Staff training

“Having library staff informed about trauma, so they can make the library as trusted, welcoming and supportive a place as possible, plus having social work students who can help connect people with services they need throughout the community, will be a novel and powerful combination” – UGA School of Social Work Dean Anna Scheyett (ARLS).

Needs assessments of library staff often indicates their desire to develop greater knowledge of how to best meet challenges to which they often feel ill-equipped.  The common refrain that “I am not a social worker” (Westbrook) can be addressed by allowing MSW students to provide or facilitate workshops and training for staff on issues such as:

  1. Mental Health Training
  2. Mandated reporting requirements
  3. Crafting policies and procedures for responding to patrons-in-need (Giesler)
  4. Trauma informed care (TIC)
    • Athens-Clarke County Library received a $150,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) “to partner with the University of Georgia School of Social Work to become a trauma-informed library...the grant-funded partnership will enable the Athens-Clarke County Library to become the first specialized trauma-informed library in the state and one of a few in the nation” (ARLS).
    • Elissa Hardy of Denver Public Library discusses how their social workers train library staff not only in trauma informed systems of care and resiliency, but how trauma can affect librarians as well (Hardy; Public Libraries Online).
    • Overview of TIC compiled by the Public Library Association Social Work Task Force

A significant part of the Kitchener Public Library intern’s tasks involve “training staff members to be able to find the proper resources for people coming in with questions” (Bueckert).

Students at the Los Angeles Public Library have provided trainings to staff on de-escalation tactics with potentially disruptive patrons.  Other forms of crisis intervention training could also be covered.

“A lot of what we do is support and training for staff,” Hardy says, guiding them in self-care, training them to deal with mental health emergencies, and teaching them to apply a trauma-informed approach to their work. “We talk about the intersections of mental health, substance use and trauma,” Hardy says. “It increases compassion and understanding” (GSSW News).


Athens Regional Library System [ARLS]. (2018). Athens-Clarke County Library receives Library Community Catalyst Grant. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from

Berk, J. (2014). Mental Health Training in Public Libraries. Public Libraries, 53(6), 34–37.

Brandeis, A. (2017, June 6). San Diego librarians undergo “Mental Health First Aid” training. Retrieved from

Bueckert, K. (2017, January 15). Why changes to how people use KPL means a social worker is a necessary resource. CBC News. Retrieved from

Friedheim, N. (2017, February 9). Libraries Struggle With A New Role: Social Services Center. Retrieved from

Giesler, M. A. (2017). A place to call home?: A qualitative exploration of public librarians’ response to homelessness. Journal of Access Services, 14(4), 188–214.

GSSW News. (2018, June 26). Library Social Work: GSSW Adjunct Prof. Elissa Hardy is helping to define a new social work specialty. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from

Hardy, E. (2019, February). Balancing Books and Social Issues: Homelessness and Trauma. [Webinar]. Retrieved from

Hardy, E. (2018). Social Workers in Public Libraries – Serving Persons Experiencing Homelessness [Online recording]. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from

Hardy, E. (2017, January). Trauma Informed Services in the Library [Webinar]. Vimeo. Retrieved from

Millweard, C. (2017, November 17). Georgetown library offers social services, along with books. KVUE. Retrieved from (Note: no mention here of interns conducting mental health training with library staff).

Public Library Association Social Work Task Force. (2019). Overview of trauma informed care. Public Libraries. Retrieved from

Schencker, L. (2018, October 27). Homeless people in the library? Chicago, suburban libraries turn to social workers for help. Retrieved October 28, 2018, from

Throgmorton, K. (2017, March 1). Mental Health First Aid. Retrieved from

University of Denver. (2018, June 27). GSSW Adjunct Prof. Elissa Hardy is helping to define a new social work specialty. Retrieved from

Westbrook, L. (2015). “I’m Not a Social Worker”: An Information Service Model for Working with Patrons in Crisis. The Library Quarterly, 85(1), 6–25.

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