Name: Susan K. McClelland
Title: Health & Wellness Librarian, Oak Park Public Library
Education: BA, Art History, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; MLIS, University of Illinois, GSLIS.
How did you become interested in focusing on Health and Wellness?
For a number of years I was a library associate at the American Hospital Association headquarters library in Chicago, IL and later as a medical indexer for publications at the American Medical Association library in Chicago, I became familiar with a host of medical specialties, specialty board certification rigors and consumer health organizations. I was fascinated by the scope of medical specialty training, its impact on consumer health issues, and I found the medical subject classification system intriguing, indeed.
Why is health literacy important in your community?
In Oak Park, we serve a diverse population of seniors, young families, students and a growing number of shelter and nursing house residents. The demand for reliable and accessible consumer health information is high, and I think the library does a very good job of partnering with several social service agencies to provide our neighbors with workshops, onsite pop-up clinics, health lectures, and access to health resources databases and journals.
What’s different with a health reference interview?
Lots of times we’ll get patrons asking for detailed health info or even medical advice. While the library can’t diagnose illnesses or dispense medical advice, in each instance, we try to discern the nature of the information needed, and then provide accurate resources for the patron. So, in most cases, the health reference interview process is the same as a reference interview, while the outcome might be a referral to a health care organization, to a medical journal article or a book.
What’s the impact that you hope to make in your community?
I hope the library’s health and wellness programming informs patrons, demystifies complicated medical subjects, like the Affordable Health Care Act, Medicare subsidies or Alzheimer’s care options and provides a discreet and concise health information option. Our patrons should feel confident that their family’s health & wellness is an important part of the city’s mandate and central to the library’s mission to turn outward to the community.