Dec 11, 2019

Public libraries are now mental health resource centers

Illustration of a book shelf with a health plus made from negative space.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Libraries are taking on new duties as resources for people who need mental health help.

Why it works: "Most people feel very comfortable walking into a library to get information" as opposed to a clinic, New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, who helped spearhead one such initiative, tells Axios.

Details: This month, New York City's mental health initiative partnered with more than a dozen New York Public Library branches to provide free mental health first aid training, social-emotional learning and more — including, of course, relevant books.

  • The NYPL also partners with NYU's Silver School of Social Work. Several branches invite agencies to visit and provide assistance with public benefit programs.
  • The San Francisco Public Library, which sees about 1,000 homeless visitors every day, hired a library-based psychiatric social worker in 2009, the Library Journal reports.
  • Pima County Public Library in Arizona was the first library to hire a public health nurse as a permanent staff member.

Yes, but: Programming and information in libraries is not a replacement for professional treatment, a spokesperson for the New York Public Library notes.

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