Social Workers and Public Libraries

A Commentary on an Emerging Interprofessional Collaboration


  • Tracy M. Soska University of Pittsburgh
  • Adria Navarro Azusa Pacific University



whole person librarianship, library social work practice, community engagement, lifelong community learning centers, interprofessional collaboration


A growing interprofessional collaboration between social work and library professionals has fueled the emergence of library social workers and the exploration of libraries as a setting for social work. This exciting partnership evolves from common historic roots, a strong alignment of values, and effectively addresses changing community needs that aligns with both professions. Social work and public libraries are both products of the Progressive Era along with the rise of charitable organizations and settlement houses. In examining the evolution of libraries in the wake of changing technology and patron populations, social workers are critical community allies to respond to diverse community needs. Social workers, human service providers, and funders also now see public libraries as community centers and civic hubs, as well as even settlement houses for the 21st Century. Libraries serve as civic hubs that are essential connectors of information, education, resources, and access that addresses human needs. This commentary’s aim in exploring library social worker practice encourages community-university partnerships between our public libraries and the academic programs of social work and library science that strengthen civic and community engagement. Social work practitioners and educators are encouraged to spend more time at their public libraries through interprofessional internships, class projects, applied research, and dual-degree curricular development that can prepare next generation practitioner to work and lead in these community centers.


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