My library system in Las Vegas, NV has been extremely fortunate to have found such amazing partnerships over the last couple years to bring services to our community that we would have never have had before. Two of my favorite are partnering with Three Square (https://www.threesquare.org/), a local food bank, who provides free lunch every day after school for children and teens ages 0-18, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ (UNLV) America Reads, America Counts (https://www.unlv.edu/finaid/work-programs/america-reads-counts), a free tutoring service also available every day. Both partners pay for their own staff to facilitate the programs and utilize our branches to host these wonderful services.
My branch in particular, the Spring Valley Library, is located in one of the most impoverished areas of Las Vegas. We host both programs and serve over 50 lunches each day and equally that many students and more are able to take advantage of our free tutoring. We wanted to find other resources we could bring to our library that would just as beneficial to our patrons and brainstormed some of our weaknesses in services we provide. Overwhelming, we all agreed that social services would be incredibly beneficial to host in our area and since we had such a great relationship UNLV already, that perhaps their School of Social Work might be interested in working with us.
Our Adult Services Librarians and Branch Manager formulated a proposal and together with our Community Engagement department, met with the Social Work department. We had done our research and found that all students going through their degree would need at least a year of field practicum and proposed if they could get that credit and experience by working in our libraries. UNLV was thrilled for the opportunity!
After bouncing around some ideas, our Community Engagement department agreed that we would pay for the background checks of any student, an incentive for more students to want to work at the library since they have to pay for the checks themselves otherwise. We would also have the opportunity to interview potential students so we could “hire” those we felt would fit in best with our individual branches. UNLV would cover their salary and hold students accountable for their work while we would host a minimum of at least one social work student at every library in our system and give them access to our plethora of community resources.
It was an actual dream come true! We are currently in the process of fleshing out all the details and guidelines for what the partnership will officially look like before we’re able to hire our social workers but sometime in 2018 this will become a reality! We have so many families in need, without food, with stable shelter, patrons struggling with mental health, drug addiction and homelessness, and those with many other hardships. By having a social worker student based in our branches, hopefully available every day of the week, our patrons will have direct access to a compassionate and caring human being who can immediately connect them to resources to help whatever situation they may be in. And these students are getting hands on, direct experience with what types of services they will have to provide once they begin post-graduate working in the field.
I am ecstatic to see what amazing things we will accomplish with this partnership! I highly recommend libraries evaluate what services they would like to offer, then see what other organizations are already doing this in their community. You never know what kind of amazing relationships you can create without having to reinvent the wheel and that is incredibly beneficial for both parties!
Soraya Silverman-Montano is a Youth Services Department Head for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District in Nevada and currently serves on the ALSC Building Partnerships Committee.