Social workers find a new place to deploy their skills: The local library

David Perez is the state’s only full time social worker employed by a public library system. He came to the Long Branch library system after library director Tonya Garcia realized her staff wasn’t trained to fill social service gaps.

In a town like Long Branch, multimillion dollar properties dotting the coast, and a gentrified community inland, the needs are drastically different. Emma Parish, a graduate student in Rutgers University’s social work program, initially thought her internship placement at a library sounded odd. Now she’s hoping to encourage her classmates that this is the future of social work.

So far the program is a success, but it’s really just the beginning. The Newark Public Library system recently hired a social worker on a two-year grant and the city of Hoboken reached out to see how they could replicate the model.