If you were facing homelessness, hunger, or even a mental health crisis, would you know where to turn?

To assist Somerset County residents in need, Rutgers School of Social Work has provided the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) with social work interns who specialize in providing social services.

According to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau, 5.2% of Somerset County residents, 11% of Bound Brook residents, 9% of North Plainfield residents, and 10.4% of Somerville residents live at or below the poverty level.

This new social services program supports the Library’s mission to connect, to explore, to share, and to discover by connecting members of the community to the help they need, by exploring resources available throughout the County, by sharing knowledge available throughout the Library System, and by helping residents discover solutions.

“Partnering with Rutgers and their social work students is an extension of what libraries do for our patrons. While we provide a range of information and knowledge to people seeking answers, social workers can provide the personal guidance that helps those same individuals navigate the information and services that have been presented to them,” said W. Keith McCoy, SCLSNJ’s director of public services.

The interns, Josue Hidalgo and Caroline Coghlan, are working towards obtaining their master’s degrees in social work. They assist Library patrons by connecting them with the appropriate social service agencies and resources as well as aid with job placement, health services, financial assistance, housing services, and more. In addition to one-on-one meetings, the interns also work closely with librarians to enhance programs that already exist.

“The Library provides a safe and welcoming space for all community members. As a social work intern my commitment is to honor the dignity of all people, especially those found in vulnerable situations,” said Hidalgo.

Hidalgo recalls aiding a patron who had lost all his personal documents and could not apply for a job or housing without the proper identification. Together, they were able to create an action plan and connect with the appropriate sources to receive a copy of the patron’s documents. Through the recovery of the documents the patron was able to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and other recovery services.  

“I have come to define my role as a community resources coordinator bringing awareness of these services to every patron walking in through the Library doors, empowering them to reach a higher quality of life. My desire, along with community partners and library staff, is to provide a one-stop shop model in which patrons can access resources for education, emergency services, employment, family matters, health improvement, and immigration,” said Hidalgo.

Hidalgo is available at the Somerville Library branch for assistance Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

At the North Plainfield Library branch, Coghlan has assisted literacy volunteers by bringing social service information to English conversation classes. She primarily assists individuals with job searches and resume building, as well as introduces patrons to available services in the community and connects them to the agencies that can directly assist them.

“Individuals come in to the Library everyday looking for various kinds of information. It is important that individuals who might need community services are made aware of how many resources exist within these communities. Even if I am unable to directly assist an individual, I have the resources to find the necessary information so that the individual can be assisted,” said Coghlan.

Coghlan interns at the Bound Brook and North Plainfield branches on Mondays from 1-6 p.m. and North Plainfield branch on Thursdays from noon – 5 p.m.

“Libraries are no longer places to just check out books,” said Cindy Mangel, SCLSNJ’s Bound Brook branch manager. “Having the services of a social work student available to our patrons is an example of how libraries are changing and expanding services.”

Connect with a social services intern:

SCLSNJ’s Somerville Library branch

35 West End Avenue in Somerville
Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

SCLSNJ’s Bound Brook Memorial Library branch

402 E High Street in Bound Brook
Mondays, 1-6 p.m.

SCLSNJ’s North Plainfield Memorial Library branch

6 Rockview Avenue in North Plainfield
Thursdays, noon – 5 p.m.

For more information:

  • SCLSNJ’s Bound Brook Memorial Library branch:  908.458.8410
  • SCLSNJ’s North Plainfield Memorial Library branch: 908.458.8435
  • SCLSNJ’s Somerville Library branch: 908.458.8445