King County Library System (KCLS) offers a unique new service called Peers in Libraries to help meet community members’ needs. Peers in Libraries is administered in partnership with Peer Kent, a nonprofit organization that aims to cultivate powerful, healthy lives by providing emotional support and development services to those impacted by addiction, mental health and/or HIV/AIDS. Peers in Libraries is one of only a few such programs in the nation, and the only one in Washington state.The
KCLS’ Peer Services Specialists, or “Peers,” work through a trauma-informed lens to connect people to the community resources and services they need, including shelter and housing, education, food and mental health referrals. Peers are individuals with lived experiences of mental or medical illness, substance abuse, homelessness and/or involvement with the criminal justice system. Now on a path to recovery, Peers draw on their experience to help patrons identify and achieve wellness goals. They provide support in a compassionate space, while sharing stories without judgment to help people rebuild their lives.
Peers collaborate with day centers, shelters, food banks, safe parking sites, encampments and substance abuse treatment clinics to conduct community outreach. From January through June, Peers engaged with 1,115 patrons and referred 839 people to library and community resources. Peers also attended 190 community meetings to keep abreast of local needs. Peers have helped patrons find shelter, complete employment training, enroll in mental health treatment programs and sign up for benefits.
“Peers in Libraries reflects KCLS’ commitment to create communities of inclusion and belonging, and reduce barriers to access,” stated KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum. “We are fortunate to have Peers at KCLS, and appreciate the impactful services they provide.”
The Peers in Libraries partnership provides three full-time Peer Services Specialists who work at the Kent, Renton, Federal Way and Bellevue Libraries. The King County Library System Foundation and King County Health Care for the Homeless Network provide grant funding for these positions. Learn more about Peers in Libraries at kcls.org/ask.