The Cambridge Public Library is one of the first libraries in Massachusetts to hire a Library Social Worker and to also host social work internships. In this interview, we’ll hear from Marie Mathieu, the Cambridge Public Library’s Social Worker. She’ll tell us about support provided for patrons and staff, her perspective on social work practice in libraries, and her advice for libraries interested to host a social work intern.
What specific services do you provide for patrons and staff?
We work with patrons to connect them to resources. Patrons can set up an appointment with the team and we will do a needs assessment. From there we will either provide them with a list of resources or assist them in connecting with those resources. Doing a warm hand off whenever possible. We also spend a considerable amount of time assisting patrons with system navigation. We may help get all their paperwork together to submit in order to qualify for different benefits or call a social service agency with the person to gather more information.
We work with library staff to provide training, review policies and procedures to ensure they are trauma-informed, using incident reports to address staff and patron needs.
Do you consider social work at libraries as micro, mezzo, or macro level practice?
It can be all three. On any given day, the work we do in the library can be on all three levels. On the micro level we work with individual patrons. The mezzo level, I would consider the library itself as our client. The macro level, we get to help in creating programming and community partnerships informed by the work we are doing on the micro level.
What community resources do you use most frequently for referrals?
The community resource we use the most is probably our city’s employment program. We have many patrons who are seeking employment support. We also work alongside community providers to assist patrons to achieve their goals.
As you are the first professional social worker to host social work interns at a public library in Massachusetts, what advice would you provide to libraries thinking about hosting a social work intern?
Ensure that the interns have the space, support, and supervision to thrive within the library. Having a clinical point person and a library point person are key. Create a workflow on how patrons will connect with the intern. Market the services and scope of the work the intern is able to provide.
Interview with Marie Mathieu, Social Worker, Cambridge Public Library
Interviewed by Michelle Eberle, Consultant, Massachusetts Library System