Proposed Bill Would Put Social Work Students, Professionals in Libraries

The bill would create paid social work internships at public libraries across the U.S.
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Published on June 28, 2023
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  • U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia introduced the More Social Workers (MSWs) in Libraries Act for the second time.
  • The proposal would create a grant program to fund new social work positions at public libraries.
  • Many professional social work organizations voiced support for the proposal.

Lawmakers proposed a bill to expand opportunities for social work students to work in paid internships, a rarity for those enrolled in social work programs.

U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat representing Texas, proposed the More Social Workers (MSWs) in Libraries Act on May 1. The proposal seeks to use public libraries as a hub for social workers — including college students — to better serve their communities.

The bill would create a paid social work internship at public libraries. Specifically, the Department of Education (ED) would distribute grants to colleges and universities to pay for internships at local public libraries. These grants would also go toward employing a qualified social worker to oversee student interns.

According to the bill's text, internships may go to both undergraduate and graduate students.

"As a social worker early in my career, we must make it easier for aspiring social workers to achieve their professional goals," Garcia said in a statement.

"My bill will ensure social work interns are paid a living wage and are trained under the supervision of qualified social work professionals. I can't think of a better place than public libraries to host this program — as they are key learning centers and community hubs."

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) requires undergraduate students in social work programs to work at least 400 hours in an internship, also called field placements. Graduate students must work at least 900 hours. However, these field placements are rarely paid opportunities, prompting a wave of student advocacy calling for these placements to come with wages or stipends.

Under the MSWs in Libraries Act, institutions must pay interns at least $15 per hour, according to the bill's text.

The bill does not state how many internships it would fund, as it does not include a suggested funding amount.

U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee of California and Hillary Scholten of Michigan co-sponsored the MSWs in Libraries Act. Both are Democrats.

This is the second time Garcia has proposed the bill. She introduced it in September 2022, just a few months before the previous congressional session ended.

Many professional social work organizations have voiced support for the MSWs in Libraries Act, including the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the Council on Social Work Education, and the American Library Association.

NASW called on members to ask their local representatives to sign as a co-sponsor to the MSWs in Libraries Act.