Social Work in the Stacks
The Power of Libraries in North Carolina Communities
In an age where technology often takes center stage, libraries are proving to be more than just repositories of books—they are becoming vibrant hubs of community support and well-being. Since November 1, 2022, the Neuse Regional Libraries’ Let's Connect program has emerged as a beacon of hope, bringing together libraries and social workers to make a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and families.
The Let's Connect program is not just a service; it's a lifeline for those in need. By combining the resources of libraries with the expertise of an on-staff social worker, this initiative has successfully assisted 123 families, 138 adults, and 66 children in achieving positive outcomes. These remarkable results are not merely statistics; they represent transformed lives and communities. The library received an LSTA grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund a full-time trained social worker and the Mind Over Matter series on community mental health issues.
Joyce Hawkins, the social worker and resource specialist for Neuse Regional, is passionate about helping individuals and families in need. She says, “I love the freedom to have ideas and be creative because I try to make sure that I find the answer, and sometimes you have to do nontraditional things to find answers to find resources." Her dedication and innovative approach have been instrumental in the program's success, which has positively impacted many lives.
One inspiring story that highlights the program's impact involves a family that went from living in a tent to securing emergency assistance with housing, furniture, utilities, and food—all thanks to the connections they made through Let's Connect. This heartwarming tale underscores the program's ability to address the multifaceted needs of its participants, providing holistic support that extends beyond immediate crises.
This program recognizes that some individuals and families require more intensive assistance, often involving housing, employment, and food. Within the communities it serves, these fundamental needs persist as challenges.
Housing remains a critical need for many, and Let's Connect has been instrumental in bridging the gap between those seeking shelter and available resources. The program has catalyzed positive change, helping families secure stable housing and rebuild their lives.
Employment opportunities are another focal point, with Let's Connect actively working to connect individuals with job placement services and vocational training. By leveraging the vast network of libraries, participants gain access to valuable resources that empower them to enhance their skills and find meaningful employment.
Food insecurity, unfortunately, is an all-too-common challenge faced by many community members, especially older individuals and those in rural areas. This program has responded by forging connections to local food banks, food pantries, mobile markets, and senior services. The result is immediate relief and the creation of sustainable pathways to address ongoing food insecurities.
The Let’s Connect program helped a formerly incarcerated individual connect with a jobs program, leading to employment, a car, and a reunion with a family member. Grateful for her support, they visited and thanked her at the library. These kinds of stories motivate us to look beyond an individual's history and assist them in advancing toward a positive future.
Mental Health Matters
In addition to Let's Connect, Neuse Regional Libraries support mental health through its Mind Over Matter Mental Health series. The program provides a safe space for people to learn and openly discuss topics related to mental health, such as coping with anxiety, substance abuse, suicide prevention, and exercise.
Attendees have highly praised Mind Over Matter. Participants gain insights and can ask questions during public programs. It's a great indicator of success that many people attend repeatedly and even bring friends and family. Check the library's events calendar for upcoming programming.
As we celebrate the success of programs such as Let’s Connect and Mind Over Matter, it's evident that libraries are evolving into dynamic community hubs, actively contributing to the well-being of individuals and families. By integrating social workers into these spaces, libraries are transforming into centers of support, empathy, and positive change. Together, these initiatives show the transformative power of libraries in building healthier and more resilient communities.
These programs are a testament to the power of collaboration, proving that when libraries and social workers join forces, they can create a ripple effect of positive outcomes that extend far beyond the confines of bookshelves. It's a heartening reminder that, amid challenges, our communities can thrive when we come together to support one another.
Does your library have a social worker on staff or visit regularly? Let us know in the comments.
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