Q. I'm finishing up my first year of library school and I've gotten interested in bibliotherapy. How can I learn more about this specialization?
A. Bibliotherapy, as a concept and a practice, is nothing new. The term first appeared in an article in The Atlantic Monthly in 1916 by Samuel Crothers, a Unitarian minister, as explained by Jami L. Jones in "A Closer Look at Bibliotherapy," published in the Fall 2006 issue of Young Adult Library Services. Form and function of bibliotherapy came out of the work of Sadie Peterson Delaney, the chief librarian of the U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama from the 1920s through the 1950s. Her work at Tuskeegee was described by Betty K. Gubert in "Sadie Peterson Delaney: Pioneer Bibliotherapist" (February 1993 American Libraries) as well as in the finding aid to her papers at the New York Public Library.
More recently, Brian W. Sturm distinguished the two in the December 2003 issue of the ''Journal of Educational Media & Library Sciences, as follows: "Reader's advisory, helping library patrons find books to read based on their prior reading preferences, is a common endeavor for most librarians. Bibliotherapy, using books to promote healing, is a special kind of reader's advisory." While the casual activity of locating books on a topic to facilitate resolution of an issue, such as finding books for children to understand the death of a grandparent, might be called bibliotherapy and practiced by a skilled readers’ advisory librarian, true bibliotherapy, like art therapy, also requires training in psychology.
There is no active group within the American Library Association concerned with bibliotherapy, though there are occasional references in the literature (most of which we’ve captured on the webpage noted below).
If your university also has a clinical psychology program, you might pursue the possibility of a joint program. For more information on art therapy, see American Art Therapy Association, and for more information on biblio/poetry therapy, see National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy.
See the page on Bibliotherapy on the Library's Professional Tips wiki for a selection of references and web links about this specialty.