Editorial, What is WPL?

What is “Whole Person Librarianship”?

If you’re visiting this page because you searched for “whole person librarianship” after seeing it on my ALA Emerging Leaders card, welcome! This post is for you.

Whole Person Librarianship is a nascent set of principles and practices to embed social justice in every aspect of library work. It began as with this blog as a place to elaborate on the profound and increasingly important practical connections between social workers and librarians, particularly in public libraries. The name “Whole Person Librarianship” came from the social work model of seeing and serving the client – or patron – as a “whole person” in the context of his or her life. As those of us working on the blog moved into different realms of librarianship and social work, the definition of WPL as an idea began to broaden to encompass our professional identity. I have long believed in librarianship as a social science, not just a technological science, and most recently found that as a sister social science, social work provides a model of how to embed social justice in our professional ethics as well a practice.

However, this is more than a connection between social work and librarianship. Recognizing librarianship’s enduring place as a social science positions our practitioners and researchers alongside those in education as well as social work, who share a commitment both to professionals in the field and academics working towards best practices that enhance our ability to serve people.

Work on this blog has slowed down while work towards a future for WPL has taken off in other directions. If you look through the blog, you will see my social work friend Mary Nienow and I began to work on a 1-credit class for this past January. That didn’t happen and instead is blossoming into a full 3-credit class to take place this summer. I don’t just welcome but encourage your participation and repurposing of these ideas, and I hope you’ll contact me about any part of this that interests you. This can be the future of our profession.


Sara Zettervall

2014 ALA Emerging Leader

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