Forest Park’s public library has been reinventing itself along progressive lines for several years. Now comes a collaboration that is so wise, so necessary, so well targeted that we offer up our great enthusiasm.
Perhaps as early as the new year, the library will be able to offer the full-time services of a licensed clinical social worker. Making this happen is Amita Health, a growing health care system featuring everything from a hospital network to alternative schools, to mental health systems. Tucked somewhere in that continuum of care is a program called Social Workers in Libraries.
The concept is simple. As welcoming public spaces, libraries attract a wide range of patrons. Some of them are homeless. Some are teens with time on their hands. Some have other needs that can be met by making a personal connection. A full-time social worker can make those one-on-one connections and, more than that, knows how to link a person with the wide array of social services our village, county and state government, and social service agencies specialize in.
Our library understands the needs and experimented recently with accepting social work interns from Loyola University. While successful, that program had limits with only part-time service provided by a rotating roster of students. Amita will offer the experience and continuity only a full-time staffer can provide — although the internship project may continue.
We’re glad to hear from Amita’s Cody McSellers-McCray that a part of the social work project is to help all library patrons appreciate the challenges other library patrons face in daily life and to be supportive of their neighbors.
We’ve seen this approach work. A couple of years back, the Oak Park library system jettisoned its security staff and replaced them straight up with a trio of social workers. It has been a positive change. We expect the same in Forest Park.