Pilot program brings social worker to Thunder Bay library
'It comes down to meeting people where they're at,' said Joanne Boucher
Clients of the Thunder Bay Public Library can now browse books, and meet with a social worker, in the same space.
This summer, the library launched a 12-week pilot program that places a social worker at Brodie Resource Library for several hours each week.
"It comes down to meeting people where they're at," said Joanne Boucher, who is now available to meet with people at the library either during her Thursday afternoon office hours, or by appointment.
"I thought it was a really cool idea," said Boucher, who is a housing services coordinator for Alpha Court Community Mental Health & Addictions Services.
The idea of social workers in the library is becoming more common, said Tina Tucker, the director of communities for the Thunder Bay Public Library, noting that the Edmonton Public Library has been a leader for this in Canada.
Libraries offer a free, warm place for people to spend time, and are a natural gathering place, said Tucker, so it makes sense to offer supports, beyond what library workers can provide.
"Library staff are not social workers," she said. "So when we see people that are experiencing mental health issues or issues with addiction, or they need support to find clothing or food or housing ... often, we don't know where to send them."
"Social workers have that depth of knowledge that we simply don't have."
The program is part of the growing role of libraries as community hubs, Tucker said.
The library, and its partners in the pilot program, hope to access funds to continue and expand the program after its initial 12 weeks are up, said Tucker.