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 […]

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.  […]

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. […]

He could have snapped me like a twig.

This is part 2 in our 2-part series about how to provide backup correctly.  In the last email in this series, we talked about what a backup staff member should NOT do. ——— I was meeting with an intern at the shelter when the phone call came in: “Ryan, get outside quick! There’s a guy […]


Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were on their quest to return the ring to Mordor. Gollum snuck up on the pair as they slept fitfully. Seeing an opportunity, Gollum lunged for the ring around Frodo’s neck. Unfortunately for Gollum, Frodo woke up at that exact moment and grabbed Gollum’s wrist. The ensuing conversation went like […]

Don’t “rub it in” that people are homeless.

Two weeks ago, the newsletter was about how to get people to leave your organization at closing time. Part of my advice was to remind people that “Staff need to get home to their families.” I received a few emails chastising me for “rubbing it in” that staff have families and homes, while homeless folks […]

How do I balance kindness and strength?

Dear Ryan, How do I be kind without coming across as gullible, weak, or as a pushover?  How do I find the right balance? Mike Mike, I think you are asking the wrong question. You don’t “balance” kindness and strength.  They aren’t opposites. The key is to be both fully “kind” and fully “firm” at […]

How to NOT change the world…

I am liberal. If you do not consider yourself liberal, you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you. Ok, now that it is just us liberals, I need to rant about a trend that seems to be intensifying within progressive circles. We have adopted a dangerous fixation on language. Now, don’t get me wrong, […]

When is a question not a question?

I was coming back from the hospital cafeteria when the nurse stopped me in the hall. “And how are YOU doing?” she asked me. I just stared at her. I had been suppressing my emotions for several weeks. I genuinely didn’t know. We were in a large hospital in New York City. I had been […]