“Spending a Year in the Library Will Prepare You for Anything"

Experiences of Social Work Interns at Public Library Field Placements


  • Sarah C. Johnson University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Margaret Ann Paauw Loyola University Chicago
  • Mark Giesler Saginaw Valley State University




Supervision, social work students, public libraries, social work field placements, internships


Many public libraries across the country have looked to the field of social work to assist in meeting the needs of patrons. Oftentimes, libraries have limited resources to provide a social worker, so they are partnering with local universities to provide social work interns. The purpose of this study was to hear from the library social work interns themselves about their experiences of completing their social work field placement in a library setting. This study was conducted in two parts: an online survey with 35 respondents and semi-structured qualitative interviews with 14 participants. The online survey included demographics and questions regarding students’ experiences completing an internship in a public library. The follow-up interviews consisted of in-depth questions exploring the unique challenges and transferable skills learned while in their placements. The findings speak to the importance of role clarity, physical space, confidentiality, and supervision arrangements. This study also found that, regardless of the challenges of these placements, interns overall had positive experiences and spoke highly of their library-based field experiences. Recommendations include identifying field-specific challenges in a library-social work partnership for those who are in the field as well as future research involving other stakeholders, such as librarians, university staff, and supervisors


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