A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Social Workers in Public Libraries

black and white photo of a library orange banner in upper left reads 'social work in public libraries'

Incident Report Writing: A Person-in-Incident Approach

Incident report writing can be intimidating. Something big has happened at the library, and now you have to document it so that staff across your entire system can access the report. And someday your report might even be pulled in a records request for use in court? Talk about pressure!

black and white photo of a library orange banner in upper left reads 'social work in public libraries'

Supporting Autonomy while Setting Clear Boundaries

As library social workers, we are often asked how to address behaviors in the public library setting. Sometimes this is framed in the question, “How do we address homelessness (insert other social issues) in our libraries?” Despite the fact that people would like an easy answer to that question, there isn’t one, because wrapped up in the question itself are human beings — individuals, people with personal histories they’ve brought to the place they are now, inside your public library.

black and white photo of a library orange banner in upper left reads 'social work in public libraries'

Providing Social Service Resources in a Library Setting

When people discover I am a social worker at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) Main Library, the first question I often hear is, “Really? Why provide social services at the library?!” I understand this response, but in truth, many patrons experiencing homelessness access the library for refuge and assistance for basic needs. And that is where I enter the picture.

black and white photo of a library orange banner in upper left reads 'social work in public libraries'

The Public Library as a Protective Factor

Fundamentally, I see the goal of public libraries as the empowerment of the citizenry. Historically, libraries have empowered individuals primarily through the distribution of information. However, we offer so much more than that. I encourage you to consider the ways in which your library functions as a protective factor for the members of your community and to build upon those strengths so that all our patrons, both privileged and vulnerable, are empowered to reach their full potential.