Veterans are among the unique populations that public libraries serve. When it comes to benefits, our key act may be to refer people to the services available through the county and the federal government, and specific branches of service. Beyond that, library programs and resources are certainly a source for education, entertainment, and engagement.
Today I attended a program a Saint Johns Riverside Hospital called Pathways Home targeted toward clergy and other helping professionals (which I read as librarians!) designed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by veterans and their families, both upon re-entry and over time as the experiences of military life are fully integrated.
What stood out was a message about the isolation experience by veterans, which results in destruction of families, relationships, and – tragically – a growing rate of suicide among active-duty as well as returning troops. Some numbers give a sense of how the isolation happens – less than 1% of the population have ever served; while close to 2 million have been deployed in the last decade, when they return it is back to communities where few can relate credibly to the experience of service. Consider that in Westchester County, with a population of close to a million, there are an estimated 80,000 veterans.
So its possible to get lost in the crowd, which may be what an individual wants for a time. But when they want to reconnect and grow – which for us humans tends to happen in community – services that demonstrate awareness and that support privacy may be those that are turned to, which is what you’ll find in many churches and libraries.
Lots of good current research and public resources were shared at this meeting. Let me know if you’d like to find out about any of those.
Director, Office of Community Connections
Westchester Library System