This was a great year for Whole Person Librarianship at ALA. The panel on “Connecting Individuals with Social Services: The Academic Library’s Role,” convened by Samantha Hines from Missoula College Library, brought the concept of WPL to an academic audience. One of the panelists said he was glad to hear that librarians are talking about serving the “whole person” since professionals in student services often speak of supporting the “whole student.” Important takeaways from the session include:
- There’s a tremendous amount of work student support services (and community social services) already provide. The library can have a role in connecting students with resources, but it’s also worth remembering there are professionals out there who make social services their life’s work. Talk to them, ask them for their ideas, and build relationships as a starting point. Look for where you can fill in the gaps.
- Academic libraries are already doing a lot to support the “whole student,” building more extensive outreach beyond the popularity of therapy dogs and de-stressing activities during finals. One example from the audience came from Metro State University in St. Paul, whose joint academic-public library space hosted St. Paul Public Library’s regular social service hours while the central library was closed for renovation. Students came to rely on those hours and have been asking for them since they returned to SPPL. Metro State is now looking at how to implement their own version.
- All types of librarians need to learn about and practice good boundary-setting. One of the questions that came up was how far to go when helping a patron who has a challenging life situation. This is something that comes up a lot in public libraries, and while it was validating to see it’s a universal question, it’s also disappointing to have to respond that there’s no one good answer to that question. While we’re all exploring the boundaries of what kind of service we want to provide, we will have to keep defining and redefining that for ourselves. It does help to talk with colleagues about how they have made such choices and what they have learned.
Here are the slides I used, though they’re not very info-heavy: WPL 2016 final
In addition to the session, I was fortunate to get to help plan and participate in a volunteer project through Librarians Build Communities, an ALA Member Initiative Group that anyone can join. We helped out at four Orlando County Library System branches that participate in Summer BreakSpot to serve lunches to kids who get free and reduced price lunch during the school year. Check out the Saturday edition of Cognotes for more information.
We need you! This is an opportunity to put Whole Person Librarianship into action while supporting at-risk kids.
Librarians Build Communities and the ALA Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion are supporting Orlando Public Libraries during the upcoming conference. There are 2 opportunities to help:
- Summer BreakSpot! Friday, June 24, and Monday, June 27, 11:30am-12:30pm (pickup at 10:45) or 1:15-2:15pm (pickup at 12:30): Summer BreakSpot provides lunches to children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches during the school year. Kids arrive by bus, with a food truck on-site. ALA volunteers will help connect kids with lunches and participate in library activities at four library branches. Transportation is provided to and from the Conference Center.
- School Supply Drive! Volunteers needed all weekend and to prep for delivery on Monday, June 27: The same at-risk kids who participate in Summer BreakSpot need school supplies. We invite everyone at ALA to drop off donations at the convention center. Volunteers are needed to collect supplies from donation points all weekend and/or to help sort and deliver the supplies on Monday.
Transportation support will be provided by the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services. For more information and to sign up for a volunteer shift, please contact Anthony Bishop (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Volunteers: The pick-up location will be at the Westwood Entrance that is at the back of the convention center. ALA will be posting signs that directs attendees to this area. Each van will have a sign in the window that says which branch it’s going to. If you don’t know your branch, that’s OK, just come to the pickup site, and we’ll take care of it.
Thanks in advance for your help!
This year, I’ll be representing Whole Person Librarianship as a panelist at this ALA-ACRL session:
Connecting Individuals with Social Services: The Academic Library’s Role
Saturday, June 25 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Orange County Convention Center, Room W108
Add it to your conference scheduler
As public libraries earn attention and kudos for connecting their users to needed social services, the question arises as to the role of the academic library in connecting our users with resources on services for mental and physical health, food security, housing, child care and other societal needs. Join a researcher into how libraries provide these connections along with a panel of student service providers for a lively discussion of the academic library’s potential role.
Our complete panel is:
Missoula College Library
Coordinator, Outreach & Nutrition, Wellness and Health Promotion Services
University of Central Florida, Florida
Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis, MN
Bridges to Success Program
Student Services Director
These core beliefs are strongly influenced by Whole Person Librarianship. They were developed in response to the deprofessionalization of library tasks. They present an alternative to the neoliberalist (“retail”) model of librarianship.
- Librarians are professionals with a unique skill set.
- Librarianship is grounded in and motivated by equity and social justice.
- Librarianship as a profession is sustained by its theoretical and historical underpinnings, which are transmitted through the MLIS degree.
- Librarians are called to lifelong learning, including professional development and mentorship of new librarians.
- The future of librarianship is defined as much by psychosocial expertise as it is by technological skills.
Readers are encouraged to provide feedback in the comments and to link to and share this post with others in the profession.
