Chera Kowalski

The critical role librarians play in the opioid crisis

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About Chera Kowalski

Librarian Chera Kowalski is revolutionizing the way public resources are meeting the needs of the communities they serve. In her role as the Adult Teen Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s McPherson Square Branch, this often meant saving lives. After witnessing drug overdoses firsthand at her library and the nearby park, Chera 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, Chera is helping to transform libraries into safe, responsive spaces for their communities. Chera is a graduate of Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts and the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences. Currently, Chera serves as Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

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About This Talk

According to Chera Kowalski, "public libraries have always been more than just books." Chera sees libraries as civic institutions that must be able to respond to the needs of their communities. And at Philadelphia's McPherson Square Library, where Chera worked, responding to the needs of the community meant being trained and able to administer the overdose-reversing drug, Narcan. Watch Chera's 2017 TEDMED Talk to learn what it was like to work at a public library at the center of Philadelphia's opioid epidemic and why she believes that a library must serve as a judgement-free haven for the entire community.

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