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Recognizing Library Social Workers During Social Work Month

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Libraries are the hub of the community. The doors are open to the public and people are welcome to come as they are; and in turn, library staff will meet them where they are to provide resources for their needs. Library staff do everything from helping patrons learn a new hobby, conduct research on their family history, assist during crisis situations, to develop networks of support and connections within the community.

“The earliest authenticated library, that of Pharaoh Ramses II, in the second millennium before our era, bore an inscription over its portals designating it as 'the house of healing for the soul.'

Knowledge of the inscription was made available to the Western world in the time of Caesar by Diodorus Siculus in his Greek History of the World, but it seems to have been unnoticed even by the keenest Roman bibliophiles. Finally, when the History was translated into Latin by Poggio in the fifteenth century, the significance of the unusual library motto began to make an impact upon scholars. It is mentioned by several Renaissance writers, and it was adopted by the Swedish Royal Library for its official bookplate. Then, in 1760, when the beautiful baroque library was built at St. Gall, the inscription, in Greek, was placed upon a scroll above the doors of the main hall where it remains a focal point of interest for present-day scholars." (Cora E. Lutz, The Library Quarterly, Volume 48, Number 1, Jan., 1978 Source: The University of Chicago Press Journals )


A Trauma-Informed Approach

Libraries are now applying a trauma-informed approach to library operations. Understanding the effects of trauma on the body, mind, and soul is important for all aspects of how libraries function. This approach is applied to library spaces, the services and programs that are provided, staff policies and resources, and partnerships created within the community.

“Taking on a social work perspective on human behavior support the purpose of a relationship-based reference collection and draws staff together into a common approach…. Being proactive and not reactive with patrons - that is taking the time and effort to foster empathy and humility in order to be prepared to manage challenging situations. Staff members who have a toolkit for understanding the different ways people move through the world are more welcoming to the community and also are more resilient and less likely to burnout from work related stress.” (Zettervall, S., Nienow, M. (2019) Whole Person Librarianship: A Social Work Approach to Patron Services, Library of Congress)

We took this approach literally. Within the Caseyville Public Library, you will now find hygiene kits, menstrual products in the restrooms, diapers, seeds, and school supplies. All of these supplies have been donated through supply drives, corporation sponsors, and from our Friends of the Library group.


Social Workers in Libraries

With this history and knowledge of libraries being healing spaces for the community, it makes perfect sense why more and more social work positions are being created within public libraries.

"Some of the many benefits of the collaboration of services: Libraries are...

- A safe space

- First point of contact

- Freedom to meet people where they are

- A fellow public entity

- A site for social service cross-pollination" (Zettervall, S., Nienow, M. (2019) Whole Person Librarianship: A Social Work Approach to Patron Services, Library of Congress)

Not only do the services align but also the Core Values between the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).


2009 - First social worker employed at San Francisco Public Library

2012 - Whole Person Librarianship was founded by Sara Zettervall

2017 - American Library Association added a fourth strategic direction: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

2018 - PLA developed the Social Worker Task Force

2019 - Over 36 libraries have social workers on staff

2022 - 93 partnerships and counting! Libraries around the globe now

have social workers available. A map was created to search all of the locations.

Tasks | Programs| Services for our Social Worker(s):

- Work Directly with Patrons

- Apply for Government Programs and Assistance, Job Applications and Resumes,

Referrals to Community Resources and Agencies

- Assist with Library Materials

- Social-Emotional Books, Resources, Displays, Kits, etc.

- Homebound Delivery | Outreach Events

- Organize Groups at Library

- Support, Grief, Recovery, Teen, Youth, etc.

- Coordinate Workshops and Trainings for Patrons & Staff

- Social-Emotional Support for Library Staff

- Organize Supply Drives

- Contribute to Library Blog, Newsletters, Press Releases


Making History

I am so fortunate to have fallen into this career which is now my passion. Having a social work background, the library board went outside the "normal" requirements of the director position and put their faith in me. I offer a new perspective to this field and I made it my mission to teach others the benefits of applying a trauma-informed approach to all businesses, non-profits, and local governments. I joined local tasks forces and committees, presented to local boards, became a speaker at conferences, in addition to guest lecturing at SIUE and U of I.

