2023 Project: Putting research into practice

I’m excited to start on a new project this year alongside my co-researcher, and co-author, Dr. Beth Wahler. We’ve been chosen to help public libraries in New Jersey prepare for and implement a program for hiring social work student interns at their branches, beginning in the Fall of 2023. Starting this month, we will meet regularly with public librarians as well as social work field supervisors at Rutgers University (NJ). The aim of our meetings will be to prepare both library “task supervisors” and social work “field supervisors” about best practices for hosting social work students at public libraries. Throughout this nine month process, Dr. Wahler and I will develop and a toolkit and curriculum of best practices for hosting social work students. This will be an iterative process in which we will provide guidance and education based on our extensive research and, in turn, learn from our participants about their needs and strengths of how a partnership with social work students can help meet the needs of library patrons and library staff.

After laying the groundwork with both the library and social work supervisors, we will begin meeting with the social work students during the Fall 2023 semester in the same fashion: monthly meetings via Zoom; providing guidance and education; garnering questions and feedback from students; writing and editing the curriculum and toolbook as needed. We will continue to guide these students throughout the 2023-24 academic year.

The aim of this project, funded by the New Jersey State Library, is to refine best practices for hosting and working with social work student interns at public libraries. We aim to work alongside the students and their supervisors to help ensure successful placements.

For more information, check out: https://www.njstatelib.org/news/join-njsl-social-work-informed-library-services-in-new-jersey-for-an-information-session/

Presenting at CSWE 2022

This November, my co-researcher, Margaret Ann Paauw, LCSW, will be presenting initial findings from qualitative interviews we (with Dr. Mark Giesler) conducted with both social work supervisors and librarians who supervised social work students conducting their field placements in public libraries. If you will be at the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting in Anaheim, CA on November 12, check out Paauw’s session entitled The Experiences of Supervisors Overseeing Social Work Field Placements in Public Libraries Session: Reflections and Experiences or tune in online as a virtual attendee. Manuscript to follow (hopefully!) in 2023.

Feature Essay in Public Libraries Magazine

I’ve been researching and writing about social work students conducting their practicum placements in public libraries for several years now. While writing up my recent research for a peer-reviewed journal, a public librarian encouraged me to present my research to a wider audience, through an outlet such as PL Magazine. I’m happy to share that my article with Margaret Ann Paauw, LCSW, went to print recently. I want to acknowledge Dr. Mark Giesler from Saginaw Valley State University as well. He continues to be a partner in this work with Margaret Ann and I.


For librarians considering interns

Stemming from a publication in the journal of Social Work and recent presentation at CSWE, I’m pleased to announce that our* manuscript for Public Library Quarterly has been accepted for publication. You can download the pre-print version at the link below. This paper is directed towards public librarians considering their branch as a host site for social work practicum students.

Wahler, E.A., Ressler, J.D., Johnson, S.C., Rortvedt, C., Saecker, T., Helling, J., Williams, M.A., & Hoover, D. (2021). Public library-based social work field placements: Guidance for public libraries planning to become a social work practicum site. Public Library Quarterly. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/hc_pubs/689/

*Check out Dr. Beth Wahler’s new website Social Work in the Library

CSWE APM presentations & Announcement

This weekend I’ll be presenting my research with Dr. Beth Wahler (UNC-Charlotte) at the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting in Orlando, FL. Recorded presentations will also be made available to virtual registrants in the coming weeks and I will also upload our slides to my University’s repository soon.

I will also be sharing findings from my research with former social work library interns alongside Dr. Mark Giesler (Saginaw Valley State University) and Margaret Ann Paauw (Loyola University Chicago and Chicago Public Library). We are in the process of completing a manuscript on this research and will be submitting it for publication soon.

I’m am also excited to announce that I will teaching a new, four credit course entitled Social Work and Librarianship through the School of Information Studies at the University of Illinois. While the bulk of students will be from the “i School” (MLIS), a handful of seats will reserved for MSW students at U of I.

Another publication!

This research with Dr. Elizabeth A. Wahler et al. examines the self-identified psychosocial needs of library patrons at a large urban branch in the Midwest. It also looks at the needs of 194 patrons who sought assistance from social work students conducting their field placements at this particular branch.

Wahler, E. A., Provence, M. A., Johnson, S. C., Helling, J., & Williams, M. (2021). Library patrons’ psychosocial needs: Perceptions of need and reasons for accessing social work services. Social Work, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/swab032

Surveys for needs assessments


Beth Wahler, a faculty member of the Indiana University School of Social Work, has conducted needs assessments with a number of public libraries around the U.S. She has also partnered with social work programs at multiple universities to provide assistance to their students conducting needs assessments as part of their practicum.  Dr. Wahler is willing to share the staff and patron surveys she has used with other schools and libraries as needed.  She can be reached at bwahler@iu.edu.  For more info about her work, please see Wahler et al. (2019) and Provence et al. (2020). 


Wahler, E. A.,Provence, M. A., Helling, J., & Williams, M. A. (2019).  The changing role of libraries:  How social workers can help.  Families in Society, 101(1), 34-43.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1044389419850707

Provence, M. A., Wahler, E. A.,Helling, J., & Williams, M. A. (2020).  Self-reported psychosocial needs of public library patrons:  Comparisons based on housing status.  Public Library Quarterly.  https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2020.1730738

Link to webinar recording

Thank you to the hundreds of folks who logged in yesterday for the Social Work Students and Public Library Partnerships webinar.

Here is the link to the recorded webinar (YouTube), pdf slides, handouts, and list of Resources.

Please contact me with any updates on new collaborations, especially any updates on how your branch’s social work interns are navigating remote resource assistance for patrons.

Thanks again!