Managing the Maze - Part 2


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The world of social services can be a bewildering maze for the vulnerable populations it seeks to serve – ex-offenders, returning veterans, the homeless, immigrants, and people with disabilities. With a community resource guide, public libraries become local information clearinghouses. Make a difference in your community! Using a real-life model, learn how to compile, print, and distribute a highly accessible resource that points toward housing, jobs, education, medical help, transportation…and even the library!

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  • Quick intros
  • Melanie - So where do you get the information to put in your resource guide? Let’s start with a definition of “social services,” because that will help you better understand the maze of potential resources out there, what they do, and who they serve.
  • EricaCONDENSEFirst, let’s define “social services.” As we’ve said, we zeroed in on services relating to prisoner reentry. This cluster of information needs is consistent nationwide, verified by prison case managers, parole officers, charitable organizations serving prisoners, and offenders and ex-offenders themselves. Don’t assume that you know what the information needs of your target population are – get verification from the people themselves, analyze the questions they’re asking you in the library, check with local churches or charitable agencies you know about that serve the target population.
  • MelanieGathering information about the agencies you’ll include really is like navigating a maze. I don’t have a nice, neat formula for you to work from. I felt more like a journalist or an investigator than I librarian while I was doing this work, but make some recommendations as to how to how you get started.I put myself in the shoes of the ex-offenders, and sort of tried to go through the motions of what it would be like to seek resources if I had just been released from prison. Obviously this was kind of difficult because I had abundant resources, access to the internet, several computers -- so it was slightly different, but I wanted to identify barriers to ex-offenders getting the information they might need.Where do you start?Start at the library! Does your library have an outreach department? Maybe talk to people that work in the computer lab, who make referrals to job-seekers or the homeless. And put your own reference skills to work. One of the first people I talked to was the Outreach Coordinator at Pueblo City-County Library. Outreach people have a good understanding of which agencies can help the people you’re writing the guide for. You can also start withagencies that you know provide social service, like United Way, Big Brothers/Sisters, or the biggest church in the neighborhood. Even if they don’t work specifically with the population you’ve targeted, they know someone who does. We began with a pre-release specialist from DOC. She’s one of the people who works with inmates while they’re incarcerated, to help them come up with a plan for what to do when they’re released. She referred me to a colleague who assists offenders after they are released. We also could have started with a parole office, for example.Probably the very first place you visit, you’ll get a piece of paper or a booklet containing the names and phone numbers of other agencies that provide related services. I got one at just about every agency I visited. Your work then, will be to determine which of those agencies you want to include in the resource guide, as well as making sure there aren’t any that don’t appear on a list, but that you’d like to include.
  • Once you’ve identified agencies you’d like to contact, prepare for making contact with them.If you can dig up an email address, start there. There are advantages to sending an email rather than calling out of the blue.You can explain what you’re doing without taking people off guardYour contact people will have time to prepare for a phone callAn email can be forwarded, so you don’t have to repeat yourself 2 or 3 timesYou can print an email for your records
  • But sometimes you have to start with a phone call:Prepare a script. I said something like: “Hi, my name is Melanie Colletti, and I am a graduate student in library school at the University of Denver. I’m working on a project with the Colorado State Library to create a list of agencies that assist ex-offenders living in Pueblo. Is there someone there I could talk to who might be able to help me with that?Sometimes I’d get dead silence for a second on the other end of the phone. Or I’d get a bunch of questions in return: “Now who are you with?” “What exactly are you doing?” Be prepared to answer those questions. And remind people that you’re trying to make the process easier, not just for you’re the population of people you’ve identified, but for the agencies themselves.
  • Your best research tools will be the referrals you get from agencies themselves, but you can fill in the blanks by doing some homework.Google search Google “social services” and your city and state, and see what you come up with. Or if you have the name of a specific agency, Google that. Do some research if you can before you make contact. Google “ex-offenders” if that’s your focus, or “homeless services” – whatever population you’re hoping to serve. If you find some agencies’ websites, check them frequently as you work on the guide; contact information and addresses are sometimes ephemeral. I don’t know if any of you will try using the phone book, but if you do, again, try “social services.” You’re probably not going to find anything in the phone book that has been organized according to the population you’re targeting.Again, the best leads you’ll get will come from the social services agencies themselves.
  • There is some information that has to be included for every agency you list in your resource guide including:The agency’s name, address and telephone number, and the web address if a website exists
  • And additional content you can provide will make the resource guide more usable. Say you look at the name of an agency on a list, and the agency is described as providing medical assistance. What could that mean? It could mean that they assist with payment of existing medical bills. It could mean that they provide medication for HIV patients. It could mean they provide healthcare for children. By describing the specific service an agency provides, you add value to the guide.Eligibility was crucial in the case of ex-offenders because often a Colorado ID is required (which can be difficult for ex-offenders to obtain). Sometimes a referral from a re-entry specialist or parole officer is required to get services. Regardless of the population you’re writing for, eligibility could be an issue.Some agencies have not-so-normal hours of business because of the services they provide. Especially volunteer-run agencies can be open just a few days a week, so listing operating hours is important.
  • Illustrations are great because they break up text, and point people with low English literacy skills in the direction of the content they need. We used simple, universal symbols.Maps are great, but they take up space, which means additional pages and additional cost. We did not include maps.We chose to include at least one bus route that would provide access to almost every agency in the guide. Providing this information eliminates a barrier that might prevent someone from
  • Staff turnover can be high in social services and charitable agencies – better to include a person’s title or the name of the appropriate department, if you must
  • Quick intros
  • Managing the Maze - Part 2

