When Edmonton Public Library hired outreach workers to help vulnerable clients in 2011, it was in the vanguard of an evolution in library programming. Nearly 10 years later, at least eight other public libraries across the country—along with dozens in the United States—offer social services as a response to community needs.

Research on the implications of this evolution, however, is a few steps behind, resulting in a knowledge gap that Melissa Redmond and Beth Martin, both assistant professors in the School of Social Work, are aiming to close.

“Recent librarianship literature in the United States has examined whether and, if so, how libraries should respond to the psychosocial needs of their patrons,” they state. “Yet social work literature has only begun to explore the constraints and opportunities inherent to practising social work—with any type of client—in public libraries.”

Using a $64,422 SSHRC Insight Development Grant, Redmond and Martin will connect with librarians and library management in five urban centres across Canada, and draw on provincial datasets and library websites, to explore the current and potential role of libraries—with possible support from social service professionals—in providing community social services.

Their project, When in doubt, go to the library: Public libraries as social service gateways, will examine best practices for service delivery and collaboration and look at the educational and professional development needs of future and current social workers and librarians and the professional organizations that support them.

Monday, August 31, 2020 in ,
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