Partnering with Public Libraries: Sharing

TrophyI was hired to be the Outreach Librarian in November 2009.  Staff changes and shortages prevented me from really sinking my teeth into this position until June 2010.  At that point, I started contacting local public librarians about teaching consumer health information.  I wanted to approach the topic from different angles:  teaching reference librarians about reliable sources; teaching consumers about reliable sources; and engaging consumers in conversations about hot medical topics. 

Previously, I had taught a consumer health education class to public librarians through the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System.  I offered to teach a similar class to the librarians at Springfield City Library.  Matthew Jaquith, Programs & Training Librarian, enthusiastically accepted my offer.  The class was open to librarians and paraprofessionals in September 2010. 

Obligation.  One of the messages I wanted to convey is that the Baystate Health Sciences Library is obligated to share our resources.   The Health Sciences Library at Baystate Medical Center is a Resource Library for the National Network of Libraries in Medicine (NN/LM).  Our mission is to serve the health information needs of  unaffiliated health care practitioners, librarians, educators and consumers in Western New England.  We  are charged with providing free instruction and assistance.

Additionally,  Baystate Health observes the Community Benefits Guidelines from the Massachusetts Attorney General.  These voluntary principles encourage Massachusetts hospitals to continually build upon their commitment to address health and social needs in the communities that they serve.  Hospitals are encouraged to be innovative in developing community benefit programs so as to use institutional strengths and available resources in the most effective way.

The 2009 Annual Report from Baystate Health states an allegiance to a broad definition of community health, including economic opportunity, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods and other elements that impact a community’s ability to thrive. 

Baystate’s engagement with its communities and its people has increasingly expanded out of the hospital and into homes, schools, community organizations and neighborhoods.  Baystate Health recognizes the needs of the poorest and most at risk community members, and supports these groups by giving voice to neighborhoods struggling to cope with health disparities and a lack of educational and economic opportunities.

Western New England is home to poor populations in both urban and rural settings. And, the public librarians interact daily with those at risk. My goal is to support the librarians with tips for finding the information that their library patrons may need.

Librarian talk.  My class with the Springfield City librarians covered all the usual territory, launched by a quote from Laura Bean, librarian at the University of Maine at Machias, “Librarians are like waitresses.  We serve it fast and we serve it hot.” 

I reviewed tips for effective and respectful reference interviews, offered key elements of collection development for health materials, presented ideas for library programming on health issues.

Together, we searched MedlinePLUS.  My goal was to look at a variety of health topics and view a variety of health resources.  To this end, we looked at the following:

  • Depression.  Info for Seniors (Video).
  • Diabetes.  Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
  • Obesity.  Info for Children & Teens.
  • Heart Diseases. Tests.
  • HIV/AIDS. Financial.
  • Autism.  (Video) Legal Rights.

The class was successful, despite the fact that I ran out of time and was racing through some information at the end.  I do plan to take this show on the road.  I am grateful that I am in the position to do just that!

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