Connection to Community Resources has never been easier

A Q&A with Marc Veloz, the library's Community Resource Specialist, about legal help, financial advice, and connecting to free resources in Lawrence, KS

 by Kayla Cook, Media Relations & Communications Specialist, feat. Marc Veloz, Community Resource Specialist

Q&A with Marc Veloz, Community Resource Specialist

Learn about how to get legal help, financial advice, and connect to free resources.

The Information Services department you're a part of kicked off 2024 with some helpful events. Can you give us a recap?

Oh my gosh, yes–The Assistive Technology Petting Zoo was really fun and a first-time event for us! People kept asking me why we called it a "petting zoo", and it’s because this event served as a hands-on opportunity for patrons to try out different assistive technology, devices, and softwares. Hence the “petting” part of our event title. We had 70 people join us for this event and it could not have happened without the help of 5 different partner organizations–Assistive Technology for Kansans, opens a new window, Independence Inc., opens a new window, The State Library of Kansas Talking Books Program, opens a new window, Kansas Audio-Reader Network, opens a new window, and NanoPac, opens a new window

All of these organizations showcased various types of devices and software, including modified telephones for Kansans with hearing difficulties. The State Library of Kansas was kind enough to send out an Outreach Librarian to demo and sign people up for their Digital Talking Book Player, which is a device that can be loaded with a cartridge allowing device users to listen to up to 35 books at a time. That service is available to Kansans who are unable to read or use standard printed materials due to visual or physical impairments and other reading disabilities. NanoPac and Independence Inc., featured large print keyboards, and screen magnifiers for those with low vision struggling to read print and digital materials. And lastly, we had the Kansas Audio Reader Network join to showcase their Amazon Alexa devices allowing on demand access to Audio Reader content for blind, visually impaired, and print disabled individuals. 

The Community Expungement Clinic is a biannual program, opens a new window offered through the Douglas County Legal Aid Society, opens a new window, which we have been a partner and host site for since Fall of 2022. For those who are unaware, Kansas Legal Services, opens a new window defines expungement as “the removal of an arrest or conviction from a person’s criminal record. When a person’s record is expunged, no information related to the arrest of conviction may be disclosed, with certain exceptions”. We’ve seen as many as 51 patrons attend these bi-annual clinics. You might ask, "Why does the Library want to play a role in such an event?”, and I would answer by saying we see it as part of our department’s mission to work closely with partner organizations like the Douglas County Legal Aid Society and the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, opens a new window to host these types of outreach events to help community members master the network of existing resources that can help them live their best lives. Keep an eye out in September for our next clinic!

What events related to Community Resources resonated most with the Lawrence community?

The Community Resource Fair in November is a huge draw for the Lawrence community. This annual event offers a space for connections, and a one-stop shop where people can get connected to services they need in order to thrive and meet their basic needs. In an amazing collaborative effort, our 3rd Annual Fair, opens a new window connected over 150 attendees with seventeen social service providers, and free resources like haircuts, warm winter gear (e.g., coats, gloves, hats, scarves), flu shots, COVID-19 vaccines, and of course books. It’s definitely a feel-good event, and I can’t wait to see what we make happen this year!

We’ve also seen consistent, steady attendance for our legal aid programs– rental security deposit workshops, community expungement clinics for those with personal criminal records, and assistance in preparing living wills and other advance directive documents. One legal aid outreach program that stood out in particular, was our Gender Marker & Name Change Clinic, held in a collaborative effort with Kansas Legal Services (KLS), opens a new window. That was a free clinic where KLS attorneys assisted Douglas County residents in getting their gender markers changed on Kansas birth certificates and IDs. We helped nearly 100 people in one night get their questions answered about this legal process. Lawrence community members have continued to show a high interest in these programs, and we hope to continue building off of that energy to offer more opportunities to connect with legal information and help.

Earlier in the year, we held a financial aid event related to the newly released FAFSA which resonated with current and prospective college students and their families. Our class in January, Navigating Financial Aid, was held in partnership with the University of Kansas (KU), opens a new window, Johnson County Community College (JCCC), opens a new window, and Lawrence Public Schools, USD 497, opens a new window. We had 2 speakers from KU and JCCC talk to families and students about the college application timeline and give an overview of the different types of institutional aid available to help fund college and vocational school education. They ended the class with an in-depth walk through of the new FAFSA application and how to fill that out. It was also an opportunity for us as Information Services Librarians to highlight library databases useful to families searching for scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities. We know FAFSA often dictates the types of financial aid packages a student can receive for their college education, and with the release of a brand new application process, it was invaluable to be able to offer an opportunity to answer people's questions and hear more about their challenges as they completed that form for the first time.

It sounds like the Community Expungement Clinic helped out a lot of folks. Are there any similar upcoming library events or similar library resources?

I’m glad you asked! We have a monthly program at the Library, our Community Resource Clinic, where we provide free consultations and research help to connect library patrons with the community resources they need to thrive. As a part of the program, I also have 3 to 5 local service agencies table in our Lobby with information about their programs and services. We developed this event to make it easier for folks already facing challenges to "connect the dots" and find the help they need in one place.

