Library Branches Provide Safe Havens for County Mental Health Staff

The hush of a branch is often what makes it an inviting space for patrons, and as it turns out, the setting is also beneficial for Johnson County mental health workers. 

As a Johnson County Mental Health case manager, Brian Young said many of the young adults he sees are nervous in busy social settings. 

But at the Library, he said, “It’s not fast-paced. It's not overwhelming. It's calming. Plus, it gets (the clients) out of the house.” 

Young and his case manager colleague, Amy Pixton, said meeting at the Library also allows their clients to take advantage of the collection. Pixton has one client who checks out video games — she is a fan of the fine-free policy — and another one who reads as a coping mechanism. And while they are at the Library, Pixton can introduce them to Library programming. 

“It’s nice because the schedule and everything is there. So you can just grab it and say, ‘Hey, this is going on. Is there anything here you’d like to participate in?’” 

The branches are also convenient waystations as the case managers shuttle between appointments. Usual stops include Central Resource, Cedar Roe, Gardner, Monticello and Spring Hill. Antioch is convenient for Pixton because she has a client who can come from their job at a nearby restaurant. 

Each case manager said it’s not unusual for them to stop off at branches upwards of four or more times a day. It’s not uncommon for them to bump into one of their colleagues coming or going. Pixton and Young also said the meeting rooms allow them to work on sensitive client material and make calls to physician offices if need be. 

One technological benefit is that they can connect quickly to the county computer network without the time-consuming workarounds needed at other public spots. Young and Pixton also said that at the Library, they avoid the pressure of having to buy something every time they pop in. 

Branches also offer a respite during a busy day. 

“Sometimes I just go and drink my coffee and stare at my phone and take a break — just to disconnect for a little bit,” Young said. 

Young is especially partial to the Monticello branch; at his suggestion, the whole young adult team had a retreat there a couple of summers ago. They reserved a back room and had a potluck breakfast before embarking on a morning of activities. It was easy to book the space, he said. 

Plus, he said, “It was not in the office, which is essentially where you don’t want to be when you’re trying to do a fun outing with your teammates. It doesn’t even feel like you’re at a library, to be honest.”