This fall, Ashlan Lippert started her new job as Community Resource Specialist and the first on-staff social worker at the Des Moines Public Library.
In the two months since, Ashlan has met with more than 130 patrons in need of assistance, secured the donation of a community fridge for Central Library, and expanded the number of organizations present at The Outreach Project on Mondays and Fridays.
She has helped community members with getting housed, getting social security and disability payments turned on, signing up for medical insurance, getting food stamps, phones, and connecting people to jobs, and more.
"The library is one of the last safe free spaces that exists, and so it is the perfect place for a social worker to practice," Ashlan says when talking about what drew her to work at the library.
Ashlan grew up the daughter of an Emergency Room nurse, and when she visited her mom at the hospital, she would see the social workers helping families navigate crises and being the calm in the storm. She started her career in Des Moines and moved out to New York City to continue her career in social work and earn her Master's Degree. She worked with housing nonprofit organizations before moving back to Des Moines.
Why have a social worker at Central Library?
In recent years, libraries around the country have added social workers to their staff to assist with addressing the psychological and social needs of patrons. As DMPL staff noticed they were working with more patrons in need of social services, mental health needs, and more, the library worked with the City of Des Moines to secure funding for this new position, stationed at Central Library. Management at the library connected with other libraries around the country to design the position, and determine how the Community Resource Specialist could make an impact for the library’s most vulnerable users.
“Up until now library staff has had to try to figure this out and navigate it on their own when really that shouldn’t be their focus,” says Ashlan. “Having a social worker where that is the entire crux of their work has been impactful on our patrons, but also supports our library staff.”
Meet with Ashlan
Patrons who need assistance can meet with Ashlan at her desk located near the north entrance to Central Library. If Ashlan is not available at her desk, patrons can fill out a copy of the Social Service Needs Assessment that can be found in person or online.
For patrons who are not located near Central Library but wish to speak with Ashlan, staff at our branches can assist with a bus token to get to Central Library.
Last Modified December 07, 2023