Social Workers in the Library program gets high marks

Peter Allen Lee, a professor with the School of Social Work and Lili Luo, a professor with the School of Library and Information Sciences, received a College of Applied Sciences and Arts Incentive Grant for 2011-12 to evaluate a program created in 2007 that connects residents with social workers at public libraries. The San José State University professors’ evaluation of the program has been published as a journal article


Lee and Luo set out to look at the efficacy of the program started in 2007 by local Librarian Deborah Estreicher and Lee. The goal of the program is to seek ways to increase access to information about social service programs and to look for ways the program can be improved. For the last few years, professional social workers, with the support of the National Association of Social Workers, have been volunteering to meet one-on-one twice a month with those seeking information about social services.  The program is not intended to provide an ongoing relationship between the patrons and social workers, but to help connect patrons with services in the community.

In questionnaires from those using the services, Lee and Luo found that they reported the service to be helpful or very helpful. The main areas in which people sought advice was in finding services for housing, food, health and mental  health services, and employment. In 20-minute sessions, social workers offered referral information to patrons to connect them with such services. Other services patrons sought included grief support, family counseling and legal advice.  The evaluation found that seeing patrons in the library, which included a waiting area and private room was rated well. Patrons also liked the undivided attention in the private session as well as the system of screening and appointment scheduling.

For a longer summary of the evaluation of the Social Work in the Libraries, see the attached PDF Social Workers in the Library. For the journal article, visit