Chera Kowalski: The critical role librarians play in the opioid crisis
Chera Kowalski is championing the transformation of her library into a safe, responsive space for the community it serves. Full bio
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neighborhood public library,
to help you find your next favorite book
on a topic at interest.
the reference desk with Narcan,
overdosing on heroin or fentanyl.
about community support
to kids and teens even.
takes on new urgency
of an opioid and overdose crisis.
of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
communities in Philadelphia,
from resources and opportunity.
drug trade and drug use for decades.
garnered a reputation
in direct contact
and use on a daily basis.
visibly intoxicated on opioids:
to ask them if they are OK,
on our property and throughout the park.
to come into the library
someone injecting on our front steps,
because kids see them.
of intoxication and withdrawal,
to sensationalize Kensington.
this is the reality of a community
to move forward,
employment and more.
when the drug trade and use
of life in the neighborhood.
has only amplified that stress.
by the Free Library in 2013,
to grow up in an environment
shapes the everyday,
those personal experiences
grow in Kensington.
we were just not prepared.
of IDs we were seeing:
Ohio, South Carolina, Alabama
and longer in our public restroom,
more attention to the restroom
to use drugs just purchased.
so badly in the restroom,
our library for two days
was discarded needles.
container for the restroom,
quickly approved installing one
in the park for days, weeks.
on a sunny, warm day
in various states of intoxication
by Teddy on a monthly basis skyrocketed
and the playground.
walking in and out of the building
overdose and die came close.
occurred after school,
noise and commotion.
from inside the public restroom.
we found a man on the floor, unresponsive.
in plain sight of everyone --
and teens downstairs,
the ambulance in the park.
it was all we could do.
this man lose air --
have witnessed an overdose on opioids,
on the chances of this person surviving.
of naloxone through injection.
like he was electrocuted,
for time on the computers,
because of the waiting.
that reminded me so well of my childhood.
both of my parents began using heroin.
the weight of their secret --
so-called "normal" out of our lives.
at our grandparent's house,
that I was never going to see them again.
at a house, at a store,
to work now to McPherson --
are trying to score drugs.
to control what was going on around me,
I started smoking,
experiences with drugs and alcohol.
would be my future.
for me and my siblings,
that brought me to McPherson.
of that feeling of helplessness
to be supportive to others.
to the needs of their communities,
to the needs of our community.
access to this lifesaving tool.
from Prevention Point Philadelphia
to save someone's life.
on a front bench.
and barely breathing.
slapping her in the face
on a daily basis,
like they were visibly upset or in shock,
of what just happened
I'd be saving anybody's life ever,
that this should never be normal,
is not just about those living
goes well beyond those living with this
in crisis before this
with the neighborhood can think of why:
to properly fund schools,
this community out of crisis.
attention to Kensington.
with the resources we have
whatever help we can
safe and healthy
have always been more than just books.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERChera Kowalski - Librarian
Chera Kowalski is championing the transformation of her library into a safe, responsive space for the community it serves.
Why you should listen
Chera Kowalski is revolutionizing the way public resources are meeting the needs of the communities they serve. As the Adult Teen Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s McPherson Square Branch, this often means saving lives.
After witnessing drug overdoses firsthand at her library and the nearby park, Kowalski volunteered to receive training in overdose defense through Prevention Point Philadelphia and now advocates for training for other librarians and community members to learn how to administer naloxone -- a life-saving drug that reverses the effects of opioids -- to people in distress. Motivated by her personal experiences as the daughter of parents who have maintained recovery from opioid use, Kowalski is transforming her library into a safe, responsive space for her community that is able to help people with whatever they need in a supportive, judgment-free way. Kowalski is a graduate of Temple University's College of Liberal Arts and the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences.
Chera Kowalski | Speaker | TED.com