Gerry was high on crack.

Gerry caught me in the hallway of the shelter. He wanted to talk. He was obviously high on crack. The conversation went something like this (read Gerry’s lines as fast as you can to simulate how he talked): Gerry: My boss won’t pay me the money he owes me. I don’t even like the job. […]

The hardest day of my life was December 20, 1998.

Even though I was twenty years old, I crawled into my parent’s bed and sobbed. I felt like a frightened five-year-old, but this time the monsters lurking in the shadows were real. Everything had changed. All food had the same bland taste. Sleep was sporadic and unfulfilling. I always felt claustrophobic—even when I was in […]

Can I enforce the rules if someone is mentally ill?

Dear Ryan, I work in a public library. Last week, a patron with obvious mental health issues set a pocket knife on the table where he was reading. He didn’t threaten anyone with it, but he did leave it out in the open where it was visible to everyone for several hours. Some of my […]

“An addict will do anything to not be dope sick.”

“I am scared sh*tless of being dope sick. I will do anything, anything I have to do to make sure I’m not dope sick… An addict will do anything to not be dope sick. It is our biggest fear.” Sherri If you work with the public, there are two things you need to know about […]

Can withdrawal from heroin kill you?

The intern’s face was pale white, and her eyes were panicky. “Ryan, I need help.” She led me into her office. Harold was lying on the concrete floor of her office. “He says he is withdrawing from heroin,” the intern said. I tried to talk to Harold but didn’t get very far. He was far […]

That time I forgot a crack pipe on my ear.

It was about 8:00am. I had just arrived at the homeless shelter I worked at. The details of the day have faded with time, but my memory tells me that it was summer. I think it was one of the 15 days per year when the Chicago area is not too hot, too cold, too […]

A story about PTSD and dragons (written by AI).

I listened to an interview the other day with Sal Kahn, founder of Khan Academy. He talked about how AI is changing education (for better and worse). Specifically, he talked about how Khan Academy is using AI to teach people around the world. I am terrified and excited. I am intrigued and overwhelmed.  It made […]

What Librarians taught me about social workers

The last two weeks I wrote about social workers in libraries. I got several emails from libraries pointing out issues that I should have included. It reminded me that I am not an expert in this area. That is why I am particularly excited to be interviewing two actual experts for this month’s monthly training.  […]

How about a social work intern in your library?

Howdy! Last week we tackled the question about whether libraries should hire social workers to support folks who need help beyond what the library can provide. If you have no budget but really want to bring social services to those you serve, you may be asking: Are social work interns a good option? MAYBE. Social […]

Should libraries hire social workers?

“Should our library hire a social worker to help with issues we can’t help with like mental health, housing assistance, etc.?” Library managers ask me this A LOT.  Over the years, libraries have been transformed into community centers. It’s natural that the most vulnerable in the community seek out libraries for help with tough questions. […]