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  • Writer's pictureMarina Rose

Social Work in the Public Library

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Just over a week ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Public Library Association’s (PLA) biennial conference in Nashville, Tennessee. This was my first PLA conference, and I was not disappointed! The four-day conference offered a host of different sessions and guest speakers, as well as nearly 9,000 public librarians from around the nation (and even the world!).

View of Nashville, Tennessee

The theme for this year was Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, so the class sessions all related back to the theme. While I learned something from every session I attended, I was particularly interested in the session titled “Social Work Interns in the Public Library.” You might be thinking, “What does social work have to do with public libraries?” Well, I’m here to tell you!

Four arms linked by hands over each other's wrists

As hubs of information, with doors open to everyone in the community, public libraries are uniquely positioned to serve community members with more than checking out books. Library staff is often faced with questions such, “Where can I find a place to sleep tonight?” or “Can you help me write a resume so I can re-enter the job force?” Questions such as these, and the situations that accompany them, often fall outside of the traditional librarian realm and enter the realm of social work. While Caldwell is not considered an urban area, we have seen steady growth in the area as well as our fair share of social work issues. We want to provide the best possible service to our library users and community members. In order to do so, we partnered with Boise State University’s Service-Learning Program this semester.

The Service-Learning program places undergraduate social work students in organizations throughout the Treasure Valley. The benefits are two-fold: students gain valuable experience, and the organizations gain perspectives and assistance from the students. Our intern, Hailie, has been working with the library since the beginning of February to identify local resources and transportation options available, particularly transportation to those resources. She’s working alongside library staff to keep our resource binders up-to-date and identify resource/transportation needs in the area.

Hailie is also developing “walk-in” activities for kids and teens during the after-school hours when the library does not offer library programming. So far, she has helped kids get onto games on the computers and played board games with kids who want to try something else. This may not seem like much, but it’s a huge help when our library staff is busy assisting other users. Hailie’s big plans will roll out in April, so keep an eye out for new activities!

Although her internship only runs for a short time, we greatly appreciate the work Hailie has done and will continue to do for the library. If you’d like to see our current resource binders, or you have questions about transportation options in the area, please let us know! We also encourage you to watch for our Healing Library kits. Each of these kits has a theme, such as “Dealing with the Death of Loved One,” and is packed with resources and activities for families to heal from trauma together. Hailie will be helping us include local resources for these kits.

If you still have questions about the role that social workers and social work interns can play in libraries, check out this article from The New Social Worker, or drop by the library’s information desk during our open hours.

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