MEDFORD, Ore. — Over the past several years, Jackson County Library Services has worked to provide a little something for everyone in the community. The latest step in that ongoing effort comes in the form of a someone instead of a something, with the addition of an on-staff social worker.
“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.”
JCLS recently hired Mehmood Madha, who received his master's degree in social work from the Columbia School of Social Work, specializing in advanced policy practice. According to JCLS, Madha's work will focus on how to address systemic inequity through advocacy and policy change.
But Madha's work won't be limited to policy. He'll be on hand as a resource for kids, teens, and adults who are looking for support or referral to resources — from mental health challenges to food or housing insecurity.
“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 will be 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 to 4:00 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at the Ashland Library from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Thursdays. JCLS said that he will also be training and mentoring staff in de-escalation responses.
JCLS is celebrating National Library Week from April 4 through 10, adopting the theme "Welcome to your library" to promote the idea that libraries extend beyond the walls of a library building, and that everyone is welcome to use library services.
“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.”