    1. 1. Managing the Maze:<br />Creating a Community Resource Guide for Ex-Offenders<br />and Other At-Risk Populations<br />PART 2 of 3<br />Melanie Colletti<br />Librarian <br />Community Technology Center, Denver Public Library<br />Erica MacCreaigh<br />Correctional Libraries Senior Consultant<br />Colorado State Library, Department of Education<br />
    2. 2. Managing the Maze<br />
    3. 3. Defining “social services”<br />
    4. 4. Social services in a nutshellWhat does your target audience NEED?<br />Housing Employment<br />Transportation Identification documents<br />Clothing Government benefits<br />Child care Elder care<br />Medical care Mental health treatment<br />Immigrant/refugee assistance<br />
    5. 5. Making Contacts<br />
    6. 6. Approaching AgenciesEmail<br />The best way to start!<br />The message is clear<br />People have time to prepare<br />Can be forwarded to the appropriate contact<br />Can be printed and kept for records<br />
    7. 7. Approaching Agencies Telephone<br />Prepare a script for the “cold call”<br />Be prepared to answer questions about your work<br />Document the gist of the conversation for your records<br />
    8. 8. The Interview<br />What services do you provide?<br />Do you actively assist this population? Or, who do you serve?<br />Who is eligible for your services? Who is ineligible?<br />How should someone prepare for a visit to your agency?<br />What is the best way for a potential client to contact you?<br />
    9. 9. The Interview<br />Is there a specific department that clients should contact for services?<br />Can you refer me to another agency that works with this population (or provides this service)?<br />Do we have your permission to include you in the resource guide?<br />
    10. 10. Research Tools<br />Google search<br />Agency websites<br />Phone book<br />
    11. 11. Essential Content<br />Agency name<br />Address(es)<br />Phone number(s)<br />URL<br />
    12. 12. Optional Content<br />Brief description of services provided<br />Brief description of eligibility requirements<br />Operating hours<br />
    13. 13. Optional Content<br />Illustrations<br />Maps<br />Public transit directions to each agency<br />
    14. 14. Avoid Listing People’s Names<br />Use their titles instead<br />
    15. 15. Tricks and Tips<br />Collect, collect, collect!<br />Follow leads<br />Trust your instincts<br />
    16. 16. Keeping Track<br />Virtual or physical file cabinet<br />Virtual or physical address book<br />Virtual or physical notebook and journal<br />
    17. 17. Managing the Maze:<br />Creating a Community Resource Guide for Ex-Offenders<br />and Other At-Risk Populations<br />Continued in Part 3 of 3<br />Melanie Colletti<br /><br />Erica MacCreaigh<br /><br />