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The public library in the life of the community: Understanding social workers’ roles in Hamilton Public Library

The Hamilton Public Library (HPL) has witnessed a significant increase in patrons with complex challenges accessing the library, particularly their Central Branch in the downtown core. HPL responded to these growing needs by funding two part-time on-site social work positions in partnership with Hamilton Public Health Services (PH). Leaders at HPL have identified a need to investigate the different ways in which public libraries across Canada are responding to library patrons’ complex needs and to understand the nuances of the library-social work position at HPL. 

This project will include (1) Documenting how a range of stakeholders envision and understand the scope, roles, activities, and significance of the social work position at HPL; (2) Articulating an evaluation framework to identify what is working, the needs that have been met (and those unmet), and areas for change and improvement; (3) Recommendations for ongoing program development and guidance to other public libraries considering similar programs. 

Research team: 

Dr. Nicole Dalmer, Assistant Professor, Department of Health, Aging & Society 

Dr. Christina Sinding, Professor, School of Social Work 

Sarah Gauthier, Manager, Central Information Services, Hamilton Public Library 

Lisa DuPelle, Manager, Human Resources, Hamilton Public Library 

Susan Boyd, Manager, Alcohol, Drugs, and Gambling Services, Public Health Services 

Kianosh Keyvani, Social Worker Hamilton Public Library 

Leora Sas van der Linden, Program Manager, McMaster Community Research Platform 

Bridget Marsdin, Ph.D. student, School of Social Work 

Dannie Yan, Undergraduate Student, School of Social Work