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Social Work in Libraries

Located at the heart of communities and committed to social justice, public libraries are well-positioned to engage with a diverse population. However, library workers might not be fully equipped or have the capacity to serve the growing number of residents with complex needs that turn to them for help. To address this gap, public libraries increasingly seek out the support of social workers.

The Social Work in Libraries project is designed to integrate and inform social work practice within Hamilton Public Library (HPL) to respond to individual, community and institutional needs. Library social workers have the skills to engage patrons directly and provide support, such as referrals and outreach. They also offer educational resources to library employees and help build community networks. Through research and policy development efforts, library social workers are able to reduce barriers for marginalized patrons.

As a part of her placement, undergraduate Social Work student Angelica Esposito conducted a literature review of social work practice in libraries and an environmental scan of Canadian Public Libraries hosting social workers and social work students. The findings have been shared with HPL and McMaster’s School of Social Work through a presentation which summarized the benefits, challenges, and models of library-social work partnerships.