Libraries exist to serve their local communities, each of which have unique needs, populations, and available resources. People count on their local libraries for more than just books and computer access; they often double as community centers, polling places, and much more. Many library patrons are facing complex life challenges, including housing and food insecurity, transportation obstacles, substance abuse, and more. We know that library staff help visitors access information and solve problems, but questions related to social care needs may be beyond the scope of library resources.
Beth Wahler, director of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has conducted research highlighting the scope of needs. Wahler surveyed almost 5,000 people at three Midwest public libraries, and preliminary results showed that 10% of patrons reported needing help finding a job, 6% said they needed mental health assistance, and 4% needed housing assistance (source: NPR).
To address these needs, many libraries throughout the country are establishing social work collaborations. Whole Person Librarianship, an online hub for this work, regularly updates a map highlighting these diverse partnerships, which range from a full-time social worker on staff to hosting social service office hours or hiring student interns.
Map of U.S. libraries with established social work collaborations.
While libraries are rapidly adapting to meet their patrons’ social needs by hosting vaccination clinics, hiring social workers, partnering with nonprofits, and more, gaps still exist; we can help.
Why Partner with findhelp?
Library staff can seamlessly connect patrons to services that can help them via findhelp’s innovative and comprehensive platform. As the nation’s leading social care referral network, findhelp offers a private and easy-to-use search and referral functionality. Our network includes more than half a million local, state, and national free and reduced-cost programs that serve every ZIP Code in the country, from rural areas to major metropolitan centers.
- Priority on Privacy: Findhelp’s platform is safe, free, and secure — no need to enter personal information to find resources. You can rest easy knowing that your patrons have the dignity of privacy when searching on findhelp.
- Reliable Data & Analytics: You’re being asked to do more with less. On findhelp’s platform, you can access search trends in your area to support grant applications and funding opportunities; track referrals; and follow up with patrons.
- Local Community Network: When you use findhelp, you’re joining a network of existing resources who are engaged and ready to respond to referrals on our platform. Our community engagement team partners with you to build relationships specific to your patrons’ needs so that you know they’ll be taken care of when you refer them to programs outside of your walls.
Diverse Partnership Models to Support Diverse Communities
These are just a few examples of how some library systems across the country are partnering with findhelp to support their patrons.
Support from Social Workers: Central Arkansas Library System
The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) provides resources and services to help residents reach their full potential, and to inspire discovery, learning, and cultural expression. Headquartered in Little Rock, CALS is the largest public library system in Arkansas.
- CALS has several social workers on staff who use findhelp.org to directly refer patrons to local resources.
- These social workers help connect unhoused people in their community directly to local service agencies to assist with their needs.
Community Awareness: Evanston Public Library
Evanston Public Library (EPL) aims to be the heart of their diverse community by promoting the development of independent, self-confident and literate citizens, and providing equitable access to cultural, intellectual, technological, and information resources.
- EPL has become the main custodian of the Evanston Care Network platform (powered by findhelp).
- They are the site administrators, and work to make their patrons and partners aware of the platform (and how they can use it) through community outreach via marketing and events.
Analytics for Grant Writing: Knox County Public Library
Established in 1889, Knox County Public Library (KCPL) has played a major role in Vincennes, Indiana’s development; their mission is to meet the informational, educational, and cultural needs of their community. They play a major role in leading community engagement efforts in southwest Indiana.
- KCPL promotes the Wabash Valley Connect platform (powered by findhelp) through flyers, bookmarks, and public events.
- Additionally, they use the analytics available through findhelp to support grant efforts for new initiatives to address food insecurity, including the creation of a Community Learning Kitchen.
Best of Both Worlds: Indianapolis Public Library & the Immigrant Welcome Center
With a mission to enrich everyone and strengthen communities by inspiring lifelong learning, the Indianapolis Public Library (IPL) is celebrating 150 years of supporting Hoosiers since its founding in 1873. At their flagship Central Library they provide space for the Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC), a nonprofit and trusted partner and advocate for all immigrants. IWC works with community partners and local leaders to offer programs and services for Immigrant and Refugee Support, Naturalization and Legal Assistance, English Language Literacy, and Community Partner Support.
- Immigrant Welcome Center is a findhelp customer and serves immigrants and library patrons via their IWC Connect platform (powered by findhelp).
- The IPL also supports immigrants through a host of other services,including bilingual storytimes, citizenship and English conversation classes, and much more.
Watch our documentary short (17:14) about the Immigrant Welcome Center’s Natural Helpers program.
Empowering Library Staff to Help Patrons Succeed
This is a real-life patron success story from the Central Arkansas Public library’s social work team (names have been changed to protect privacy).
Partner With Us!
If you’d like to learn more about how libraries nationwide partner with us and how we can support your organization’s goals, connect with Roger Stremming, Community Engagement Manager at findhelp.