Friday, April 16, 2010

Annoyed Librarian: Librarians Are Like Social Workers

The title may sound far-fetch, but a growing number of librarians, especially in rural and urban public settings, are realizing their job responsibilities are becoming more similar to the role of social workers. As a dual-degree student in both areas, I find this discussion very interesting. In a way, social work and library science are related in the field of education. Both promote service and helping people.

One of the readers' comments:
"And that's not uncommon. Most libraries today are getting social service tasks dumped on them with no training, funding, or staffing to handle it. Of course, it would be better to have a separate facility to handle the homeless and the latchkey kids, since they have driven out anybody wanting to use the library for its intended purpose, but that would involve effort."

Do you agree with this statement? Should library schools adopt social work skills and training in their curriculum?

Here is another situation regarding employment:
"I don't really think many people think of librarians as government employees,'' he said. "I think they think of librarians as members of a helping profession, like teachers.''

Some colleagues, he said, lament the "good old days," when the job was more about helping people find great literary works than navigating technology and applying for government aid.

Other librarians have embraced their new roles:
Edina, Minn. — The combination of a recession and changes to the typical job application process has made some local librarians into self-described social workers.

Many companies nowadays require job seekers to fill out online applications, which may be tough for people who don't know much about using the Web, or don't have access to it. Many job seekers are turning to their local librarians for help.

"It's like the new normal to have social work be part of being a librarian," said Kim Poole, a librarian at Hennepin County's Southdale Library in Edina. "Sometimes as a librarian you feel like you're throwing out a life preserver to a person ... they are often at the edge of an abyss."

Rhodarian and YALSA also discuss this issue.

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