 55 children to come almost every day after school)
I am still a book person at heart.  I enjoy being around books.  I love that I have three ladies who come sit at my desk to chat about new books, classic books, favorite authors, etc.  I have one woman who is joining me in a challenge to read, or at least try, the books on a list of classics we found.  The FLP’s electronic resources excite me.  I love to tell patrons about Hoopla, Zinio, and Overdrive; and to show them how to access those resources.

What are your most significant accomplishments and contributions in 2016.

What accomplishment and achievements are you the proudest of?
I am proud of the way that we have taken on the drug crisis.  (The location talked about in this article is just a few blocks away from the library.  The park surrounding the library is also a very popular spot for drug users.  Over 800 needles were collected in a one month period in late 2016.) With the support of Lynn Williamson, Jose and Elvis, and yourself, we came up with a plan that is working well for the bathroom.  I am proud of the logbook and procedures implemented to help us identify problem patrons.  (There have been numerous overdoses in the public bathroom at the library in the last year.  First they began requiring ID's to use the bathroom.  Then, they added a five minute time limit, which was very hard for the existing staff to monitor.  They now have two part-time bathroom attendants who collect the id, keep the logbook [this has really helped in the case of OD], and set the timer.  The attendants are provided through a partnership with Project Home.)
It took a while and lots of persuasion, but we are now seeing more police in the park and in the library.

What work are you performing that is outside the scope of your current job description?

I am giving out lunches when Maria is absent, and doing the associated weekly paperwork for the lunch program. 
I helped a graduate student from Jefferson hospital find senior citizen contacts in the neighborhood for a project she was doing.  This turned out to be more involved than I anticipated.  However, she rewarded us with medical toys, which the children have adored.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had my ears checked and my blood pressure taken.
I worked with a Cub Scout troop to distribute hats, gloves, and scarves to the neighborhood children.
What job-related goals would you like to accomplish in 2017?
Help our children and adults bridge the technology gap.  Our patrons are still not as tech savvy as they should be in the 21st century.  They know how to play games, but they don’t know how to research, use Word to finish school assignments, download ebooks, etc.