Arizona becomes the first state to hire registered nurses in public libraries.
According to NBC News, Tucson has provided nurses in six library branches, essentially transforming these libraries into community shelters.
“The need in our libraries has always been there. We’ve always been a place for the underserved,” said Karyn Prechtel, deputy director of public services for Pima County Public Library. “Before, we were trying to address those needs ourselves, as librarians, but without the training there was only so much we can do to help these folks. Librarians feel a little bit like their hands are tied.”
The Pima County program was originally inspired from San Francisco Public Library’s unprecedented hiring of a social worker in 2010. Prechtel noted that employing nurses was a step further.
“It was like social work plus,” Prechtel said. “They can do all of the social work-type work, but they can also address health issues, and perhaps even community health issues. We felt that was a bonus, so that’s why we decided to go with a nurse and not a social worker.”
Overall, the program has apparently been beneficial thus far. Since its inception in January 2012, 911 calls have decreased by 14 percent at the primary library. There has also been a 60 percent decline in emergency calls to authorities at an extending branch.