Libraries have always been a place of equitable access. Traditionally, that access centered on education and arts, but if you have visited the Chattanooga Public Library (CPL) in the last 10 years, you know equitable access now means much more than education. From power tools to vaccines, libraries constantly find new answers to the question, “what does the community need?”
In 2019, CPL collaborated with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Social Work program to create an internship opportunity. Since, the Downtown Library has hosted one intern per academic school year during 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. The internship has been wildly popular, with both the public and staff, due to the support and expertise they offer.
For the current 2021-2022 academic year, however, CPL has been fortunate enough to host two interns – Hannah, a Master of Social Work student, and Abigail, a Bachelor of Social Work student.
Hannah, based at the Eastgate Library, is on-site three days a week to consult with patrons and staff.
When Hannah is not working directly with patrons or staff, she is networking within the community to develop partnerships that support the library and its patrons. Understanding that many patrons in the Eastgate area are experiencing homelessness, mental health, poverty, addiction, domestic violence, hopelessness, isolation, and any number of other persistent challenges, her goal as the social work student intern, or navigator, is to use a lens of trauma informed care to empower her clients to become self-reliant through sustainable changes. Hannah believes that we are stronger together, and she focuses on community building to help enhance clients’ support systems.
Hannah uses the social work values of service, social justice, cultural competence, and empowerment to help her clients develop hope and self-determination. She recognizes the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of their life circumstances. Hannah uses warmth, empathy, and attentive listening skills to help clients overcome challenges. Services can include any number of support methods, ranging from active listening, goal planning, identifying available resources, making appropriate referrals, safety planning, case management, and more. She offers clients privacy and confidentiality, though she does practice under supervision, and she is a mandated reporter in the state of Tennessee. Hannah embodies the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics in her work.
Abigail, based at the Downtown Library, is also on-site three days a week. She interacts with patrons and staff with the overall goal to provide a safe and peaceful place for individuals. Outside of meeting with people, she is building a network of relationships with community organizations and resources to better meet the needs presented. There are a wide range of individuals that come into the library experiencing homelessness, mental illness, individuals with disabilities, domestic violence, substance abuse, poverty, and other challenges. Moving with trauma informed care is important to her while using empathy and empowerment in adding value to other’s lives.
The Social Work values of service, social justice, integrity, and dignity and worth of a person are always present when Abigail works with each individual from the community. She provides services that include: case management, a safe space to talk, community referrals, and identifying specific goals with patrons. While providing a space for confidentiality, Abigail is under supervision and is a mandated reporter by law in Tennessee.
If you are interested in exploring what services or support might be available to you within the Chattanooga community, or if you would like to speak with Hannah, Abigail, or a staff member about getting assistance, feel free to call or stop by the library for more information. You can learn more about what our social work navigators offer, and pick up one of their business cards with hours and contact information. When you are ready, Hannah and Abigail are available as a free resource to help assist you in identifying the barriers in your life and developing the next steps using a collaborative approach. You may speak with Hannah or Abigail one time or on an ongoing basis; you have the right to discontinue service at any time. Please call or stop by the library of your choice if you are interested.