Despite the growing number of partnerships in North America, only a small (yet growing) body of scholarly literature discusses the collaboration between social work student interns and public libraries.

There is a growing chorus of public librarians are voicing their interest in hosting social work professionals and interns. Attendance at professional workshops and panels have been known to reach standing room capacity.  Additionally, coverage in the local and national press captures this emerging partnership.

While no official tallies exists, the professional networking group Whole Person Librarianship currently exceeds 450 members comprised of MSW students, field educators, professional librarians, and social workers.

“…a highly trained social work intern who is able to connect these patrons to the social services could improve their lives. (MSW intern) Josue Hidalgo has been extremely valuable in this regard. He has also enlightened staff to the issues of our patrons and how we can help them. The social work intern program through Rutgers is exactly what I hoped it would be. It has been very successful.” – Doug Poswencyk, Branch Manager of the Somerville Library, cited in NASW New Jersey Chapter Newsletter (see Brody et al, 2018).


Aykanian, A., Morton, P., Trawver, K., Victorson, L., Preskitt, S., & Street, K. (2020). Library-based field placements: Meeting the diverse needs of patrons, including those experiencing homelessness. Journal of Social Work Education, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2020.1723757

Brody, S., Arthur, J., & Montague, K. (2018, June). A note from the librarian’s desk. NASW New Jersey Chapter Newsletterhttps://cdn.ymaws.com/www.naswnj.org/resource/resmgr/focus2018-2/online_focus_-_june_2018.pdf

Johnson, S. C. (2018, June). MSW interns at public libraries: Fostering collaboration for change. Presented at the National Association of Social Workers annual conference, Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://academicworks.cuny.edu/hc_pubs/452/

Johnson, S. C. (2019, In press). MSW Interns and Public Libraries: Enhancing services through interdisciplinary collaboration. Public Services Quarterly, 15(1), 13-23. https://doi.org/10.1080/15228959.2018.1541332

Johnson, S. C. (2019, In press). Partnering for social justice: Social work students’ placement at public libraries. In S. Epstein & V. Gubnitskaia (Eds.), Social Justice and Activism in Libraries: Essays on Diversity and Change. McFarland Publishing.

Kelley, A., Riggleman, K., Clara, I., & Navarro, A. E. (2017). Determining the need for social work practice in a public library. Journal of Community Practice, 25, 112–125. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705422.2016.1269380

Levinson, R. W. (1988). New I&R teams in library-based services: Librarians, social workers, and older volunteers. In M. S. Middleton & B. Katz (Eds.), Information and referral in reference services (pp. 121–134). Philadelphia, PA: Haworth Press. NOTE: This is the earliest material I have found.  This book chapter discusses a 1984 collaboration between student interns from Adelphi University’s School of Social Work, Long Island University’s  Library and Information Science, and Nassau County Public Library (NPL). Forty student interns participated in a Senior Connections program at 22 NPL branches.

Luo, L., Estreicher, D., Lee, P. A., Thomas, C., & Thomas, G. (2012). Social workers in the library: An innovative approach to address library patrons’ social service needs. Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries, 1, 73–82. http://www.qqml.net/

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. Advance online publication.  https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2020.1730738

Provence, M.A. (2018). From nuisances to neighbors. Advances in Social Work, 18, 1053–1067. https://doi.org/10.18060/22321

Schweizer, E. (2018). Social workers within Canadian public libraries: A multicase study (Master’s thesis). https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/106632

Vega, H. (2019). Public libraries and homelessness: Connecting vulnerable patrons to community resources (UMI No. 13811049) (Master’s thesis). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.

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

Zettervall, S. K., & Nienow, M. C. (2019). Whole person librarianship: A social work approach to patron services. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.