Georgetown Public Library adds services as demand and patron visits increase

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As the Georgetown Public Library sees more visitors on a monthly and annual basis, Library Director Eric Lashley and his staff have added services over the past year and are in the midst of a strategic plan update.

One addition has been Patrick Lloyd, a licensed master social worker hired in November 2016 to be the library’s community resources coordinator. Lashley said bringing a trained social worker onto his staff has strengthened the library’s approach to helping people in need of social-service assistance and has helped make the library a center for more than books and reading materials.

“The need has been here for a long time,” Lashley said.

Lloyd’s position, which is funded through a state grant, is one addition that both he and Lashley hope will benefit Georgetown residents in need while also gathering data, which is part of Lloyd’s job, to help identify social-service gaps in the city.

“I see my role here as distributing and gathering information, and hopefully getting that information to the people who need it—both our patrons and the community in general—to try to improve Georgetown as a whole,” Lloyd said.

Social work in the library

Hiring a licensed social worker to serve as community resources coordinator opened a whole new area of service for the library, said Sally Miculek, the library’s assistant director.

Before Lloyd arrived, library staff members were seeing more patrons who were struggling with homelessness, mental health troubles, aging-related illnesses and other instability, Miculek said.

“We were really starting to see a lot of those kinds of issues coming through the door, and our staff was sort of feeling like, ‘We don’t know how to refer these people to services that might be available to them,’” Miculek said. “We just felt like we didn’t really have the right set of tools to help our patrons with [those]information needs.”

Lloyd said his job duties vary day to day.

He spends much of his time in the library making himself available to any patrons who might be interested in learning about social services or assistance programs.

He said the most common need he sees from people who speak with him in the library involves general financial assistance. Affordable and emergency housing are also common issues, as is the need for pro bono legal assistance, he said.

Lloyd said he has in-depth conversations with about 12 patrons each month regarding social services. Expecting an increase in patrons seeking information regarding financial help over the holidays, Lloyd estimated that by the end of 2017 about 150 people will have approached him for assistance.

There are other U.S. libraries, mostly in large cities, that have hired social workers, but the practice is not yet widespread, Lloyd said.

He said a non-direct approach in an open and protective environment such as a public library helps build rapport with patrons who need help, and he hopes providing such a service leads to better outcomes for people in the community struggling with instability in their lives.

“We may be able to offer information, but ultimately what may be able to pull people out of tough situations isn’t necessarily a specific phone number but the relationship they have with the library or with someone at the library,” Lloyd said.

State libraries grant

Lloyd’s position has been funded through a special projects grant program from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Lashley said.

The commission announced Aug. 18 that it had approved 69 grants totaling $2.1 million for various projects developed by Texas libraries, universities, colleges and nonprofit organizations. That total included a $67,712 grant to the Georgetown library to fund Lloyd’s position through the end of August 2018, according to the commission’s records.

The library received a $63,350 grant to create the position in fall 2016 and fund it for a full fiscal year.

“The ideas formed in these grants align directly with our agency mission to ensure that citizens have access to the information they need to lead informed, productive and fulfilled lives,” said Mark Smith, the commission’s director, in a statement following the recent round of grant announcements.

Lashley said he intends to apply for another round of grant money next year to fund Lloyd’s position at the Georgetown library through August 2019.

What’s next?

Lashley said the Georgetown library’s staff has worked to stay active in community engagement and involvement.

The library, similar to several other city departments, is in the midst of revising its strategic plan, Lashley said. Part of that process has involved surveying library patrons and other community
members.

“We’re letting the patrons tell us a lot about what we’re going to be doing [in the future],” Lashley said.

Lashley said the decision to make the library a transfer center for Georgetown’s new GoGeo bus system is a good example of the library’s expanding role as a community service center. He said as the GoGeo plan developed, it made sense for the library to become a hub for the new system, particularly since the library has indoor areas and restrooms for riders who are waiting for buses.

Lashley said he hopes to boost the library’s GoGeo marketing efforts over the next year.

Miculek said library staff is exploring ways to engage with the community, including through partnerships such as one with Southwestern University to develop environmental-related programs for Earth Day 2018.

She said in the past year Lloyd has helped staff discover underserved populations and unmet needs in the library, a process that has helped determine the feasibility of new programs and services.

“We’re really examining who we’re serving and how well we’re serving our community,” Miculek said.

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Evan Marczynski is the Georgetown editor for Community Impact Newspaper, where he covers city government, local business and other news. Evan spent five years working for newspapers in the Pacific Northwest before joining Community Impact in August 2016. He is originally from Washington state.

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