Find Healthcare Information At the Library
A public library is the place to go to find resources. What many don’t realize is that it can also serve as one of the community’s public health hubs. For those who are looking for health information, wanting to get simple health checks performed, or even connect with community health resources, the public library is the place to visit.
Libraries Connect the Community
Libraries have spent decades incorporating programming and resources to their institutions in order to best address the needs of the community. They are the ideal place for health educators to teach at and are also ideal facilitators between library patrons and area hospitals, health centers, and other health organizations.
The Queens Library in New York City specifically hired public librarians who have experience working in public health. Between the two of these librarians, over 600 health events were organized just in 2017. They partnered with health providers and organizations in the area and were able to host prenatal classes, sessions on disease states and viruses, and family-building programs for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
It’s not just local hospitals that libraries have a connection with. They also have the ability to reach out to organizations across the nation to help coordinate health-related programming. The East Adams District Library did just this when they noticed the continual loss of services to their rural town.The library assistant was able to reach out to someone at the Pacific Northwest region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine who helped set her up with resources and funding. The library was able to get grants to put towards health programming and created a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day program for the community.
The connection to resources is just as important. Oftentimes when librarians aren’t health experts, they are still able to be research and resource experts. They’re able to help the community find what they are looking for and also teach them how to make good decisions themselves by providing sessions related to internet or database literacy or health literacy. This prepares patrons for any potential health topics and issues they may face in the future.
Libraries Are Health Advocates
There’s plenty to do when it comes to being community health advocates. Libraries have taken a lot of initiative in ensuring that their staff members are prepared to step in when needed. In recent years, libraries have also been training staff on important health strategies and tactics for when a community member is in need.
Library systems have begun coordinating overdose prevention training in many of their branches. This involves helping library staff identify signs of opioid overdose and teaching them how to administer naloxone, a medication that helps reverse opioid overdose. The opioid crisis is something that Americans have been facing across the country. Libraries are community centers where people can head to feel welcomed and safe. By preparing librarians and staff members on ways to address drug problems within communities and issues that could arise, communities had another resource to go to and could have some comfort in knowing others were watching out for them.
A major topic of discussion is also mental health. Many public libraries have been growing their mental health resources so that they are available whenever community members need them. The Anne Arundel County Public Library in Maryland has set up a variety of programming that relates. For teenagers in the community, the library offers extra hours during finals weeks, therapy dogs, and announcing of study breaks. They hope providing the extra support during tough weeks will help address teen suicide rates. There’s also discrete sources set up for teenagers looking for resources on topics regarding suicide, incest, abuse, or acne. This gives students a safe space to find information without feeling uncomfortable asking librarians.
Librarians also work to help people incorporate healthy practices into their daily lives. Cooking classes are one option for people looking to make a change. The Mid-Continent Public Library offers cooking and baking 101 classes to the community. They’ve even transitioned to online classes since the pandemic started and patrons can easily make recipes from scratch at home. Libraries are also taking healthy living habits outside of the kitchen by hosting exercise classes for people in the community. Many even have exercise equipment that patrons can check out, for example, the Meridian Library District in Idaho has books on hand for people that want to use them.