A new grant awarded to the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) will help the library better assist patrons in their communities. The grant, awarded by the Arkansas Community Foundation, will help develop the library’s Community Resources Program which aids patrons experiencing poverty, hunger, homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.
The grant will primarily fund mental health first aid training for CALS staff to easier identify warning signs and risk factors.
Rebecca Beadle, a social worker and the community resource specialist for the library, is the first social worker in the state to be hired by a library system full-time. She said patrons seek different kinds of assistance.
“People come to [the Community Resources Program] generally to figure out what’s going on outside of the walls of the library,” Beadle said. “And most patrons come to the library to receive help with things that are going on inside.”
Beadle said the library recognized a need to better reach patrons with diverse experiences.
“The library brings in a full spectrum of people,” Beadle said. “From those who have a lot of resources and those who have very few. And I just think that it was very appealing to [CALS] to have a program in place that addressed and tried to assist those who have few resources.”
Beadle said the training will also help staff learn strategies to assist patrons.
“When we are unfamiliar with a situation, sometimes instead of curiosity, that creates fear,” Beadle said. “This training helps deal with the stigma and it helps us to become better at communicating in a compassionate way.”
90 staff members were trained late last year. The library plans to hold three training sessions for the first half of this year.