Libraries seek to help a growing portion of their clientele: The - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Libraries seek to help a growing portion of their clientele: The homeless

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)

Being a librarian isn't just about helping people find the right book anymore.

And, quipped Hawaii State Library acting director Marya Zoller, "we really don't do 'shhhh' too much."

But even Zoller wasn't fully prepared to add "social worker" to her resume. And that's exactly what's happened.

Zoller started working at the state library in 1992. She says back then the tables were filled with researchers and authors.

Now the clientele is much more diverse -- and so are the challenges.

Across the state, homeless congregate in libraries daily, putting librarians on the front line of some of the most serious social issues facing our community.

Zoller said many of the homeless who come into libraries face a host of challenges, including mental health issues.

State Librarian Stacey Aldrich puts it this way: "The challenges that all libraries face are pretty much any challenge you would face in any public space."

Since Aldrich was hired a little more than a year ago, she's been training her staff to handle difficult situations. She is also interested in playing a bigger role in tackling homelessness.

"We really are the hubs of our communities," Aldrich said. "We strive to connect people to the resources and information they need."

With 50 branches across six islands, Aldrich believes libraries could be in a good position to help address the state's growing homeless crisis. 

"There are libraries across the mainland who are bringing in social workers who walk around and talk to people and see if they need assistance," she said. "There are even some places that actually have nurses come through and ask people if they're well and might check in with them to make sure they're OK."

Zoller says it's a need that's growing.

"They're are a lot more people now, and they stay in the library all day."

While there are no immediate plans to hire social workers or nurses for Hawaii state libraries, it's an idea that might gain quick traction in a state scrambling to find innovative solutions to help the homeless.

Aldrich plans to meet with state homeless czar Scott Morishige for additional ideas and feedback.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly