When the Spokane Public Library’s central location reopens after renovation later this year, it will include many new amenities including a recording studio, a business lab, the Inland Northwest Special Collections, a radio station, a café and several event spaces packed with programming. It will also include a social worker leading a team of social work interns from Eastern Washington University, along with traditional library staff.
Spokane Public Library is joining a growing number of libraries nationwide in adding a staff member with a master’s in social work to the staff.
“We’ve seen an increasing need for additional support for some of our customers that is outside the expertise of traditional library staff,” said Andrew Chanse, executive director of the Spokane Public Library. “By hiring a social worker at central, we will be able to better serve the unique needs of some of our customers who may be experiencing life challenges.”
The library is building a Welcome Team to address the social needs of its customers without creating an additional burden for front-line staff. Modeled after the highly successful CARES Team at the Spokane Fire Department, the Welcome Team will put interns from EWU’s social work program into the library to help connect individuals with the resources they need. A newly created position requiring a master’s in social work will supervise the internship hours.
“By making this staffing change, we can synergize with EWU and make a real difference in our community and ensure that the Central Library is a welcoming place for all,” said Paul Chapin, customer experience manager at Spokane Public Library who developed the program and partnership. “By adding a social worker to our team, we will be able to better serve the unique needs of all our customers. The Welcome Team will not only help people who are experiencing homelessness but will also serve any population that may be facing life challenges.”
“Part of Eastern Washington University’s mission is to expand opportunities for personal transformation,” says Jonathan Anderson, PhD, EWU’s provost. “This partnership highlights an important investment by Spokane Public Libraries and Eastern Washington University that positively impacts our downtown community.”
“The need is there, we can’t ignore it, so we can adapt to meet the needs of all customers as well as continue to offer traditional library services,” said Lara Hemingway, chair of the Spokane Public Library Board of Trustees.