Justine Janis, LCWS at the EPLSubmitted photo

Libraries serve as a central gathering place where everyone is welcome and information resources and services are free for all.  This wide open welcome will be more expansive now that the services of a licensed clinical social worker are available on a full-time basis at the Evanston Public Library.

In her first month at the library, Justine Janis, LCSW, has had almost 100 interactions with patrons dealing with homelessness, poverty, and mental health issues. She has provided them with referrals for tenants’ issues, immigration services, health and wellness matters, and services for the homeless. She has served people who have recently fallen into poverty, and those with no health insurance or those who can’t afford their co-pays, in addition to getting to know some who struggle with chronic homelessness.

“Many people in this community are struggling to make ends meet,” Ms. Janis says. “It can be difficult to navigate public assistance programs and know what resources are available to them to help people back on their feet. Part of my role at the library is helping to connect individuals to food pantries, housing resources, mental health resources. I have been working to develop relationships with service providers in the Evanston community so that I can make appropriate referrals and share this information with patrons in need.”

Sometimes, though, she’s just there to listen.

Another goal is to help support librarians with education on dealing with troubled patrons. The librarians, Ms. Janis says, are very compassionate and willing to listen. “They really care about patrons, and I don’t want them to burn out by doing that.” She works with them and with library security staff to make sure the library is a safe place for everyone, where everyone is respected whether employee or visitor.

Each month dedicated social workers working in libraries all over the country participate in a conference call to network and support one another, sharing information and issues. Ms. Janis has spoken with – and will soon meet – her nearest colleague, the social worker at the Oak Park Library, to share ideas. In the future, she will plan public programs on important issues in mental health and wellness.

Ms. Janis can be reached by phone at 847-448-8659 or by email at jjanis@cityofevanston.org.

Appointments are strongly recommended. Ms. Janis can be found at the Main Library on Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m., on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Fridays or Saturdays alternatively from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. She can also be found at the Chicago Avenue/Main Street (CAMS) branch on Mondays from noon to 8 p.m.