Whole Person Librarianship began in 2012 when I and my social worker friend Mary Nienow co-led a summer book club for teen Somali girls. A library student at the time, I found social work concepts addressed many of the human service gaps I saw in what I was learning in library school. I started looking for more information and found there was little available, so with collaboration and encouragement from Paul Lai, we founded this site as a blog in 2013. At the time, there were only a handful of libraries with social workers on staff, and this the only space collecting and sharing that burgeoning movement. You can still view those original, weekly articles in our first blog posts.
Over time, the movement towards library-social work collaboration has expanded. In 2017, there are dozens of libraries with social workers on staff, and many more host regular social service office hours and other partnerships. Even as public libraries and some academic libraries discover the benefits of connecting patrons directly with social services, much of my original interest in these collaborations is only starting to come to fruition. With the advent of libraries serving as safe spaces in the midst of unrest (see Ferguson Public Library) and librarians rediscovering the power of information literacy post-U.S. election, many more of us are searching for tools to foster empathy and understanding in ourselves and our communities. Social work offers many of those tools.
Now, the Mission of Whole Person Librarianship has shifted to educate librarians and library staff on relevant social work concepts and tools. Mary is now an associate professor of social work, and I have led community engagement projects in several types of libraries. We offer training and consulting services on a sliding fee scale and speak to MSW and MLIS classes for free on request. The blog primarily serves to provide updates on our work, including research towards our book forthcoming with Libraries Unlimited in 2019, and alerts as to when we are presenting at conferences and online.
Please always feel free to reach out with questions and ideas, or join our Community of Practice Google Group to share ideas and updates with others from librarianship and social work who are interested in furthering our connections.
Sara Zettervall, MLIS, MFA
Founder, Whole Person Librarianship