One of the strategic priorities resulting from the Library’s ever-evolving strategic plan is to address the needs of shifting County demographics, including individuals with developmental disabilities. As a result, the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) is dedicated to continuing to provide and enhance volunteer and workforce development opportunities across the System.
“Individuals with developmental disabilities are a population for whom SCLSNJ can make a real difference,” said Lynn Hoffman, SCLSNJ director of operations. “The public library is for everyone, and we want to provide inclusive opportunities that allow everyone to participate in the public library community.”
The Library System currently offers volunteer opportunities that allows teens and adults with developmental disabilities the transitional and training skills necessary to join the workforce, to contribute to the community, and to learn new skills. SCLSNJ currently partners with approximately 40 developmental disabled volunteers, who have collectively donated an estimated 1000 hours through September 2018.
“It is important that our volunteer program be welcoming and accessible,” said Nicole Pascoe, SCLSNJ volunteer coordinator. “Adults and teens with developmental disabilities from throughout our community are currently making contributions and gaining experience as volunteers throughout the Library System. SCLSNJ is working to create the best possible experience for all volunteers.”
Cathy DeBerry, SCLSNJ adult services supervisor at the Hillsborough branch, has worked closely with adults with developmental disabilities for over two years. In 2016, she began working with then Watchung Hills Regional High School student Brian Mahon, who volunteered at the Warren Twp. branch.
“I met Brian when he was 19-years-old and a student at Watchung Hills Regional High School,” said DeBerry. “He was part of the the school’s Learning and/or Language Disabilities (LLD) program, which is a program that allows students with developmental disabilities to take the mandated course requirements and participate in a variety of school-to-work transition experiences through vocational courses and off-site internship opportunities. This program helps these individuals prepare for life after high school.”
As a Library volunteer, Mahon was assigned a variety of projects to work on, including: crafts for storytimes, shelving and checking in books, assisting staff in programs, and more.
“Due to the combination of the LLD program at Watchung HIlls, the volunteer opportunities at the Warren Twp. branch, and the adult recreational and socialization programs at the Library, Brian acquired the communication, organizational, and independent living skills he needed to apply and interview for a staff position at the Warren Twp. branch,” said DeBerry. “I am happy to report he was hired as a SCLSNJ employee in June.”
In order to help connect teens and adults with developmental disabilities to job and volunteer opportunities across the County, SCLSNJ will host a job and volunteer on April 6, 2019 at the Bridgewater branch. During this event, developmentally-disabled attendees will have the opportunity to apply and/or interview for volunteer and job positions throughout the Somerset County area as well as throughout the 10 branch Library System.
In April 2018, SCLSNJ hosted their first job and volunteer fair for teens and adults with developmental disabilities. Fifteen area businesses and nonprofit organizations looking for employees and volunteers participated in the event, which had an attendance of approximately 170 individuals.
To participate in the job and volunteer fair or for more information about services the Library offers to individuals with developmental disabilities contact Cathy DeBerry at firstname.lastname@example.org.