We asked library staff about their daily work. We learned how they support vulnerable populations.

“You definitely are dealing with people with mental issues all the time. It’s a public building. Anybody can walk in.”

“People are coming in all the time applying for work, looking for work, asking to help them with their resume, their cover letter, they’re transitioning. I’ve definitely had people come in who need housing. They might be homeless, they might be looking for a shelter, they might be looking for a new apartment.”

“That is very satisfying. You do feel like you’re making an immediate impact on somebody’s life.”

“Someone told me—they’re like, I didn’t know this was a library. I thought it was a soup kitchen.”

“I think yeah, maybe they feel intimidated by their doctor. They’d rather talk to librarians who are more approachable and don’t talk down to them.”

“She needed not just a book. She needed an ear.”

“People come to the library in a time of crisis, and I was really surprised at some of the things that people would tell me or what they would reveal to me, and I actually felt kind of honored to be taken—entrusted with that—in their confidence.”

“Especially in a large urban environment like Philadelphia, you, sometimes, become a default social worker. And our staff is not equipped to handle that. And I think [we need] training around, especially social issues and how to better answer questions and deal with the public. It can be very demanding.”

Photos by Nema Etebar

We also interviewed community members about the needs of their community. Click here to learn what they said.