Public Libraries Tackle Drug Prevention

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On the surface, it seems like an unlikely venue for the premiere of a film about a community's drug culture.

But the Naperville Public Library in suburban Chicago is known for its commitment to the community.

And as a demonstration of that commitment, the 95th Street Library, at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, will hold a special free screening of a student-produced documentary, "Neuqua on Drugs."

The documentary, which depicts Naperville's youth drug culture, has been described by a local community news outlet as a "raw, uncut and an hour-and-a-half dose of reality."

According to the article, student filmmakers Kelly McCutheon and Neuqua Valley High School senior Jack Kapson will be on hand. They interviewed 25 high school students over the course of three months for the film. Copies of the DVD will also be available for purchase on the night of the screening.

"It's a very educated public that is very comfortable with libraries, that recognizes the value that libraries bring to the community," said the library's executive director, John Spears.

He said that extends to community institutions, noting that the library has found valuable partners in North Central College and the Naper Settlement, the DuPage Children's Museum and the Loaves & Fishes Community Food Pantry.

"We're very visible in the community," he said.

Earlier this year, the library hosted a drug forum that attracted 300 people to the 95th Street Library. It was so heavily attended that a second session had to be scheduled that evening to handle the overflow crowd.

"I think the library has a key role that it can play in any type of community education program," Spears said. "i think libraries need to stop shying away from some of the more controversial issues and topics. We’re here to be a forum for discussion, a forum for information and a forum for community involvement."

In the coverage by the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, one Naperville resident, Christie Volk, who attended with her two children, is quoted saying, "This was really good.” Holding a folder containing handouts, she said, “We’re going to go home, look through this folder with their daddy and talk about it. I’m convinced talking to them now and staying on them is the best way to not have to deal with these issues in our home.”

"When we did the initial heroin program," Spears said, "We had been approached by two different groups that were interested in doing more education in the community on the dangers of heroin especially.

"Those are programs in the past we might not have necessarily embraced quite as much. But it was definitely becoming a very serious issue in Naperville. We got the two groups together."

He said the library seats about 200. But between 700 and 800 showed up.

"It was an interesting experience having that many people in the library waiting around for a repeat of the program," Spears said. "Both the police department and the other organizations involved really see that as the awakening, if you will, in Naperville about the issues that surrounded the heroin use here."

You can view the forum on the library's website, which has a page devoted to resources for people interested in the issue.

For more information, visit "Neuqua on Drugs" Facebook page, or follow @NeuquaOnDrugs on Twitter.

Other libraries have responded to the issue of drug abuse in their communities. 

The Monmouth County Library in New Jersey held a drug forum that drew a crowd of 100 residents from all over the state.

According to an article covering the event, the presentation featured a panel of 12 professionals in the addiction field, inlcuding former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey.

The efforts by Naperville and Monmouth County dramatically illustrate how libraries serve their communities by addressing relevant issues.




Heroin syringe by Thomas Marthinsen
Heroin addicts put their syringes in trees to keep anyone from stepping on them.

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