Social Work in Libraries

Monique Shephard & Jane Garner

SWiL on the road with Prof Beth Wahler

Following a very successful online seminar on 1 December 2022 (you can watch the presentations here: ) the Social Work in Libraries team were thrilled to continue their program of research with a visit in early July 2023 from respected US scholar, Professor Beth Wahler, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Headshot of Professor Beth Wahler

Flying into Australia, Beth made the most of her few days in Melbourne with visits to a number of different libraries: City of Melbourne Libraries, University of Melbourne Libraries, State Library of Victoria and Merri-bek Library. During these visits, Professor Wahler was able to deliver presentations about social workers in libraries, and to assist libraries in understanding how social workers can support the work of libraries as they interact with visitors with high psycho-social needs. Beth and Jane were also able to meet with University of Melbourne social work academics to discuss the practice of social work students undertaking their professional placements in libraries.  

Beth also soaked up the Melbourne nightlife with Jane and even took in an Aussie Rules football match!

Beth sits at a table in a bar with a cocktail in front of her. In the background are buildings lit up at night and other tables and people.


A journey through Victoria on the Hume Highway with Jane and Monique gave Beth a view of some of Australia’s countryside and Chiltern (Victoria), which is a beautifully preserved gold-rush town dating back to the 1950s. While Chiltern’s small library was closed on Sunday, Beth did get to see them dressing up the town for a music festival and the world-famous Grape Vine. We then drove on into New South Wales to Wagga Wagga in preparation for the week. 

Beth standing next to a small street bollard that has been covered with a knitted yarn cover designed to look like a person playing a guitar. The background show some footpath and buildings in Chiltern.

In Wagga Wagga, Beth held an online Public Lecture ‘Why put a social worker in the library?’ with over 100 registrants on the day (watch here: ). A visit to the Wagga Wagga City Library led to further discussions around social work student placements in library settings, in particular in regional areas in Australia.  Beth had a tour of the Library and saw one of their new Agile Libraries, which service areas of the community that may have difficulty accessing the City Library.

Information Studies and Social Work academics at CSU, including the SWiL research team, spent quality time with Beth exploring the role of social workers in libraries and the various concerns both professions hold and how these can be addressed through professional development or prior learning options. We also discussed how the social worker role is relevant to academic, school and other library settings as well as public libraries and further exploration in these areas will be important. 

Beth and some of the SWiL team enjoyed a short trip to Junee, a small township 35km north of Wagga where she visited the Junee Liquorice Factory and one of the world’s 10 most haunted houses (according to the website Wanderlust ), the late Victorian mansion Monte Christo.  

Beth then flew to Sydney where she was met by Kasey, before meeting with staff at the State Library of NSW. 

Plans are underway for another Social Work in Libraries Symposium in early 2024, so keep an eye on our site for more information: and keep in touch: . We are also looking forward to listening to a short interview with Beth by Simon Wakeling for SICS Radio on 2MCE. Keep watching this space! 

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