How about a social work intern in your library?


Last week we tackled the question about whether libraries should hire social workers to support folks who need help beyond what the library can provide.

If you have no budget but really want to bring social services to those you serve, you may be asking:

Are social work interns a good option?


Social work interns are not social workers…yet.

They are students which means they are still in the process of learning.

Unless the intern has a lot of experience, there are two things that often go wrong:

  1. Too high of expectations leads to disappointment. Organizations bring in an intern and expect them to work with individuals suffering from profound and complicated issues. That’s beyond their experience level. Social work is complicated. An intern will not be able to do what a professional with years of experience can do.
  1. The intern isn’t supported. Interns need a lot of guidance to be successful. If they are thrown into a library, shelter, etc. without guidance from a mentor, they will usually fail.

There are things you can do to make a social work intern more likely to succeed. For example: 

  • Set realistic expectations (i.e. much lower than you want).
  • Make sure they have support from a social worker. This can be at another organization, the university or even a volunteer.
  • Make sure they have support inside the library. They should have one key person they can go to with questions and concerns.

Want to know what the experts have to say on this subject?

You’re in luck!

In a few weeks, I’ll be interviewing two experts on this subject: Beth Wahler and Sarah Johnson. I’ll ask them about social work interns to see what their advice is on the subject. We’d love to have you join us.



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