In addition to agency drop-in hours, our Information Services department plans to extend efforts in eliminating access barriers by partnering with the District Court Self-Help Center, opens a new window on a legal aid outreach program for the summer months. We’re still finalizing some details, but the plan is to have staff members from the Self-Help Center stationed at the library once weekly to offer our library patrons one-on-one assistance with with finding and completing legal forms for specific case types, providing family law and/or eviction education, and answering patron questions about legal information and processes to name a few. Keep an eye out on our website for additional information about dates and times!

Another event I’m excited about, which will take place in August of 2024, will focus on Student Loan Repayment Plans for current and future borrowers. We are fortunate to  have an Outreach Specialist from the Office of Federal Student Aid, opens a new window join us for a virtual presentation to talk about how to apply and qualify for Income Driven Repayment Plans, like the SAVE plan, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). Our presenter will also cover the latest updates in regards to student loan news and end the presentation with ample time for an audience Q&A.

In a Reader article, opens a new window, you mentioned a library patron you met returned a few months later. They shared acquiring a place to live and a job. Can you recall another patron experience where library resources made a positive impact on their life?

It’s interesting that you ask that. Starting in January of 2023, I began tracking the number of interactions (i.e., emails, phone calls, one-on-one research appointments) I was having with library patrons. In doing so, I was able to get a better understanding of the types of questions I was receiving and the most frequently sought after services and programs. One of the interactions that I can recall having a happy ending was a senior gentleman inquiring about legal assistance from an attorney who could help him to draft advance directive legal documents. That’s a service that can be very expensive. We were able to get him connected with information about the Elder Law Program through Kansas Legal Services (KLS), opens a new window, which offers legal advice, document preparation and limited case representation at no cost for Seniors 60 and older who reside in Kansas. When he returned to the library a few weeks later, he shared about his experience with KLS and how they were able to help him with drafting his legal documents for free. I remember that interaction putting a big smile on my face!

How has your role in Information Services evolved since 2022?

I’ve had an opportunity to partner with even more community organizations on programs and events for the public. A few that come to mind include a Driver’s License Restoration Clinic, NARCAN distribution and CPR training event, and Indigenous Law Panel

When I first entered into my role in Spring of 2022, a majority of the reference questions related to community resources that I received came from library staff and patrons. As I have developed relationships with non-profits in the area, I’ve begun to see an increase in the number of similar questions from external staff, primarily those from social service organizations reaching out on behalf of their clients. In fact, just this week I had staff from the Kansas Department of Community Corrections, opens a new window request to meet with me to discuss information regarding affordable housing options and programs for an individual releasing from the correctional system in August of 2024. I see this as a positive change, because part of this role is being that community anchor and developing relationships with providers working directly with underserved populations in need of information.

"Often, the people I am meeting with are in crisis and simply unaware of what exists or is available to them. Knowing where to turn makes all the difference and once someone knows the options available to them, they can feel more empowered to make an informed decision." – Marc Veloz, Community Resource Specialist

What can a patron or community partner expect when they meet with you?

That’s a good question! I like to make myself available in a variety of ways, including email, phone, and one-on-one research appointments. During these meets, my primary goal is to gather and share information about available resources to meet the person’s needs. Patrons will share with me what it is they are struggling with or looking for. It can be a question about who to contact for legal assistance, information about housing programs, resources for learning how to read, and anything in-between. Often, the people I am meeting with are in crisis and simply unaware of what exists or is available to them. Knowing where to turn makes all the difference and once someone knows the options available to them, they can feel more empowered to make an informed decision. I’ll also help to outline those steps for how someone would connect with a specific resource or provider. Sometimes it looks like calling an agency on a specific day of the week for an appointment, requesting to speak to a specific staff member at an agency, or filling out an application on a specific provider website. I think we are fortunate to work in a county where there are a lot of resources, but patrons often face barriers to access, such as lack of information, awareness, and eligibility.

Schedule an appointment with Marc.

What Community Partners have strengthened how Information Services is able to serve library patrons?

Oh man, that is a tough question. I think we’ve been fortunate to be able to partner with a wide variety of agencies on different types of events and projects. I’m thankful for the 19 service agencies who attended last year’s Community Resource Fair and for the many others who have participated in our Community Resource Clinics. Everyone involved with those two programs has been a champion of the library and is helping to promote our library services to the clients they serve. You’ve also heard Kansas Legal Services (KLS), opens a new window mentioned a few times, and I’d like to give them a big shout out for partnering with us on a variety of legal outreach programs. Lastly, I want to thank Johnson County Community College and the University of Kansas for helping our Library patrons to navigate the world of financial aid and the newly released FAFSA. 

Any inside info we can get on the November Community Resource Fair?

Nothing to share quite yet on that front, but we hope to bring back all of the things from last year with a couple new surprises!

One last question, Marc–What are you reading?

I’m currently reading Shift, the second book in the Silo series, which one of my co-workers covered extensively in her blog post. It was recently adapted to an Apple TV series, and I will admit that I watched the TV series first. However, the storyline was so enthralling that I had to start reading the book series, and I am now completely consumed by it.

About Lawrence Public Library
Lawrence Public Library (LPL for short) is a community hub that believes in the power of connecting with each other through shared knowledge and resources. Located in the heart of Downtown Lawrence, Kansas, we are committed to providing a space where our community can learn, connect, create, and grow through access to our vast collections, resources, services, programs, and knowledgeable staff. The library is supported by tax dollars, record-breaking book sales and philanthropic efforts by the LPL Friends & Foundation, and the dedicated efforts of more than 300 volunteers. All are welcome.



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