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Trauma-Informed Libraries

Trauma-Informed Libraries


This guide was originally published as a capstone project for the New York Library Association's Developing Leaders Program in early 2020. Members of the group were Catherine Brenner, Team Leader for Programming and Community Engagement at Bethlehem Public Library; Elizabeth Putnam, Head of Adult Services at the East Greenbush Community Library and previously Social Sciences Librarian at Skidmore College; Emily Spinner, clinical medical librarian at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, NY, secretary of the board of trustees for CDLC, member of the Schenectady County Community Work Group for Trauma-Informed Care and the Schenectady Coalition for a Healthy Community. Previously she was a grants librarian at a healthcare consulting firm; Meghan Wakeman, Resource Sharing Librarian at the CDLC. She previously worked at Albany Public Library for nearly 10 years.

Starting in November 2020, CDLC will be maintaining and updating content.

About Trauma-Informed Libraries

In recent decades, the role of libraries in our communities have shifted. No longer are they just places for people to quietly study and browse endless shelves of books. According to A. Issaac Pulver, Director of the Saratoga Springs Public Library, “'Libraries have gone from places of solitude to real community spaces where people gather to learn together.'" [1]

With this transition to a community space has come some unanticipated developments. As Karen Bradley, Director of the Schenectady County Public Libraries, said in a recent interview, "' Libraries seem to be the most trusted institutions in this country at this time so [people] come to us for everything. . . . People come in very stressed... People are really struggling and looking for assistance.'" [1] Increasingly, public libraries have acted as impromptu day shelters for people experiencing homelessness, and a startling number of patrons experiencing substance use disorders have overdosed. Most librarians and library staff have had limited formal training in dealing with these sorts of social issues, which can lead to stress and burnout.

The purpose of this guide is to provide information and resources for librarians and library staff on how to create a trauma-informed approach to library services to help them meet the needs of their community, while also providing support and training for them to maintain their own wellness when interacting with patrons experiencing trauma.


[1] Nash, Indiana. (2019, January 19). "Way beyond books: How libraries have changed." The Daily Gazette. Retrieved from:

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