Sunday, May 2, 2010

San Francisco Public Library Hires First Social Worker

I have recently returned from a library conference in Chicago, and discovered from other attendees that the San Francisco Public Library has hired a full-time social worker to resolve the homeless problem.

In many ways, its popularity as a homeless hangout is no surprise because the library is centrally located, free, open to anyone, doesn't have security checks and has plenty of bathrooms. But the library has, well, begun to turn the page on the problem by hiring what is believed to be the country's first full-time psychiatric social worker stationed in a public library.

In a partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the library hired Leah Esguerra a year ago this month, and she now has directed into social services more than 150 homeless people and others living on the edge in low-cost residential hotels who frequent the library.

This is a very interesting transition. The social worker also teaches the librarians what to do if they witness unpleasant behavior and supervises "health and safety associates" - formerly homeless people who take part in a 12-week vocational rehabilitation program and then become employed by the library.

Do you think libraries nationwide should adopt this approach?

1 comment:

ms.deviant librarian said...

Hi there,
I work at SFPL Main, and it has been an interesting program. Also working with Leah are volunteers familiar with working with people living on the edge or at risk.I work in THE craziest department in the whole library, we have security scheduled to our department, and the social worker pay frequent visits. For me the social worker is a great alternative to resorting to security, most often it is a social issue. It is a tough job, but I guess we are all social workers in a sense. As for all libraries using professional social workers, it is dependent on the library and that libraries budget. Ours is definitely a location based decision.