Spotlight on Social Work Student Fellows 2023 1

As we reflect on the joys and challenges of 2023 and move forward into a new year brimming with promise, I am so inspired by the work of our Library Social Work Fellows. Each of the students featured below has been passionately dedicated to serving our communities this year. Throughout the county, at libraries big and small, these students are meeting our patrons where they are, providing crucial resources and referrals, hands-on assistance, compassion, and hope. Read on to learn more about them and what they’re working on in our region.

Katrina Mink, BSW/MSW, Social Work in Libraries Program Coordinator

Morgan Bryson (she/her), Baldwin Borough Public Library

Morgan Bryson

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

I received my BS from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2021. After that, I moved to Pittsburgh to do psychology research at the University of Pittsburgh for 2 years before starting the MSW program.

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

Since I was young, I have always loved working with children and helping people learn. I have been in school settings, private tutoring, and daycare settings working with families. I also think my heavy exposure to psychology research will help me approach problems in unique ways.

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

I chose the Library Social Work Fellowship because I wanted to be in a community space that comes into contact with everyone. I enjoy helping in environments that are pillars of a community. My aunt is also the director of a library in my hometown, so I spent a lot of time around public libraries and engaging with programs.

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

Currently, I am working on transforming the Baldwin Library into a multicultural space in the community. We will be translating important materials into multiple languages that are more reflective of the community and providing resource kits to people immigrating to the US. I am also collecting resources around the Baldwin area for people in need to access (e.g., housing, food, clothing, job services).

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?

I believe social workers can help distribute available resources to community members in need by being positioned in libraries. These spaces are one of the few that touch every person in a community and provide unique opportunities to educate and serve individuals of all backgrounds.

Sara Gomez (she/her), CLP – Main

Sara Gomez

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

I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Houston. During my senior year, I worked with an organization on campus to work with LGBTQ+ youth experiencing housing insecurity and SEARCH Homeless Services in Houston.

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

Having been able to work with a diverse group of individuals, gave me the ability to understand how every experience varies. It allowed me to empathize with every person and situation while creating a safe and welcoming environment where everyone can feel comfortable. Additionally, speaking Spanish has given me the opportunity to provide resources to individuals who don’t understand or aren’t able to ask for help.

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

I have always enjoyed going to the library because it encompasses so many learning opportunities and is a safe space that is not stigmatized by society. Being able to see the community come together in one space always brought me joy. Libraries are so important for communities and being able to bring my experiences to CLP–Main excites me.

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

I am in the beginning stages of my placement; however, I would love to survey the community members in order to provide services based on the needs and interests of the community. I will also be available to meet and provide one-on-one assistance to the patrons.

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?

Social workers are able to work with existing staff members to help expand the knowledge and resources of the community located within the library. They would allow for fewer barriers ensuring more needs are met within the systems of our society.

Thea Brown (she/her), Wilkinsburg Public Library

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

I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and worked as a pharmacy technician before my placement.

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

I would say a unique outside experience is coming from a low-income minority family, and my background in psychology has helped me when it comes to approaching or speaking with patrons.

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

I chose the Library Social Work fellowship because I thought this would be a good placement for me to develop skills working with people within the community and also have a better understanding of what a social worker is and the work that they can do.

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

I have been collaborating with a school board member/parent and school social worker in the Wilkinsburg community to bring a parent engagement support group.

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?

I believe that social workers within the libraries are able to serve the communities by providing many different resources, while most of the time they would need to go to the Department of Family services, they are able to meet someone within their local community to help them without having to sit through long wait times.

Kalen Palmer (she/her), CLP – East Liberty

Kalen Palmer

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

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Social Work. During my undergrad, I volunteered at a senior day center. I also did an internship, and was later hired, at a psychiatrist’s office as a front desk assistant.

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

I believe volunteering at the senior day center and my internship at the psychiatrist’s office helped me develop my communication skills that have helped me assist patrons and build rapport.

Why did you choose the Library Social Work Fellowship?

I chose the Library Fellowship because I had learned of the movement to integrate social workers into libraries during my undergrad. I believe working in a library would be a unique experience for social workers.

What projects/services are you implementing in your placement?

So far in my placement, I have been gathering information into posters to inform patrons of resources and services offered to them. Patrons are also encouraged to fill out surveys and questionnaires to inform me of what resources or information they want to see in the library and if they need help finding resources.

How can social workers help libraries serve their communities?

Social workers can help libraries serve their communities by informing community patrons of the services and resources the surrounding organizations offer.

Additional comments

Patrons may be unaware of most surrounding organizations and the services they offer. It is important for social workers to do outreach to these organizations so that they may pass on the information to patrons.