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The Central Arkansas Library System has hired a licensed social worker to help connect vulnerable populations encountered by library staff with services they need.

Director Nate Coulter said Monday that the library system has hired Rebecca Beadle as a community resource specialist. Her first day will likely be Feb. 18.

The full-time position's duties include referring people in need who come into the library to social service agencies and training "front line" staff in how best to help those individuals, Coulter said.

Staff who interact with the public are often asked to offer assistance in areas that go beyond what librarians can typically provide, he said, which can cause them to be stretched thin. Other libraries across the country, including in Denver and San Francisco, also have hired social workers who take on a role as a hub for social services.

"Thirty of them around the country have social workers on staff. It's just the nature of what libraries are," Coulter said at a recent library system board of trustees meeting.

Library officials have been exploring adding a position like this for a few years, Coulter said. The library system started examining how having a community resource specialist might work by partnering with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and having students who are studying social work to serve as library interns.

Beadle has been in the social work field since 1985. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Ouachita Baptist University and a master's degree in social work from Tulane University. She will be paid $51,147 annually.

Beadle said Monday that she was drawn to the job because it would allow her to serve people in a nontraditional setting.

"There are so many people who are underserved, and when a place like the library has the opportunity to help unsheltered youth, the homeless, people with these specific life challenges, that's a great opportunity," she said.

Beadle said she looks forward to helping library staff build skills and feel more comfortable in situations that can sometimes be intimidating to someone who isn't trained as a social worker.

The Little Rock resident said she plans to have conversations with groups such as the Arkansas Homeless Coalition and faith-based organizations to find out how to best partner with them to fulfill the community's needs.

She has most recently been a behavioral health program coordinator and case manager in Hot Springs at Healthy Connections Inc., a nonprofit that connects people to affordable health services.

From 2002 to 2007, she was program director for the Arkansas Employee Assistance Program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She also has worked as a therapeutic foster parent recruiter at the Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock and a clinical coordinator at a treatment program for juvenile offenders in Kansas.

Metro on 02/05/2019

Print Headline: Central Arkansas Library System employs welfare worker

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