Libraries Have Become a Catchall for Social Services -- Should They Be?

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book hall in library
 (Thi Soares/iStock)

Libraries have long been a beloved hub for education and community, but as our state and nation battle crises of growing income inequality, homelessness and mental health, the work of public librarians these days can be just as much about social work as it is about books and information. In the new book “Overdue: Reckoning with the Public Library,” author and former librarian Amanda Oliver considers how public libraries have evolved and why they’ve been tasked to fill so many roles in our society. Oliver, who developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder while working as a public librarian in Washington, D.C., asks whether public librarians can – and should – continue to fill the gap in our social safety net. As the country celebrates National Library Week, Oliver and California librarians join us to unpack these questions.


Amanda Oliver, author, "Overdue: Reckoning with the Public Library"; former librarian

Naomi Jelks, librarian; racial equity manager, San Francisco Public Library

Jasmin LoBasso, outreach librarian, Kern County Library