Li­braries, John Howard So­ci­ety unite on pro­mo­tion

The Welland Tribune - - NEWS - LAURA BAR­TON lbar­ton@post­media.com twit­ter.com/LBar­tonTri­bune

Wel­land and Pel­ham pub­lic li­braries and the John Howard So­ci­ety of Ni­a­gara have teamed up to pro­mote com­mu­nity ser­vices and help strengthen fam­ily units.

The part­ner­ship hap­pened after Pel­ham Pub­lic Li­brary sought out a part­ner­ship with Wel­land Pub­lic Li­brary to fig­ure out a way to make com­mu­nity ser­vices more well­known to the peo­ple who visit their lo­ca­tions.

Kirk Weaver, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Pel­ham’s li­brary, said be­tween the two branches, roughly 100,000 vis­i­tors come through each year, and they see peo­ple from “all walks of life.”

“Our staff ob­serve peo­ple who may be in need, but they don’t al­ways have the tools or knowl­edge of what ser­vices are avail­able,” he said.

Qingyi (Ken) Su said it’s much the same at Wel­land’s three branches, where up­wards of 250,000 peo­ple visit each year.

Su said he and Weaver agreed they had to search for a part­ner who could help them out be­cause li­brary staff are not ex­perts with pro­fes­sional train­ing in these ar­eas.

When they con­nected with the John Howard So­ci­ety of Ni­a­gara, it was a per­fect fit.

John Howard So­ci­ety of Ni­a­gara of­fers a num­ber of pro­grams, in­clud­ing the Strength­en­ing Fam­i­lies for the Fu­ture pro­gram which helps fam­i­lies bridge com­mu­ni­ca­tion bar­ri­ers they might have. The pro­gram is funded through Ni­a­gara Pros­per­ity Ini­tia­tive and its ma­te­rial comes from the Cen­tre for Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health.

Caro­line Gra­ham, youth ser­vices su­per­vi­sor with John Howard So­ci­ety of Ni­a­gara, said the pro­gram has never been in li­braries be­fore, even though it has been around for roughly 10 years.

Jay Gem­mell, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the so­ci­ety, calls the part­ner­ship a “hand-in-glove” col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“If you’re try­ing to break down some of the bar­ri­ers to good com­mu­ni­ca­tion with fam­i­lies, one of the most nat­u­ral places to find them are hubs like li­braries. Adults and youth walk in here for dif­fer­ent rea­sons,” he said.

Be­cause of this part­ner­ship, now there is a re­source for peo­ple to find in­for­ma­tion.

Sha­nen Smith, pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor for Strength­en­ing Fam­i­lies for the Fu­ture, will be at each of the li­brary lo­ca­tions once a week for a few hours. She will have a ta­ble with pam­phlets of in­for­ma­tion about dif­fer­ent ser­vices in each area and she’ll also be able to an­swer ques­tions and help di­rect peo­ple to ser­vices.

Smith used to vol­un­teer with the pro­gram and when the job op­por­tu­nity be­came avail­able, she jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. She’s only been in the li­braries for a cou­ple of weeks, so she’s still try­ing to fig­ure out the needs of each spe­cific lo­ca­tion, but she said she’s en­joy­ing it.

“I fig­ure if it reaches even one per­son who didn’t want to come for­ward, but has a need for that ser­vices, then we’re do­ing some­thing right,” she said.

In the fu­ture she will be help­ing fa­cil­i­tate work­shops at the dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. Two that are be­ing set up in­clude a work­shop about sui­cide pre­ven­tion and an­other about learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. In­for­ma­tion about those ses­sions will be avail­able on the li­braries’ web­sites, so­cial me­dia and news­let­ters, and Gem­mell said they will likely be posted to John Howard’s JobGym web­site as well.

Con­versely, staff from the li­brary will be at­tend­ing a few ses­sions of the Strength­en­ing Fam­i­lies for the Fu­ture pro­gram to help pro­mote li­brary use, too.

Su said li­braries are one of the few free pub­lic spa­ces left, and he’d love for peo­ple to know the di­verse ser­vices li­braries of­fer these days, in­clud­ing pro­gram­ming, mul­ti­me­dia rentals and com­mu­nity space.

Gem­mell said they have al­ready been in speak­ing about how to get more fund­ing for this part­ner­ship and en­sure it con­tin­ues. At present, it runs un­til mid-De­cem­ber and starts up again in Jan­uary un­til April.

LAURA BAR­TON/WEL­LAND TRI­BUNE

Peo­ple who walk into the Wel­land li­brary will now see Sha­nen Smith set up at a ta­ble with a big sign be­side her and in­for­ma­tion laid out across the ta­ble.

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