Social workers within Canadian public libraries: A multicase study

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This study explored the emerging field of social work practice within Canadian public libraries. This is an interdisciplinary area of practice that has been increasing in prevalence across North America over the last decade. Despite the burgeoning movement that has begun to gain attention within public library circles and the popular media, comparatively little research has been published on library social work practice. There is a particular dearth of research in the area from Canadian social work perspectives. A mixed methods multicase study was utilized, consisting of a preliminary online survey distributed across Canada followed by analysis of four cases in which there are library-based social workers: Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL), Kitchener Public Library (KPL), Mississauga Public Library (MPL), and Edmonton Public Library (EPL). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 participants, along with document review. Analysis was first performed for each individual case, followed by cross-case analysis. Four library social work models used by the urban public libraries were identified: social service agency partnership, local university partnership, municipal partnership, and full-time social work staff. In addition to the models, the major themes identified are grouped into two categories: public library motivations for including social workers within their operations, and the nature of social work practice in these settings. Primary findings indicate that library social work is an emerging distinct area of interdisciplinary practice that shows promise at individual and systems levels in helping to address social exclusion and improve community-based responses to broader social challenges such as homelessness, housing instability, poverty, mental health concerns, and substance misuse. Implications for social work and public library research and practice are provided.
library social work, Canada, case study, public librarianship, community-led libraries, social inclusion, interdisciplinary studies
Schweizer, E. (2018). Social workers within Canadian public libraries: A multicase study (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/31913