Library receives grant for pilot program offering social service assistance

« Austintown Neighbors

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (PLYMC) has received a grant of $27,600 from the Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation of San Ramon, Calif., to conduct a pilot program which would enable the library to better serve patrons with needs in social service and mental health areas.

The Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation, based in Emeryville, Calif., has provided more than $10 million to philanthropic causes since its inception. The foundation is particularly interested in public library initiatives that provide innovative services to the communities they serve.

Aimee Fifarek, PLYMC Executive Director, explained that a library is one of the few places where all people are welcome and receive valuable services without having to purchase anything.

“People come to us for library service, but they bring their entire lives with them,” she said. “Some are struggling with socialization issues, homelessness, addictions, depression and other issues that may be beyond our library service expertise.”

She went on to that the Gerald M. Kline Foundation for awarding them the grant.

“We are grateful to the Gerald M. Kline Foundation for providing a grant which enables the library to offer to our patrons a very different kind of assistance,” Fifarek said. “This project aims to provide a way to connect people needing social services with resources that can help. When we in the library world start to offer a new service, we bring in skilled experts as partners to guide us through the process. In this case, our partner will work with us not only find the expertise needed to help our patrons, but to train our staff to better serve patrons with social and emotional needs, as well. We want to give our staff the confidence and the tools to have positive interactions with every patron who walks through the door.”

The library’s project is multi-faceted and includes contracting a Community Resource Specialist for a 9-month trial period, providing staff training from Ms. Haney, directing patrons to community resources and providing programming for the general public on mental health and substance abuse issues.

The programming goals are to inform and to make it easier for people have productive public discussions about mental health issues.