Amy Mars and I recently presented a series of two webinars that include some principles of WPL in action. Check them out for free:
Part One: Population and Partnering
What does homelessness look like in Minnesota? How can we connect patrons with community resources? This session starts with information to dispel stereotypes about our patrons experiencing homelessness. We continue by exploring the types of community resources that are available, then conclude with recommendations for establishing and sustaining community partnerships.
Part Two: Programming and Professional Development
You’re learning how to connect your patrons to community resources and partners. Great – but what’s next? This session shares how the HCL Workgroup on Services to Patrons Experiencing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity has created support throughout our large system. We will give examples of the professional development opportunities we created for staff as well as how we are encouraging innovative public programming to raise community awareness and engagement around issues of homelessness.
Webinar Series: Public Library Services to Patrons Experiencing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity
Since 2012, Hennepin County Library has been working to create equity for patrons experiencing homelessness. This work was founded by a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation and has continued through a workgroup of library staff from throughout the system. In these webinars we will share what we have learned about this population, and about programming, partnering, and professional development. Registration for session 1 isn’t required to register for session 2.
Guest Webinar Presenters:
Amy Mars is a librarian at St. Catherine University & Hennepin County Library in Minnesota. She authored a March/April 2012 feature article in Public Libraries entitled, “Library Service to the Homeless,” coordinating a grant that Hennepin County Library received from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation to promote health equity by enhancing library services to the homeless and is a member of Hennepin County Library’s system-wide workgroup dedicated to serving patrons experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
Sara Zettervall is an Adult Services Librarian at Hennepin County Library, sharing her time between Nokomis branch library (South Minneapolis) and Community Connections, which provides system-wide community engagement support. She has a longstanding interest in how librarianship can learn from other social sciences and co-founded a blog, Whole Person Librarianship (https://mlismsw.wordpress.com), to explore the intersection of librarianship and social work. She was a 2013 MILE participant and 2014 ALA Emerging Leader, and is the 2015 Chair-elect of MLA’s Diversity Outreach Round Table (DORT).
Check out this paper published by IFLA earlier this year: Connecting Individuals with Social Services: The Library’s Role
Author Samantha Hines is Head of the Missoula College Library at the University of Montana and brings a much-needed perspective on the role of academic libraries in connecting patrons with social services. She also undertook an effort to survey international libraries about what they’re doing in this area. This seems to be one area where US and Canadian libraries are ahead of the curve.
Tania says: I wanted to ask if you have any advice for finding library practicums that embrace WPL. I am a library student with previous experience as a case manager at a not-for-profit mental health organization. I am having difficulty finding library practicums combine librarianship and social work.
The thing about library-social work collaboration is that in its latest form, it’s still a pretty new idea. While some libraries are bringing in social work interns because they recognize the need for that kind of help, it’s less common anywhere to take the next conceptual step and combine librarianship and social work into one role. So, it’s not surprising that you’re not finding a lot of options. But, I still think there’s a lot of possibility out there if you expand the frame you use for WPL.
Even if potential supervisors do not, you know what special skills you’re bringing from your social work background. Are there particular populations you’ve worked with more than others? You might start by looking for internships in areas that serve more people like the ones you have special expertise in working with. A common example would patrons experiencing homelessness: if you’re interested in working with that population, you could look for a practicum in an urban library that would give you plenty of public service time. That’s just an example – if you’ve worked with particular age groups or immigrant populations, you could take a similar approach to looking for a high-touch position where those folks are located.
Similarly, you may want to look more generally for positions that focus on outreach and/or community engagement, or seek out an internship at a library that does a lot of community-based work. Again, this might require using your own expertise to suss out the possibilities inherent in the internship. I’m thinking of a neighborhood library I work at – we could describe a practicum here in such a way that it might look like it’s only covering the basics of library work, but because I know the library and the diverse patrons who come here, I can also see how someone with a social work background could contribute something to the team and to our approach to service.
The second piece of the puzzle is working with a creative and innovative librarian. My practicum wasn’t something that was posted or offered to me – I made it happen by approaching a librarian I wanted to work with. Even if you don’t find someone who latches onto your social work background right away, a supervising librarian who is open to experimentation and new ideas can help you create a space for bringing in your own version of a WPL approach.
One you have the right location and supervisor, you can take some responsibility for utilizing your social work background in that position. Think of it as an opportunity for you to educate others as well as an opportunity for you to learn on the job. If the people you’re working with see your social work expertise in action, and they see how it makes you shine as a librarian, that’s a profound way to help spread awareness. Another great thing is that a practicum – as opposed to a less structured internship – should give you the opportunity to reflect on your experiences. Take advantage of that and focus any surrounding research and writing you may be doing on the aspects of WPL that you see as relevant while you’re learning your new position. You could even share your results here, if you want!
I hope that’s helpful, and I’d welcome further questions and comments. Also, if someone in the Chicago area happens to be reading this who might have an opportunity for this particular student, please email me, and I can put you in touch.