Resources for Social Work and Library Collaboration
Library staff are known for their resourcefulness and commitment to adapting to help community members in need. But as the scope of library services has expanded to address complex social needs that aren’t being met elsewhere, it can feel overwhelming. Increasing natural disasters, social program budget cutbacks, the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis, housing and food insecurity—these are all issues that have deeply affected our community members and brought them through the doors of our libraries in search of resources.
To address these changing needs, many libraries are seeking the help of social work and are partnering with social workers in different ways. Social workers can contribute by developing programs to help patrons as well as training to support staff. Some libraries even embed social workers within their branches, to meet patrons where they are.
Explore these resources to learn how partnering with social workers can benefit library staff and the people they serve.
Examples of library-social work collaborations
- Why your local library might be hiring a social worker—NPR (2022)
- A Social Worker Walks into a Library—American Libraries (2018)
- Libraries and Social Workers—Perfect Partners—Social Work Today (2020)
- Beyond Books—Library Social Workers Build Trust, Share Resources—KRCC (2019)
Explore these resources for library-social work collaboration
- Whole Person Librarianship – The Hub for Library Social Work Connection includes resources such as training and consulting services, news, links to groups, and a map that features libraries that employ library-social work connections.
- Public Library Association, Social Work Interest Group and Social Worker Task Force
- Guidance for Social Work Positions at the Library provides an overview of areas to consider when creating a library social work collaboration. Public Libraries Online (2021)
- Public Library-Based Social Work Field Placements: Guidance for Public Libraries Planning to Become a Social Work Practicum Site. Public Library Quarterly (2022)
Learn more with these webinars and presentations
- Social Work Approaches to Library Services—this WebJunction webinar explores how a range of social work approaches can be applied to help improve library services (2022).
- What is Library Social Work?—This presentation by the National Association of Social Workers provides an introduction to library-social work collaboration (2021).
- Social Work Students and Public Library Partnerships—This WebJunction webinar recording provides information about how libraries can collaborate with social work interns and programs to provide critical services to community members, as well as training and support for library staff (2020).
- Whole Person Librarianship: Fostering Empathy in Challenging Times—This WebJunction webinar introduces the concept of Whole Person Librarianship, which draw from social work concept to help library staff become more confident in learning from, interacting with, and serving diverse patrons (2017).
- Where Compassion Meets Action: California State Library Mental Health Initiative Webinar Series—a California State Library Mental Health Initiative Webinar Series (2019). These webinars are all available via the WebJunction Course Catalog, including: Preventing and Treating Compassion Fatigue with Self-Care and A Trauma-Informed Lens Changes What You See.
Crunched for time? Listen and learn on the go with these podcasts
- What is Library Social Work?—A short introduction to library social work from the NASW Social Work Talks Podcast (2019)
- How Rochester's public library is erasing the stigma attached to asking for help—An interview with library social worker Allison Carpenter about her work at the Rochester Public Library (2022)
- San Diego News Fix: Central Library hires a social worker to help homeless patrons (2022)
- FYI Podcast: Social Workers in Public Libraries – Serving Persons Experiencing Homelessness (2018)
- FYI Podcast: Whole Person Librarianship (2019)
Explore more reading on libraries and social work
- Public Libraries Online—Social Work in Libraries Column
- Social Work Students & Public Libraries, a website that promotes collaboration between social work student interns and public libraries
- Social Workers in the Library: An Innovative Approach to Address Library Patrons’ Social Service Needs—an article that evaluates the first Social Worker in the Library (SWITL) program
- Partnering for social justice: Social work students’ placement at public libraries. Sarah C. Johnson. Book chapter in S. Epstein & V. Gubnitskaia (Eds.), Social Justice and Activism in Libraries: Essays on Diversity and Change (2019)
- MSW Interns and Public Libraries: Enhancing services through interdisciplinary collaboration. Sarah C. Johnson, Public Services Quarterly (2019)
- “Spending a Year in the Library Will Prepare You for Anything" Experiences of Social Work Interns at Public Library Field Placements, Sarah C. Johnson, Margaret Ann Paauw, and Mark Giesler, Advances in Social Work (2023)