NYLA 2018 | Keynote Address

Leah Esguerra and Jennifer Keys

Thursday, November 8
9:00 - 10:15 AM

Our Voices Together:  How Conversations Create Change

Everything changed when an urban library program began working in tandem with a professional social worker…

In 2009, the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Department of Public Health entered into an innovative program that started with an unusual partnership. This pairing resulted in the placement of a licensed social worker at the Main Library to link homeless patrons to housing and social services. Collaborative efforts between an urban public library and community-based organizations were instrumental in achieving new breakthroughs with an underserved population of patrons that librarians traditionally struggled to assist.  Plus, a job-training component was added, providing opportunities for people who were formerly homeless to return to the work force. Library outreach worker Jennifer Keys' own captivating story of resilience will inspire you to address issues of homelessness, poverty, and life challenges that many of our patrons face each day.

About the Speakers

Leah Esguerra is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). She is the nation's first full-time library social worker.  Esguerra was hired by the San Francisco Public Library in 2009 to do outreach to patrons in need of social services.  She is also an employee of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.  Prior to working at SFPL, Leah worked at a community mental health clinic in San Francisco for eight years providing treatment and intensive case management services to the homeless and severely mentally ill population.  She also worked at a domestic violence shelter in San Francisco for four years as a Child Therapist/Children's Advocate. She has assisted over a thousand library patrons with their social service needs since 2009. The library social service team under Leah's supervision has become a national model for libraries seeking to provide services to its patrons who are experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, and other life challenges. 
Jennifer Keys has been a Health and Safety Associate since May 2017 at the San Francisco Public Library.  She has been instrumental in linking over a hundred library patrons with community resources.  While working at a HASA at SFPL, she has successfully completed a course in Peer Counseling and is now a Certified Peer Specialist.