By Shreya Gupta
MSW student Samantha Seigerman is completing her field placement at the East Brunswick Public Library. We recently had the opportunity to interview her about how she was connected to the library and her work there, as well as her thoughts on social work within the sphere of a library and beyond.
Q: Can you share a bit about your background at Rutgers SSW?
A: I am a first-year MSW student at Rutgers School of Social Work. For the last six years, I worked in advertising in New York City. Throughout that time, I developed an interest in health and wellness, particularly yoga and meditation, as it allowed me to de-stress from my heavy workload. I created presentations on stress and anxiety to inform others about the topic and started to think about a potential career change. Being an advocate for the erasure of the stigma surrounding mental health for as long as I can remember, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career where I could simultaneously help people, but also play the active role of a changemaker.
My most recent position was at the New York Open Center, where I provided marketing assistance to authors, therapists, spiritual healers, and licensed clinical social workers for their programs. Over that year, I learned about social work, and it resonated with me as the missing puzzle piece in my career.
Over the summer, I took a course titled "Human Behavior in the Social Environment" at Rutgers School of Social Work, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Soon after, I decided to enroll into the MSW program at the School. I am on the clinical route, with a focus on mental health. I am also earning a certificate in the Promoting Child & Adolescent Well-Being (ChAP) program, with a concentration in adolescence and mental health.
Q: How were you connected with the East Brunswick Public Library?
A: MSW students are required to complete a field placement. Because I have an extensive background in both marketing and programming, the East Brunswick Public Library was a perfect fit. I was connected to the library through the School, and after an interview, I was selected for placement.
Q: What does your work with the East Brunswick Public Library consist of?
A: I am involved with a number of activities at the library. Patrons are able to book an appointment with me to discuss a variety of services available to Middlesex County residents, including meals and support for homelessness, affordable housing, addiction, employment, and mental health. In addition, I teach yoga and meditation through virtual classes to patrons, as the library has an excellent health and wellness program. My work also consists of community outreach and researching the methods through which public institutions can assist people via social work.
Q: What is it like navigating your field placement virtually?
A: Even though I miss connecting with patrons in person, my field placement has been an incredible learning experience. Because the presence of social workers in a library setting is a new venture within the field of social work, there are many practices and modes of collaboration to be learned by both social workers and librarians. Learning about the positive impact this juncture has had on patrons, social workers, and librarians alike has been immensely fulfilling.
Due to the virtual nature of my field placement, it requires that patrons have an electronic device through which they can book appointments with me and/or access other resources I have to offer, which is challenging because of the circumstances many patrons find themselves in. Through my work with community outreach, I hope to break down this barrier, and help as many patrons as I can.
Q: What is the value of having a social worker available to serve library patrons?
A: Libraries are valuable hubs that provide complimentary service to a wide variety of people, including those belonging to marginalized and disadvantaged communities. They often serve as a shelter for the homeless, and many consider it to be a sanctuary for the resources they can provide. Social workers can leverage these abilities, and their knowledge, to help patrons in as many ways as possible.
Q: What are your hopes for social work?
A: It is crucial that every voice, regardless of identity, in our society is heard. Social workers are well-equipped with the tools needed to influence public policy in a way that can acknowledge these voices.
I also hope that mental health issues be considered as a reality for many, and that people gain an equitable access to the resources needed to resolve them. I want social workers to recognize the importance of self-care. We can't serve others until we can serve ourselves.