Should libraries hire social workers?

“Should our library hire a social worker to help with issues we can’t help with like mental health, housing assistance, etc.?”

Library managers ask me this A LOT. 

Over the years, libraries have been transformed into community centers. It’s natural that the most vulnerable in the community seek out libraries for help with tough questions.

However, these tough questions are often beyond the scope of what library staff do.

In August, I’ll be interviewing two experts on this subject: Beth Wahler and Sarah Johnson. I’ll be asking them the same question to see if they agree with my answer…

In short, my answer is YES and NO:


Having social workers and social services in public libraries is a fantastic thing. 

It’s a way we can change the world and help folks who need a little extra help sorting through issues that are holding them back.


Don’t hire a social worker. 

Instead partner with an organization who will place a social worker in your library. They are experts at finding the right social worker for your organization. Plus they are able to provide support the social worker needs. 

Given tight budgets, the related question I’m often asked is:

“Should we bring in a social work intern?”

My short answer is “Maybe.” I’ll tell you why next week.

Have a great week!



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