Evidence-based practice necessitates that social workers know how to locate relevant research in an efficient manner that accounts for quality and currency of scholarship, including relevance to their clients. This requires searching strategically for literature while anticipating new information and learning opportunities. As the bulk of scholarly literature for social work exists behind a paywall, it is imperative that practitioners know how to search for and retrieve open access sources.
Social workers understand and articulate the value of open access. They are empowered to seek avenues beyond restricted resources, such as obtaining access through public and university libraries. They seek assistance to identify access points for themselves and their clients. Where sources are limited, social workers advocate for themselves and on behalf of others to improve access to information and to acquire the skills to understand, interpret, and discern information to make informed decisions. Depending on the practical context and scope of their organization's or client's needs, social workers select from a variety of search strategies with which they are proficient.
Because social workers see themselves as "partners in the helping process” they persistently guide clients in pursuit of their information needs; actively listening to help identify questions, developing strategies for searching across multiple resources, and empowering clients to explore information sources for themselves.
Social work librarians instruct students how to locate and utilize open-access sources beyond traditional, subscription-based databases (Pendell, 2018) such as websites, government documents, policy briefs, statistics, and academic journals. They teach students to recognize that, depending on one’s research needs, “information sources vary greatly in content and format and have varying relevance and value.”
By encouraging students to “seek guidance from experts, such as librarians, researchers, and professionals” as part of their strategic search strategy, social work librarians help students understand that “first attempts at searching do not always produce adequate results” and to think with “flexibility and creativity” while browsing sources and brainstorming how to craft and refine research questions. In addition, social work librarians help students to “identify interested parties, such as scholars, organizations, governments, and industries, who might produce information about a topic and then determine how to access that information.”
Value: Social Justice
1. Learning Objective: Utilize virtual reference service to access social work librarian
2. Learning Objective: Evaluate alternative information sources