The face of the Loussac Library is changing. An in-person survey administered last spring, drew responses from 739 library users, according to Adult Services Librarian Sarah Preskitt.

Preskitt said 25 percent of the respondents reported they were currently experiencing homelessness. Around 45 percent reported no internet access at home. Of the respondents looking for work, 57 percent reported being homeless.

Preskitt said the needs of people using the library are changing as a result. Instead of inquiring about books or other resources, patrons are more frequently asking for help in finding housing, food or jobs. Preskitt said many of the questions are difficult for the average librarian to answer.

"I can give someone factual information and I can give them a bunch of resources," said Preskitt. "But I'm not trained in psychology. I'm not trained in social work. So I don't know what works best for them."

Last fall, the city partnered with the Municipal Health Department and UAA and started staffing a table with graduate students in the process of earning their social work degrees. The interns can answer questions from library users and help connect them to resources.

Preskitt said the interns have worked well, but only have part-time hours. It's why the library recently applied for and received a grant from the Mental Health Trust Authority to fund a social worker pilot program. The $75,000 will help pay for a full-time position, although Preskitt said the library still needs to raise an additional $20,000 before a social worker can start this coming spring.

In the meantime, Preskitt said social worker interns are available to help people.

Their table is set up at the Loussac Library:

  • Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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