Needs assessments

At the outset of one’s MSW internship at the library, the first assignment a student can undertake is evaluating the needs of both the (1) library staff and (2) library patrons. The objective is to begin with what the specific library community raises as its own needs.  Relevant services and programming can develop based needs voiced by the patrons and staff themselves.

Tools for conducting needs assessments.

  • In their book, Whole person librarianship: A social work approach to patron services, Sara Zettervall and Mary Nienow (2019) provide a template Community Needs Assessment (as well as a Sample Staff Survey).
  • City of Azusa. (2018). Neighborhood Connections Toolkit. 
  • Elmhurst Public Library (IL) provides their needs assessment form online. For patrons uncomfortable with or unable to fill out the anonymous form, its suggested they reach out in person to the library’s social work intern.
  • In 2015, Alanna Kelley and Adriana Navarro discussed Azusa Pacific University student (MSW) internships at Azusa Public Library.  Their slides provide the tool used during the students’ work with APL.
  • Deborah Estreicher of San Jose Public Library spearheaded one of the first library-university partnerships in the US.  Her presentation highlights an assessment tool used by San Jose State University (SJSU) social work students in 2008 at Dr. Martin King Jr. Library in San Jose, CA. Their assessment of both SJSU students and members of the public was crucial in launching their Social Worker in the Library Program in 2009.

“With this internship,” says Perez, “I learned about ‘community needs assessment’; I made many network connections; I developed a passion for community development, and, in particular, for Long Branch.”  David Perez, former MSW library intern and New Jersey’s first Social Work Librarian (Harmon, 2017).


City of Azusa. (2018). Neighborhood connections toolkit. Retrieved November 9, 2018, from

Elmhurst Public Library. (2018).  Social Services Needs Assessment.  Retrieved October 27, 2018, from

Estreicher, D., Lee, P. A., Thomas, G., & Thomas, C. (2013). Social Workers in the Library: Providing Free Social Service Information and Referrals to the Community Through the San José Public Library. Retrieved from

Harmon, M. (2017, June 21). A cut above the rest. Retrieved June 1, 2018, from

Kelley, A., & Navarro, A. E. (2015). Social Work in the city library: A new frontier for transforming lives. Presented at the NACSW Convention, Grand Rapids, MI. Retrieved from

Zettervall, S. K., & Nienow, M. C. (2019). Community needs assessment (Appendix B). In Whole person librarianship: A social work approach to patron services (pp. 137–142). Retrieved from

Zettervall, S. K., & Nienow, M. C. (2019). Sample staff survey (Appendix E). In Whole person librarianship: A social work approach to patron services (pp. 153–155). Retrieved from

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