The Pursuit of Social Work as a Previous Librarian

By Julie Row, MILS, MSW

An article from the blog post on March 31, 2013 has stated that a social worker must carefully consider their audience when they share information online. Not only is this important in regards to ethics, but it is also my personal motive for this post.

I always receive a different response from individuals when I share my professional history. Many are surprised, some are confused, and others are curious. I always discuss my decision to pursue social work after working as a librarian. It is often pleasing to observe their reaction when I explain the connection between serving the public as a librarian then as a social worker in a low income neighborhood.

I was the primary youth librarian for a mid-sized branch in a low income neighborhood for approximately 26 months. I created a safe space for the teens to visit in the afternoons, where daily after school programs and monthly events were organized. I also administered two summer reading programs, with celebration parties that had special guests such as a state Senator.

Eventually, a strong level of mutual respect began to develop between myself and the teen patrons. As a result, a few of the teens also started to confide in me. Personal issues were shared, that I knew as a youth librarian, I was not professionally allowed to handle. I discussed such matters with my supervisor who advised me to contact an available social worker. I took the initiative as a librarian to find the contact information of a local social services agency for one of the teens. There was no more that I could do.

Therefore, I began the process of researching the field of social work. I assessed from my research that a potential social worker would be able to provide a broad range of services. I also respected the purpose of leading the client to empowerment and self sufficiency. Consequently, I made the decision to enroll in a master’s degree program.

In my opinion, the importance of serving the public is indisputably consistent in both social work and library science. Whether it be through books or mental health services, the local community and its needs are central. However, if a potential student knows that they will work in a public library, additional coursework regarding workplace culture and social issues may need to be considered. A possible concentration in public librarianship can be developed for library science programs in larger cities.

I successfully completed the master’s degree program and I can now pursue a license in social work. Due to this accomplishment, I can finally help teens who may be experiencing significant issues.

Julie Row, MILS, MSW, is a recent graduate of the master’s degree program of social work from the University of Southern California.  She is also a graduate of the information and library science program from the Pratt Institute in New York, where she worked as a librarian specializing in urban public library services for youth between the ages of 13 through 18 years.  She is a strong advocate for diverse communities, including youth with special needs. 


One Comment on “The Pursuit of Social Work as a Previous Librarian”

  1. Paul Lai says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts as a librarian who has also pursued a social work degree and will be pursuing licensure as well. One of the things that is difficult for librarians, as I’ve gathered from speaking with many public librarians, is not being able to offer help beyond a certain point because they lack the training and licensing to be able to make recommendations and referrals. It’s one thing to help out a friend with advice about social services, even if you don’t have social work training, but it’s another to do so in an official capacity through your job.


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