At the end of 2022, I learned that I was nominated for the President-Elect position for the ILA Board of Directors. This is the first time in over 20 years that a director from a library of a service population under 5,000 has been nominated for this position. ILA members can cast their votes starting April 1st.

I am absolutely honored to be nominated for this position and I will make sure to update everyone once the election is over.

CLICK HERE if you would like to read my candidacy statement.


Meet Bri!

Pop in to Caseyville Library and meet Bri, our SIUE MSW Student Social Worker! Get Connected to Community Resources, find counseling or rehabilitation services, get help with aid forms for housing utilities, food, and more!

Starting in April, Bri will be hosting a new group called Coffee & Conversation. This program is an open discussion series that provides a space for dialogue. The goal for this group is to have stimulating conversation or activities that bring together those in the community for a sense of belonging. Anyone is able to participate with an expectation of respect and understanding of others opinions.

If you would like to meet with our student social work, you can CLICK HERE to complete an intake form | Email: | or call 618-345-5848 to schedule a meeting time.


Celebrate Social Work Month

Since 1984, from March 1st to March 31st, social workers in the US are recognized for the contributions they have made to those around them, their communities, and the country at large. Each year the National Association of Social Workers creates a theme surrounding the month that addresses a social issue to make it educational as well. This year’s theme is Social Work Breaks Barriers. The theme was chosen because of the work that is carried out by social workers and their influence to break down the barriers that someone may be facing in life that prevents them from prospering.

Social work is defined as “work carried out by trained professionals with the aim of helping people who have social disadvantages or personal problems.” But to the thousands of social workers across the country, it is so much more. The shared common goal is to do as much good as possible for others. This can be done many different ways. Social work is a diverse profession with social workers in many areas such as schools, hospitals, the criminal justice system, veteran centers, libraries, state, local and federal governments, and many others. A single social worker can influence and help shape an entire life.

Show Your Support

There are ways that you can help celebrate social workers and the contributions they make every day. By tagging and promoting social workers in social media you can celebrate from anywhere! Use hashtags such as #socialworkers and #SWmonth along with a picture celebrating a social worker in your life or your community. You can thank a social worker in your life and let them know how they have impacted you. Showing appreciation is a small but impactful message. You can also donate to social work organizations such as the NASW and the Social Work Disaster Assistance Fund. These organizations and many others support the work that social workers do everyday and so can you! Just like a social worker, you can make a difference and impact the lives of others. Be the good that you wish to see in the world!

“This social work month I challenge you to do as much good as you can for those you interact with every day. I chose social work as my intended profession because of the impact that social workers have had on my life and the work that gets done everyday to impact the lives of many. My hope is that every day I get the chance to show people that there is someone that cares for them and wants them to succeed. Even if I only make a small difference in someone's day by being kind and showing compassion then that is a success. Have a happy social work month!” - Bri, SIUE Social Work Student at CPLD


References | Recommended Reading & Content

Whole Person Librarianship - founded by Sara Zetterval

Social Work Students & Public Libraries - created by Sarah C. Johnson

Social Workers in Public Libraries - Public Libraries Online

Library Social Worker - Orange County Public Library

Libraries and Social Workers — Perfect Partners, By Christiane Petrin Lambert, MA, MSW, LICSW, Social Work Today, Vol. 20 No. 2 P. 20

“Social Workers and Librarians— A Case for Why We are BFFs” by Amy Schofield, Community Outreach Manager, Richland Library, Intersections Blog, ALA

“A Social Worker Walks into a Library” by Terra Dankowski, American Libraries, 2018

Cora E. Lutz, The Library Quarterly, Volume 48, Number 1, Jan., 1978


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