Despite the growing number of partnerships in North America, virtually no scholarly literature* exists about the collaboration between social work (MSW or BSW) student  interns and public libraries.

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 260 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.


*While I’m doing my part to fill the literature gap, the few exceptions I’ve found include:

Janis, J. (2018, June 11). Public Library Social Work: An Emerging Field. Retrieved November 1, 2018, from http://naswil.org/news/chapter-news/featured/public-library-social-work-an-emerging-field/

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). 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. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Social-Justice-Activism-Libraries-Diversity/dp/1476672032

*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(1), 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 (Vol. 21, pp. 121–134). Haworth.  NOTE: This is the earliest material I 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 (QQML), 1, 73–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705422.2016.1269380

NASW New Jersey Chapter. (2018). New Jersey Focus. NASW New Jersey Chapter Newsletter, XXVII(3), 24–25. Retrieved from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.naswnj.org/resource/resmgr/focus2018-2/online_focus_-_june_2018.pdf

Zettervall, S. (2018). Whole Person Librarianship. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://wholepersonlibrarianship.com/

Zettervall, S. (2018, June 17). WPL Pre-conference this Thursday! Retrieved from https://wholepersonlibrarianship.com/2018/06/17/wpl-preconference-this-thursday/