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LA Public Library Wants You To Check Out Your Mental Health Along With Those Books And CDs

A beige stone and blue and white tile sign reads "Los Angeles Public Library."
A sign outside the Central Library in downtown L.A.
Wikimedia Commons)
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The Los Angeles Public Library is well-known for its public programs and as the go-to place for checking out books and CDs. Now, it could become a place where Angelenos can get help with their mental health, too.

The library is looking for “multiple entities to provide professional mental health services and/or social services at the Central Library and the branch library facilities on an as-needed basis.”

“We’re not saying we’re going to have meeting rooms that are going to be therapy centers, but we’re open to change,” said Karen Pickard-Four, head of LAPL’s Library Experience Office. In the near future, Pickard-Four said she sees the library becoming a place where patrons can get connected to a resource that can help with their mental health.

Having mental health professionals and social workers contracting directly with the library could also help people who visit the library and are experiencing a serious mental health crisis.

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“We’re trying to have less police involvement,” Pickard-Four said. “If someone is in crisis, sometimes it can cause an incident, and the best person to handle that is a mental health worker,” she added.

Pickard-Four said expenditures for the new mental health and social workers would be covered by LAPL’s security budget. The move stems from recommendations that came out of the library’s Safety and Security Project, a staff-led effort that stretches back about five years.

The library currently runs The Source program, a “one-stop-shop” for unhoused Angelenos to get help with Medi-Cal enrollment, employment assistance, mental health and other services. But that program is only available once a month at the Central Library, and Pickard-Four would like to see a more consistent presence with social service providers.

The contracts will be open to both larger organizations and first-time city contractors. The library’s Business and Economics Department will host three information sessions for first-time city contractors.

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Pickard-Four noted that libraries in San Francisco, Denver and Philadelphia have led similar efforts.

“What we envision is helping people in crisis just like we help everyone else,” Pickard-Four said. “And in order to do that we need to bring in resources from the outside.”

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.