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Des Moines Public Library adding a social worker

The position would be primarily based out of Central Library, but would also assist patrons at other branches around the city.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Whether you're looking for something new to read, a movie to watch, or even just need a way to hop online, your local library has you covered.

And now, the Des Moines Public Library is adding another new service to the mix: a social worker.

"We're changing our offerings all the time, and it's very exciting, and very innovative and new, and a social worker is just one more service that we can offer to those in need," said Sue Woody, Director of the Des Moines Public Library.

That social worker would be based out of the Central Library, but Woody says they would also be traveling to other branches around the city to provide services there, as well. The idea was inspired by similar positions being added to major urban libraries — like in New York City and Chicago — providing services ranging from food assistance to help finding housing.

"Our community has many concerns that revolve around houselessness, that revolve around food insecurity and even mental health, and so we want to be a part of the answer," Woody said.

So why add this position to the library, specifically? 

One major reason is that libraries get a lot of visitors every day, giving employees a much closer view of the issues facing them.

"When you think about it, the average librarian is going to probably see more citizens than any other city worker combined in most towns, because we have the largest door count," said Sam Helmick, President of the Iowa Library Association.

Helmick adds that providing social work services is just one more way of advancing a library's mission to help keep people educated and informed.

"We're only able to do that when we're well cared for. So I can't really learn well when I'm hungry, I can't really read and enjoy literacy when I'm worried about my housing form that I don't have internet access to fill out for it," Helmick said.

Once funding for the position is approved by the Des Moines City Council, DMPL hopes to have the position ready to be filled on June 30.

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