By Judith Copeland MSW, ASW and DeeDee Sarvela MSW, ASW, LAADC
NASW California Chapter Region E is proud announce it has launched the Social Workers in the Library (SWITL) initiative on February 24, 2015 in the Encinitas Library in San Diego County. The program is modeled after the same successful SWITL program developed at the King Library in San Jose that has helped hundreds of people over the past five years. This program seeks to expand access to information and referrals to the community at large. “This is an exciting venture and may very well create a new employment niche for social workers, making them more accessible to the community as well as the benefit of having a more informed public,” said NASW California Chapter Region E Director Kurt Wellman.
This all started in San Jose when local librarians saw the need to create a centralized repository of social service information for the public owing to the fact that information was scattered and segmented at difference agencies throughout the city, thus making it difficult for people to access. The program provides information on a variety of needs including: emergency services (housing, food clothing and crisis support), education, employment, family matters (parenting, childcare, elder issues, and domestic violence), health improvement (mental, physical and health insurance), immigration, and support groups. This service does not in any way provide ongoing case management or clinical services.
Here is a snapshot of how the program works in Encinitas. A library customer can walk up to the front desk, speak with a library staff member and leave their name, contact information and a brief summary of their needs. This information is forwarded to librarian Honey Madsen who will contact the customer and schedule them for a 20-minute session on the fourth Tuesday of the month between 3pm and 5pm.
Social Workers in the Library is currently staffed by members of NASW California Chapter Region E Associate Clinical Social Workers DeeDee Sarvela and Judith Copeland. San Diego State University Master of Social Work Intern, Brian Couglin has worked since September 2014 traveling to San Jose to meet with King Library librarian Deborah Estreicher and SWITL developers Glenn and Cyndy Thomas to get the program off the ground.
Social Workers in the Library for the Encinitas Branch has been in the works for more than a year, according to Wellman. The roll out of SWITL in Encinitas had 75 percent of time slots filled without any substantial advertisement of the initiative. NASW’s short-term goal is to establish a bank of volunteer members to provide information and referrals and eventually expand SWITL to other San Diego County libraries.
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As someone who worked in a public library for seven years, I think this program will be a great asset to the community. Kudos to those who worked diligently to put this program in place and for thinking outside of the box, for a way to serve their community.