Mar 29, 2023 - News

Des Moines to hire a library social worker

Illustration of a red lifesaver rescuing a hardcover book

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Des Moines Public Library (DMPL) plans to hire a full-time social worker this year.

Why it matters: Libraries are increasingly at the frontlines for assistance in everything from filling out Social Security paperwork to patrons fleeing domestic abuse.

  • The social worker position would better link people to services like mental health care, food assistance and substance abuse treatment.

Catch up fast: A social services team was started among the DMPL staff in 2017 to better assist patrons in crisis, DMPL manager Alicia Mangin said during an online workshop hosted earlier this year by the State Library of Iowa.

  • The Outreach Project — a twice weekly service that connects patrons in crisis with legal aid or service groups for free— was launched at the Central Library in 2021.

State of play: The Outreach Project assisted nearly 2,500 times in its first 16 months, DSM librarian Elizabeth Hoover de Galvez said during the library workshop.

  • And DMPL security believes the program has helped reduce some behavioral issues among patrons, she noted.

Driving the news: The city manager's office is helping the library pursue the full-time position, DSM finance director Nickolas Schaul said in a memo to the City Council this week.

  • A budget amendment will come before the council after a job description is finalized, Schaul said.

The big picture: Libraries in other states have also added social workers in recent years, NPR reports.


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