Jacksonville Public Library Gaining Notoriety Among Libraries for Social Service Program

By Jeremy Coumbes on December 19, 2019 at 12:14pm

The Jacksonville Public Library’s social services program is gaining notoriety within the library system.

Library staff are preparing for the third year of offering the social services program to anyone who visits the library.

Chris Ashmore, Director of the Jacksonville Public Library says that the program has been a great success at the library.

We have partnered with Mac Murray College now for almost two years now, it will be two years in January, having a bachelor student of social work come and do their internship at the library.

The library is a public space where a lot of people need help, be it looking for jobs and they do not have technology skills, and you need that now to look for a job, or those who may need to be refereed to a social service agency, or to apply for benefits. Sometimes just needing emotional support to talk to someone there, that’s why they find themselves at the library sometimes.

So that has been a wonderful program, and in fact I am presenting along with my colleague Sara Snyder, at the Public Library Association Conference in Nashville in February about our program of using social workers in a smaller sized library so I think it has gone really well in Jacksonville.”

The program in partnership with Mac Murray College utilizes social work students who are required to serve an internship as part of their curriculum. Interns perform either 200 or 400 hours of service at the library based on whether they are in their junior or senior year of schooling.

Ashmore says that although many libraries in larger cities have hired social workers as library staff, the use of interns in smaller libraries is a new development in the library system and the Jacksonville Public Library has started to inspire others to develop intern programs.

It’s getting to be more common, it is mostly big cities that have them now. The first social worker in a library was ten years ago in San Francisco, and a lot of metropolitan libraries have hired social workers, but the internship thing is kinda just getting started and I think we could be kind of a model for others on that.

I received an email the other day from the Director of the Decatur Public Library who is trying to get something like this going and he wanted to pick our brain about how ours works.”

Ashmore says that he recently met with the student that will be performing a 400 hour internship at the library for the next semester starting in January. He says that once a schedule is worked out with the intern, the hours he or she will be available will be posted in the library.