By Valerie Pascale, as told to Shreya Gupta
First year MSW student Valerie Pascale was drawn to social work during her time as an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware. Pascale worked on a sexual violence helpline, where she learned the value of connecting with other people and recited her personal mantra, "people need other people."
This academic year, Pascale will further develop her social work skills through a virtual field placement at the Johnson Public Library in Hackensack, New Jersey. We had the opportunity to speak with Pascale about this experience.
Q: Did you have prior experience in social work in a library setting? Do you think there are any advantages to this work?
A: Before selecting my field placement at Hackensack's Johnson Public Library, I was unaware of the role social work could play in a library setting.
Upon my field placement, however, I have learned of its many advantages. The Johnson Public Library is located near a homeless shelter, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many patrons would use the library as a resource throughout the day. I've come to recognize the many opportunities libraries provide to promote the well-being and development of its patrons, including English classes, one-on-one technology support, and resume-building activities.
Libraries are also well-connected institutions accessible by the public that can refer patrons to other services in the area. There are many helpful social service agencies in the vicinity of the Johnson Public Library.
Q: What kind of work do you accomplish at the library?
A: I often meet one-on-one with patrons to speak about community resources, resume building and career services, higher education opportunities, and even relaxation techniques. To expand the reach of these services beyond meetings, I've also created a series on health insurance open enrollment on the library's social media accounts.
In addition to sharing resources, I also host monthly wellness programs on Zoom for patrons. This month, we will be creating a DIY gratitude calendar where registrants will meet virtually to fill in a calendar of daily gratitude exercises. Next month, our wellness activity will reflect on the highs and lows we've all experienced this year through a crafting project. This will be an excellent opportunity to come together as a virtual community and acknowledge all that we have lived through.
Q: Can you share some of your experience navigating Zoom and other technologies in your work?
A: Engaging with and practicing social work via Zoom has been an interesting experience. Zoom provides some form of visual connection, which allows me to read and connect with patrons, as compared to a phone conversation.
Regardless of the technology being used, the best thing you can offer someone is a listening ear, kindness, and understanding. I really value the connections I have made with patrons.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to work with patrons in a new environment, as well as for everything I have been able to learn at the library. I love programming regardless of whether it is through Zoom or in person. I enjoy being able to connect people with their local resources.