Spotlight on Social Work Student Fellows

Introduction

intro paragraph here from Katrina

Jessie Neal

Jessie Neal (she/her), Andrew Carnegie Free Library

What was your educational and work background prior to your placement?

I have my undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I graduated in 2011 and moved to Chicago a year later. While in Chicago, I fell into the travel industry where I’ve worked for the last 8 years. I’ve wanted to get my MSW for several years and finally decided to take the plunge.

What unique outside experiences, personal background or special skills have helped with your placement?

I grew up in the theater and have been acting since I could walk. My background in theater has enabled me to have a strong sense of empathy within me. I have always been extroverted, outgoing, and chatty. In fact, I was voted most outgoing in high school! I’ve also traveled extensively and feel those experiences have assisted me in building a healthy sense of cultural humility—a must in social work!

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

Library Social Work is an exciting—and growing—side of Social Work. I like that I have control over what projects and services I choose to implement (with the final approval of the Library Director, of course!) Libraries are such outstanding, accessible institutions. Patrons already visit libraries while experiencing social service needs. So, why not meet them where they are? This fellowship has enabled me to assist many Carnegie community members and made me feel like I’m a member of the Carnegie community, too!

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

The Library Director and I are beginning to establish some Financial Literacy classes. I hope to start a peer group for LGBTQIA+ teens in the area. I have been putting together monthly book displays—this month’s display is in honor of Transgender Awareness Month. I created a Sensitive Topics sheet with helplines for various needs (addiction, mental illness, self-harm, etc.) and placed them in all the bathrooms. I’ve also created a social service needs survey that I’ve made available in the library and via Survey Monkey.

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?

Social workers can help libraries serve their communities by providing on-site case management for those experiencing social service needs. We can institute programs to meet various needs and provide group support. Libraries are free and easily accessible to everyone. There is no stigma about going to a library. Libraries enable us to meet those in need right where they are and provide them with vital information and resources to meet their needs.

Selina Gonzalez (she/her), CLP – East Liberty

What was your educational and work background prior to your placement?

Prior to my enrollment in Pitt’s MSW program I attended Rowan University in New Jersey, where I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology. During this time I was also volunteering as a junior research assistant with the Research on Anxiety and Depression (R.O.A.D.) team at my university. Outside of academia, I was employed as a Registered Behavior Technician working with children with developmental disabilities.

What unique outside experiences, personal background or special skills have helped with your placement?

At my placement, I am frequently communicating with library patrons as well as local businesses and nonprofits that may be beneficial resources for the library’s patrons. My background in psychology equipped me with the interpersonal skills necessary for effective communication and problem-solving. My prior experience working with autistic children amplified the importance of accessibility within community settings, which is something I strive to maintain and improve at my placement.

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

Prior to my placement I never contemplated the role a social worker could play within a library setting. Growing up I spent a lot of time at my local library, so I knew firsthand how important a library is to its community. As I learned more about the Library Social Work Fellowship, I was impressed by the way library social workers all over the country are contributing to their communities. As someone new to Pittsburgh I knew this placement would allow me to connect with my new community and learn more about the local resources and services offered while also implementing the skills I am learning within my program.

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

I am currently working on updating and maintaining local resource guides covering topics such as teen homelessness, active food pantries, helplines, and childcare assistance. I am also working on a communication board that would help nonvocal library patrons as well as patrons who do not speak English communicate their wants and needs with library staff.

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?

Social Workers can help libraries serve their communities by actively examining their own biases, allowing them to approach each patron from a place of empathy without prejudgment. They can continue to be active within their communities to maintain a connection with local resources that they can in turn refer patrons to when deemed beneficial. Most importantly I think social workers can help libraries serve their communities by being open to learning from the community itself.

Megan Nahmias

Megan Nahmias (she/her), Carnegie Library of Homestead

What was your educational and work background prior to your placement?

I graduated UMass Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a certificate in Social Work from the in May 2021. I served with AmeriCorps in summer 2021 at the Homewood Children’s Village as a coach for their Learn & Earn Program, a professional and career development program for teenagers. Then I spent the last year working as an administrative assistant at the Aleph Institute, a nonprofit that serves Jewish prisoners and their families.

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

I love libraries, I love to read, and libraries are the best place to go when you do not know where to start, so I am very excited about the prospect of library social work.

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

I have working with patrons to achieve their goals. Patrons can contact me via email, phone or fill out a contact form at the library. I gather and pass on resources to patrons who ask for them. I am planning to start a de-stress group next semester, starting in January. I helped with the November book display about American Indian & Native Alaskan Heritage Month. I promote local events and resources, such as voting and vaccine information.

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?

Social workers can help libraries by taking on tasks that library staff may not be equipped to handle. A library is one of the only places you can go where you are not expected to pay for anything and can stay for as long as you’d like. People often use libraries to print, to search and apply for jobs and housing. This is where social workers come in, as libraries primarily are equipped for education, not providing those kinds of resources. Social workers can ask the librarians to meet the regulars, and be there for librarians to refer to when someone needs resources that are out of their expertise.

Student #8

What was your educational and work background prior to your placement?

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?