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IndyPL's first full-time social worker highlights need for resources & services in public libraries

COVID-19 vaccine site entrance sign
Posted at 11:48 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 23:48:55-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Every day they're open, the Marion County Health Department says an average between 100 and 200 people go to their vaccine clinics at two branches of the Indianapolis Public Library: Martindale-Brightwood and College Avenue.

The vaccine clinics were opened there in the fall because of the low vaccination rates in the community surrounding the libraries.

Yanna McGraw, the Indianapolis Public Library's first full-time social worker, says she's not surprised by people taking advantage of the vaccine being in an accessible place.

RELATED | IndyPL Vaccine Clinic hours, location

"Individuals sometimes struggle getting to whatever services are being offered but if they're in the library, they're more apt to come or be assisted to get connected to what they need to be connected to," McGraw said.

Having a vaccine clinic at public library, McGraw says, helps eliminate many of the barriers people face when trying to get access to healthcare, with transportation being one of the biggest. Through her work, she hopes to impress the importance of accessible resources and services.

"Primarily, I'm here for patrons to connect them to community resources," she said. "I also provide training to staff on how to interact with different individuals or things that happen at the library that the library is not accustomed to dealing with or handling."

IndyPL's social work program is brand new. It's a product of research done by IUPUI social work students that showed there was a need for the services someone like McGraw can provide. Being the only person currently working in the program, her list of duties are extensive and wide-ranging.

"I handle mental health issues ... if I have a patron and I know their doctor, I can keep them safe at the library while I get ahold of that person to help them," McGraw said. "I also help people filling out applications." The applications she helps people fill out cover a variety of topics, including job and housing applications.

As McGraw builds the social work program up, she's hoping the community gets involved in bringing resources and services to the library. She'd love to see emotional support groups or addiction counseling programs come to the library. McGraw says many of the people she helps would benefit from having those services and more accessible.

About three dozen states have social workers in their libraries. The research is clear: Having social workers along with resources in public libraries is a good thing.

"If it can be in the library, it's just that much more beneficial to our community," McGraw said.