For families in crisis, including families facing homelessness or drug addiction, the library is a safe place.
“For the past three to five years we’ve seen an increase in patrons who are under the influence of some type of addiction,” Ericka Reed, Marion County Public Library Director said.
Being a librarian now means also being at least a part-time social worker.
Reed said, “There is a trend among national libraries to actually hire social workers on staff and unfortunately we don’t have those resources.”
For more than two decades Erika Reed has worked in public libraries. Reed has been the Marion County Public Library Director. The library she oversees has been faced with what could arguably be the greatest challenge of its 54 year history.
“We have seen needle usage on the rise, mostly it’s addiction to alcohol or drugs. We do have a plan in place should those things be found on library premises,” Reed said.
Marion County is not the only library that has been facing these issues. Monongalia, Harrison and Kanawha County libraries all reported similar encounters.
Reed added, “We want people to feel safe and comfortable and protected when they come here. We want to make sure we have a great environment for everyone to enjoy.”
To provide a safe place, the library has been working closely with the DHHR and downtown shelters.
Union Mission of Fairmont Director George Batten said, “In every situation, partnership with the community or any organization in the community is important. Particularly with the library simply because they have so many of our clients going there. “
Reed said, “So we feel very fortunate to have those types of services in the immediate area.”
In spite of the challenges, their work appears to be paying off.
“We help people get back on their feet through a spiritual recovery program. The ultimate end of our program is when the person has gone to work and saved $3,000 towards leaving,” said Batten.