LIS and social work: Intersecting pasts, a shared future


In the last two decades, the synergy and collaboration between LIS (Library and Information Science) and social work (SW) has become more pronounced in higher education and professional settings on both sides of the border. In Canada, we see more public libraries (PLs) hiring social workers, with Edmonton PL as one of the first to participate in this movement (Edmonton PL, 2022); now, social workers are on staff in many public libraries, including such large library systems as Toronto PL (Hepburn, 2018). Dual degrees in LIS/SW are now offered in some North American universities (e.g., Dominican U, U of Michigan); iSchools began to hire faculty specializing in data for social justice; and research collaborations on using ICTs, AI, social media, and robotics for therapeutic and community interventions have become commonplace. In general, there is a recognition that SW approaches to working with people in crisis, homeless populations, immigrant communities, and individuals living with chronic illness and addictions are necessary for frontline library staff as well, especially, in PLs (e.g., Rice & Tambe, 2017; Westbrook, 2009, 2015). The holistic person-in-environment approach and the strength and empowerment perspectives—the cornerstones of SW—have also proven influential in reshaping LIS professional thinking (Bertot et al., 2015; Segal et al., 2013). In addition to PLs, academic librarians also discuss the merit of the SW mindset for educating effective researchers, teaching information literacy, and fostering organizational efficiency (Enomoto, 2015). In turn, social workers have acknowledged the crucial role of information and technology in providing equitable and timely service and improving the quality and reach of care. They have also begun seeing libraries as potential collaborators in community engagement and intervention (Soska & Navarro, 2020).

Jun 8, 2022 6:00 pm — 7:30 pm