Libraries as the community partner

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Libraries as the community partner

By: Ari Baker, Blount County Public Library

The opioid crisis is a hot topic in public libraries. From collaborating with community agencies to administering Narcan, librarians are doing what they always do, finding ways to connect with and support their communities at crucial points of needs.

Often these needs call on librarians to learn new skills, but in the case of Blount County Recovery Court, Blount County Public Library was the perfect fit when they sought to expand education to help participants escape the cycle of recidivism.

Blount County Recovery Court is an intensive substance abuse treatment program where nonviolent offenders have counseling, case management and court contact for 3-4 years, in lieu of jail time. The library became involved when a recovery specialist approached the Library Director about adapting a curriculum the library already had, “It’s Your Career”, for Recovery Court participants. “It’s Your Career” is a soft-skills class designed for business professionals.

Over the next few months, library staff and recovery specialists worked on adapting and expanding that curriculum to fit the unique needs of recovery court participants. Topics included communication, resume creation, personal finance, job interviewing, and more. This curriculum focused on giving participants connections to resources both at the library and in the community, that they could follow up with as needed.

The juxtaposition of instruction and out of class library support is winning combination. For example, a participant took advantage my resume-editing services after our resume creation class and we went back and forth for weeks perfecting her resume. She applied at a local manufacturer and was offered the job contingent on a mechanical aptitude test. She immediately reached out to see if the library had something she could use to study, and of course we did. She aced the test.

The main benefit of the library as a partner is community connection. As Recovery Court Specialist, Stephanie Monday states, “Working with those who are in recovery from a chemical addiction which has resulted in felony charges the need for the client to change everything is imperative. The client changes friends, homes, leaves family. Life skills taught by the library allows that person to experience other professionals who believe in them and gives them tools to confidently approach everyday life.” That combination of resources and personal connection is exactly what libraries are about. Librarians are not counselors, but are ready to listen and get you what you need to succeed.

You can learn more about our Life Skills curriculum here: http://bcpl.populr.me/life-skills