Program brings social workers to library setting

Feb 14, 2012

By Rena Malai, NEWS Staff

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose, Calif., has developed a “Social Workers in the Library” program, which offers social work consultations in a neutral setting.

Deborah Estreicher, head librarian at the Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. Library in San Jose, Calif., had an idea.

“Being a librarian, I came across many people that needed social work services,” Estreicher said. As librarians, “we helped in the best way we could. But I thought it would be better to have something in place — a service where people could go if they needed help.”

The San Jose public library also serves as the student library for San Jose State University, so Estreicher instinctively reached out to Peter Allen Lee, professor and acting director of the School of Social Work at the university. Lee, in collaboration with Glenn Thomas, the Region B director of the NASW California Chapter, and his wife, Cyndy Thomas, also a social worker, saw the idea as an opportunity to give back to the community and add a dimension to the social work degree program offered at SJSU.

“Volunteer professional social workers provide the majority of the face-to-face consultation in the Social Workers in the Library program, with SJSU MSW students also playing a key supportive role,” Lee said.  “During the conceptualization phase of the program, our graduate students were the main supporters of our needs assessment, where they conducted surveys with library visitors.”

The research data helped to develop the SWITL  program in partnership with the San Jose Public Library and NASW, he said.

“In addition to our ongoing services, we have a research component funded by our College of Applied Sciences and Arts, and in collaboration between the School of Social Work and the School of Library and Information Sciences for a program evaluation studying the effectiveness of SWITL,” Lee said.

Thomas said the  program is helpful for individuals who are members of the community.

“The library is a neutral setting for families seeking information and referral to often complex systems,” he said. “The NASW California Chapter has been a supporter of the library and SJSU School of Social Work from the beginning.”

From the February 2012 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.