JANESVILLE (WKOW) — Libraries continue to be a place of refuge for those seeking shelter and protection for a wide variety of things ranging from mental health issues to homelessness. In recent years, staffing social workers to help those in need has become a new effort embraced widely by library system across the country.
According to the Associated Press, more than 40 library systems nationwide have a full-time social worker on staff. Dozens more have a part-time employee.
Hedberg Public Library in Janesville is working toward something similar. Director Bryan McCormick said he actually had the idea more than a decade ago when he first came on board, but the Great Recession put those plans on hold.
“One of the things I noticed was there are a lot of people who come to the public library who could use assistance from a social worker,” he said.
But staff has worked with many agencies in the community since then, including having a librarian assist the Homeless Intervention Task Force.
McCormick said that because they’re focusing on opening up a new branch of the library at the local mall, they had to readjust resources that may have gone toward hiring a social worker. He also looked into some potential grants but couldn’t find anything to “tap into.”
“Maybe that will change now that there’s more focus on the issue nationally,” he said.
He said that he hopes to get to the point where they have someone with those skills in about a year and a half.
But in the meantime, McCormick encouraging and directing his staff to get more involved with business, non-profits, and even local government.
“The more people we can get out in the community and talking and working with people, the more ideas and possibilities and projects will come forth,” he said.
McCormick said staff plans to talk with the county to see if there’s a potential partnership they could work towards. He said he figures they could start small, with a social worker taking on part-time residence. Then he said they can build up to a full-time employee.
But until that happens, the staff is still there for anyone who needs assistance.
“We want to do what we can to help them out, get them back on their feet, offer whatever assistance we can,” McCormick said.