Peer Navigators & Western Michigan University Social Work Interns at KPL

three photos of our peer navigator staff assisting patrons and a photo of the care kit available with personal hygiene products

Peer Navigators

In 2018, KPL made the decision to meet our patrons where they are currently at in their lives by offering a peer navigator service that connects patrons to the resources they need to succeed. KPL’s Peer Navigators work directly in the library and provide help with housing, addiction, public assistance, mental health, and emotional support.

KPL partnered with The Recovery Institute of Southwest Michigan, a nonprofit organization that offers peer support to people who have mental health and or/substance use concerns. The peers are individuals who have navigated their own mental health and/or substance abuse issues and therefore are able to relate to library patrons facing similar life challenges. The KPL Peer Navigator program is trauma-informed care focused on six key principles:

  1. Safety: create a setting where patrons feel physically and psychologically safe
  2. Transparency and Trustworthiness: build and maintain trust with patrons by being transparent with operations and decisions
  3. Peer Support: Peer Navigators utilize their stories and lived experiences to establish commonality, build trust and hope, enhance collaboration, and promote recovery and healing
  4. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice: actively listen and foster an environment where the patron feels empowered to share their story as well as provide the space to choose the type of assistance needed, how, and when they are ready to receive it
  5. Collaboration and Mutuality: establish a relationship with the patron where they feel mutually heard and respected, and feel they are an active collaborator in their own recovery process
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues: actively move past cultural stereotypes and biases through shared experiences, empathy, and respect

KPL is one of four other cities nationwide with a public library program like this one. The other libraries are the Denver Public Library, the San Francisco Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Washington, D.C. Public Library. Since the launch, there have been many benefits to the library, including increased support and resources for staff, a decrease in security-related issues, and support of KPL’s anti-racism efforts. KPL plans to continue the expansion of the peer navigator program to include additional hours, service to branches, and partnering with local organizations to provide similar services to at-risk youth.

Western Michigan University Social Work Interns

Recently, KPL partnered with Western Michigan University’s social work program to utilize the skills of Master’s level social work interns in developing social service resources and opportunities for both patrons and staff. They are supervised by the Community Engagement department but collaborate with and serve at all levels of programming, policy, and engagement initiatives. 

Additional Social Services and Community Engagement Programs:

  • Community Tables: a program that brings social services and resources from partnering organizations to KPL to provide direct assistance to KPL patrons
  • Distribution of free hygiene kits and emergency food packs to patrons
  • Outreach Events

America’s STAR Libraries 2019

KPL was recognized as a 2019 STAR Library by the LJ Index of Public Library Service. The LJ Index rates U.S. public libraries based on selected per capita output measures. The 2019 Index derives from data recently released by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This year, 6,333 U.S. public libraries qualified to be rated in the Index. Of those, 261 libraries were recognized as Star Libraries, receiving three-Star, four-Star, or five-Star designations.

KPL was among the three-Star designees and was recognized for our OneCard program and the Peer Navigator program.

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