Library expands services and underscores commitment to inclusivity with new staff social worker.
Medford, Oregon (April 5, 2021)—Jackson County Library Services (JCLS) celebrates this year’s National Library Week, April 4-10, 2021, with the theme “Welcome to your library,” promoting the idea that libraries extend far beyond the walls of a building and that everyone is welcome to use library services. Whether people visit virtually or in person, libraries are accessible and inclusive places that foster a sense of belonging and community through learning, discovery, and exploration.
JCLS recently expanded its services beyond books, magazines, downloadable music or movies, and even ukuleles, tents, and air fryers available through their “library of things” to include a new service: a full-time social worker on staff.
The newly hired social worker, Mehmood Madha, received his master’s degree in social work from the Columbia School of Social Work, specializing in advanced policy practice. His work focuses on how to address systemic inequity through advocacy and policy change.
“Libraries represent one of the last purely democratic institutions that exist anywhere in our nation,” said Madha. “They offer a welcoming and safe environment that marginalized populations or those with limited assets can access freely. As Jackson County deals with the results of both a global pandemic and a series of destructive wildfires, our library system is asking, how can we step-up and better serve our community at a time of unprecedented need?”
Madha is a resource for children, teen, and adult patrons seeking support and referral to resources that address mental health challenges, food or housing insecurity, and more. He is available for direct client services and referrals by appointment at 541-774-6749, or on a drop-in basis at the Medford Library from 1:00–4:00 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at the Ashland Library from 1:00–4:00 p.m. on Thursdays. He is also training and mentoring JCLS staff in de-escalation response.
In addition to celebrating libraries, National Library Week is also a time to highlight the essential role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening communities.
“Our frontline library staff work with vulnerable populations every day,” said Claudine Taillac, Assistant Director of Public Services at JCLS. “We take pride in our role as public servants and as trusted sources of help and information. Adding a social worker to the library setting completes the circle of the library’s role in the community as an institution people can turn to for assistance.”
During the pandemic, JCLS has adapted by expanding resources and continuing to meet the needs of Jackson County residents. Whether people visit in person or virtually, JCLS offers opportunities for everyone to explore new worlds and become their best selves through access to technology, multimedia content, and educational programs. JCLS provides electronic learning resources like online homework help, hotspots, and wi-fi access for students and workers who may lack internet access at home. JCLS encourages all community members to visit jcls.org to explore services and programs.
This National Library Week, the public can show their appreciation and support for libraries by visiting jcls.org, following JCLS on social media, and using the hashtag #NationalLibraryWeek to share why they value the library.
“One of the fundamental tenets of social work is meeting people where they are,” said Madha. “We know our libraries are in a unique position in our community, with no barriers for patrons to utilize our services. We want to create an environment where we are not penalizing, criminalizing, or stigmatizing poverty, which will allow our libraries to be truly accessible and welcoming for all.”