Far Too Common a Problem Results in Unexpected Heroes

28 Jun

I think at this point almost everyone who follows social and community issues has heard of the skyrocketing numbers of deaths due to drug overdoses, specifically that of heroin in the past few years. It’s a national crisis and you can learn more about the startling number of people it affects on a daily basis from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. What people may not be familiar with is that public librarians are being trained in administering the antidote – that’s right those so called meek and mild shushing librarians – on the front lines of the opioid epidemic across the United States.

The first article a friend shared with me was from Philly.com about a branch of the Philadelphia library that has trained staff to administer Narcan, the antidote for a suspected opioid overdose. I’d heard the story before it was published, but reading about how these librarians save lives on a regular basis both in and around their building and then go right back to their job is amazing. Other articles have been posted in recent weeks, including a CNN article that was posted just the other day. You’ll find similar stories in areas all over the United States as librarians step up in their communities to try and make a difference. Just as they have by hiring social workers who come in to help provide services for the homeless population, by offering a place where children from low-income families can find lunch during the summer when they’re out of school and help people polish resumes and submit online job applications when they don’t have access to the Internet at home. Librarians have been community heroes for years.

Thankfully, we haven’t had to deal with the specific issue of opioid overdoses in our library, but after a program I attended at our local mosque about sharing the Islam faith with the community, I’ve been thinking more and more about what we can do to make a difference in our community.

My plan is to provide community dialog problems that address social issues like the opioid epidemic, bullying, racial equality, LGBT+ rights, and so much more. I’m hoping that the library becomes the meeting space for organizations who are already doing amazing work in these fields to come together to not only educate the public, but to also create a shared sense of responsibility for what happens in our own backyard and to, again make a difference. I clearly haven’t fleshed out all the details to this long-range program idea, but I’m really excited about the potential partnerships we can form and how we can positively affect our community.

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