Eau Claire public library hires social worker

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The L.E. Phillips Memorial Library is taking a new approach to help connect people with local resources. By bringing in an expert they hope to connect people with the services they need, more efficiently.

We all know that libraries are filled with resources and they host classes to help connect people, but for the first time they are bringing in a social worker that will be at the library Monday through Friday to help connect people to the services they need.

"Anything from food to housing to life,” said Libby Richter, a social worker at the library. As a part of her new role, the community resources specialist, she is prepared to answer all kinds of questions. "Lots of referrals, lots of ongoing connections and I have a lot of individuals that keep updating me and then I say have you thought about this and let's sit down and look at this together,” Richter said.

In her first month on the job, already creating change in the community. "I've worked with a couple of individuals about substance use, helped one person get into rehabilitation services for substance use,” Richter said.

She is making sure people know where and how they can find help. “We have so many people in the community who are doing really great things but it's hard to navigate all of those,” said Pamela Westby, the library director. And that's where Libby comes in. "It's trying to expedite these processes and get individuals that they need quicker,” Richter added.

They are connecting people with food assistance, housing needs, mental health services and so much more, all in the perfect pairing with the library. Since the library already connects people to resources, Libby helps them one step further and instead of just grabbing the book off the shelf, she helps them put the words into action. "People can come here and just be at peace for a little while and have their own space so that is very attractive to a lot of individuals who are in a lot of stressful situations,” Richter said.

She is hoping to bridge the gap in services in a comfortable environment. “Having that coach to help you figure out what your next plan would be if that one fails is life changing,” Westby said.

Libby says this concept of bringing social workers to work at the library has only been around for about 10 years but it is growing rapidly around the country. She is just getting started in Eau Claire but hopes to see the program grow. You can contact Libby Richter at (715) 839-5061 or by email at libbyr@eauclaire.lib.wi.us to set up an appointment. Although you do not need to set up an appointment, you can just stop by the library.