Northborough library asks for ARPA funds for health, wellness projects


Northborough library asks for ARPA funds for health, wellness projects
Northborough Free Library recently requested ARPA funds for health and wellness projects. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – The Northborough Free Library is seeking a total of $27,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for health and wellness projects.

The funding requests went before the Select Board on Sept. 18.

While the Select Board voiced their support of the proposals, some of the members requested to wait on allocating the funds, wanting to wait until a building assessment came before the board and a chance to review other potential ARPA projects.

Ultimately, no vote was taken on allocating the funds.

Resource guide, consultant

Library Director Jenn Bruneau said the requests came out of her work through Be Well Northborough. As the Be Well Northborough working group was winding down their work, the Northborough Free Library was taking responsibility for some items that came up.

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The first request was for $7,000 for a limited reprinting of the Northborough Community Resource Guide, which was sent to all homes last year.

“When the library assumed responsibility for editing and updating the resource guide, what we realized very quickly was many of the pages were slightly out of date,” Bruneau said.

Among the updates was the creation of the 988 suicide and crisis hotline. In other cases, phone and crisis numbers changed and some of the groups have restructured.

The library has updated all of the entries, and Bruneau said they were working on a “better” online format of the guide.

Instead of sending the guide to all of the residents, Bruneau proposed a limited printing of the guide that would be available at Town Hall, the library, Senior Center and other locations. She also proposed printing magnets with a QR code directing people to the online version of the guide.

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The second request was for $20,000 for a consultant with a health and wellness background.

Since the pandemic, Bruneau said it became clear that the library was one of the places in the community that saw and served everyone.

The consultant would conduct a needs assessment, research and deliver a strategic plan centered on health and wellness initiatives.

This request is in response to an increase in the number of questions the library has been getting that library staff may not be trained to answer.

“For whatever reason, we are getting an increase in the number of people who are in crisis and need help right now,” Bruneau said.

Voicing her support, Select Board member Kristen Wixted noted that health, wellness and mental health programming was prioritized during an ARPA community meeting.

“I like this in some ways because … I view the library as the most retail-focused department within the town,” said Chair Mitch Cohen. “It is where people of all walks of life go to for all sorts of different things.”

This proposal would meet people where they already were, he said.

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Select Board member Lisa Maselli said she appreciated forward thinking, but her first tendency would be to call the health or police departments if she was in crisis. Maselli said she wondered if the resource guide would be better suited for Youth and Family Services.

Bruneau said the library has historically done resource curation.

“This resource guide specifically is something that is really in our wheelhouse,” she said.

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