Articles and Reviews

Macro and Micro Librarianship

In discussing possibilities for the conference session this fall, one of our panelists suggested looking at librarianship through social work’s “macro” and “micro” views. This blog post* provides a critique of the macro/micro divide, but in doing so, it also provides a good, brief introduction:

Macro and Micro social work are interdependent concepts. One cannot be conceptualized without the other. Macro policies drafted at the highest level of government effect the funding, access, and mandates placed on the micro practitioner in every way from staffing of agencies to what is deemed as billable services. Micro practices grounded in evidence and theory professionalize direct practice, and help improve society by both added to existing practice evidence and the improving the lives of individuals and families. Both are essential to proving that our profession is effective in helping to alleviate the social pressures that arise as a natural consequence of industrialized society.

Naming these different approaches within librarianship could be helpful in further defining our own concepts and challenges. I’m only just learning more about this myself, so I’m looking back at some of the things we’ve discussed so far through these lenses. For example, Paul’s post last week addressed our professional ethics at the macro level, while Mary Nienow’s guest post on how to help individuals find health care addressed the micro level (I think–it’s easy to confuse this with a policy/practice divide). While we haven’t named it as such to ourselves, Paul and I have been striving to explore both the macro and micro as we think about the intersection of librarianship and social work. Because neither of us is currently in direct contact with library patrons, for the most part, it’s easy for us to be drawn to the macro level. But I was drawn to the micro level first because I did have my boots on the ground, trying to help people one at a time and determining how that work fits with what has and has not been proven in our professional literature.

In response to our upcoming conference session, a public library manager posed the question in my Twitter feed of where we draw the line between librarians helping patrons and turning that work over to social workers. That’s an excellent micro-level question for us to address here. In her interview with us. PLA President Carolyn Anthony touched on how the puzzle pieces of librarianship and social work fit together when she described her experience organizing the neighborhood information that social workers needed for referrals. Many of us, when we begin to work together directly, will feel out these divisions for ourselves. But what do we do if we’re not working within those deep, harmonious collaborations? Some basic guidelines for interaction will go a long way towards removing the fear of the unknown in this–and I’m beginning to think our conference session should workshop those into existence to share and edit further here.

* It’s also worth looking at what prompted his post, 100 Ways to Promote Social Work Month.

P.S. Because you really need to see it one more time.

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