The Saskatoon Public Library has been offering community outreach support services for more than two years.
“Our outreach workers focus on social needs,” SPL Welcoming Initiatives Senior Manager Amanda Lepage said. “Things like housing, unemployment, or employment, income instability, up to food and shelter, sometimes it’s folks who don’t have I.D. who need help applying for I.D.”
When pandemic restriction cause library shutdowns around Saskatoon, Lepage and her team started brainstorming on how they could still offer help to those in need.
“Our folks that we help, they don’t have phones, they don’t have any internet,” she explained. “So, how are they supposed to reach is when our outreach workers are working at home.”
That’s when the team decided to design and set up a walk-up window at the Frances Morrison Library.
“There are people that just aren’t comfortable being in an indoor public place right now,” she said. “Plus our other big question was, quite honestly, what if close again, what if we can’t have people back in our spaces again, where do those folks go,” she continued. “So, we needed a way to stay in touch with people who really need (our help), even when the library is, say, at capacity and they can’t come in the building.”
The window, which is on the east side of the library, on 4th Avenue, allows the patrons access to support workers without entering the library.
The window was funded with a grant from the Emergency Community Support Fund, an initiative established by the Federal Government in response to the pandemic.
“We’ve just been so excited to watch this emerge and grow,” she said. “I remember getting the news that we got the grant, and I literally was in my backyard jumping around.”
Outreach workers are available at the window on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. However, Lepage expects those hours to increase in the coming weeks due to usage of the services becoming more regular.
“They touched base with 400 people, and some of those people that they helped last year it was multiple appointments,” she explained. “So, you can imagine, they see many people every day.”