My library wants a social work intern! How do I make that happen?

by Mary Nienow

Libraries are great places to host a social work intern. Because these are public spaces, librarians are faced with many of the challenges that come from being a place where people with numerous complexities in their lives come to for safety, warmth, connection, and information. Social workers use libraries to hold support groups and educational workshops, and to help clients access resources they need to live healthy and productive lives. Community social workers and/or a social work intern on-site is a growing trend in libraries across the country and the world. If you are considering a social work intern at your library, here are a few things to know and do.

Students completing a degree in social work are either seeking their Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree or their Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Schools offering these degrees are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, which requires an intensive internship prior to graduation. The minimum number of hours required at the BSW level are 400 hours and at the MSW level 900 hours. Many programs require more hours and vary in the amount of time students have to complete these hours  anywhere between one semester to two years. Libraries may consider partnering with a local social service provider to co-host the intern, both for community relationship-building and to help diversify and fill the student’s requirements.

In order to successfully complete their internship, students must demonstrate competency in a number of areas:

  1. Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior
  2. Engage diversity and difference in practice
  3. Advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice
  4. Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice
  5. Engage in policy practice
  6. Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities
  7. Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities
  8. Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities
  9. Evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities

We hope to provide examples of how social work interns can fulfill these competencies in libraries in a future post and would love to hear from you with examples.

To get started:

Contact the social work department of your local colleges or universities and ask to speak with the Internship Director (aka Internship Coordinator, Field Director).

Explain your vision of how a social work internship in the library would help a student social worker gain experience and competency in the above areas and how it would help your library better serve the patrons and community in which you are situated.

Ask the Internship Director what process you would need to go through to become an approved agency that can accept social work interns. One thing to take into consideration is that social work interns are required to have a licensed social work field supervisor, and the Director can help you navigate that.

Collaborate to develop a plan that is empowering for the intern and will allow the library-school partnership to flourish and continue into the future.

What other questions do you have about this process? Do you have examples of successful social work internships your libraries? Please share in the comments.



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