As the Outreach Librarian of Baystate Health Sciences Library, I am collaborating with City of Springfield librarian Matthew Jaquith to provide monthly instruction to community members on how to use the website http://MedlinePlus.gov as a health information resource. Each class highlights a different health topic. The topics are aligned with nationwide observances of health topics (Depression Awareness Week, National Diabetes Month, etc.) The classes are marketed to those with low to moderate computer skills. The goal of instruction is to increase confidence levels in the use of computers and the use of MedlinePlus.
- September: In-service for librarians
- October: Depression & Mental Health
- November: Diabetes Awareness
- January: Healthy Weight
- February: Healty Heart
- March: HIV/AIDS Awareness
- April: Autism
In each class, I review how to use a browser to get to MedlinePlus. I teach slowly and simply–basically focusing on using the search box to look for disease-specific information in MedlinePlus. I review how to print information from websites and how to email information to yourself. I teach in the front of the class, and Matthew is on hand to assist participants with computer tasks. We expect participants to need help with scrolling down a lengthy page or searching for the new window that just opened.
MedlinePlus holds such a wealth of information. Ideally, I’d like my participants to think of going to MedlinePlus instead of Google in order to start their search. That’s why I focus on the search box. Get to the place where the participants are comfortable–entering a term in a search box, click on hyperlinks, and scroll down the page.
For each topic, I point out the easy-to-read and video resources. I demonstrate how to find resources written in Spanish and other languages. I read aloud the general description of our topic, and show a Patient Education Institute tutorial. I pick out recent news story on the disease. We look at sources of explanations for tests and treatments. I pick a link that addresses either nutrition or alternative therapies. I promote MedlinePlus as a resource for health-related legal and financial advice. And, I show them how to locate information on disease-specific statistics, research and clinical trials.
In teaching these classes, I rely on my twelve years’ experience in public libraries to connect with the participants. I am a big advocate for public libraries! Matt can answer questions about the use of the library’s computers and printers. He brings in books and other materials for participants to borrow. And, he promotes the use of the branch libraries and other library events.
I am very excited about this partnership. A great way to address health disparities.