Name: Sue Simenz
Title: Reference Librarian, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI
Education: BA in Communication Arts (Radio-TV-Film), University of Wisconsin-Madison, MLS, University of Wisconsin-Madison
How did you become interested in focusing on Health and Wellness?
I’ve been in this job (reference and collection development) for a long time, so I’ve always been cognizant of the need for a quality physical collection and keeping it up to date. Our health sections get evaluated/weeded more frequently than other areas and I’m doing that for our branches too. Around 20 years ago I helped one of the local hospitals when they were setting up a consumer health circulating library. Around the same time, I wrote some grants for Alzheimer’s and diabetes materials. Requests for health information have been a constant at the reference desk. I was aware that I was not as familiar with MedlinePlus and other resources as I’d like to be, so I was very interested in a program at the Wisconsin Public Library Association that Bobbi Newman presented last April. She spoke about getting public libraries involved in providing health literacy information and the certification process through the National Libraries of Medicine. I was more excited about this than anything in a long time! I started taking classes through NLM in the summer and I’m very close to getting my Consumer Health Information Specialist Level II Certification. I was especially interested in the programs for seniors and was disappointed to see NIH SeniorHealth end this summer, but I’m working on adapting some of the information on the Toolkit for Trainers on that.
Why is health literacy important in your community?
Because there’s so much misinformation out there and such a need for current, understandable, fact-based information. Also because many people are at a lower reading level than we’d like to believe and are intimidated by health care workers (and librarians!) In Brown County, some of the top health priorities are alcohol misuse, oral health, mental health, and adequate, appropriate and safe nutrition and we can be a source of help in addressing those priorities.
What’s the impact that you hope to make in your community?
I hope to improve health literacy among our staff as well as our community. We have nine locations and I need to share what I have been learning with our other staff so everyone knows at least some basics and doesn’t just generically Google things. The approach needs to be multi-faceted—in- library as well as in outreach programs, partnering with community groups, using television and social media, collection development.
What is your favorite health-related program or outreach that you’ve done?
Our library has been doing a lot of aging and dementia-related programming over the last couple years. Personally, I’m still getting my feet wet. I did a program on MedlinePlus for seniors that was not well attended, and I think a lot of that group may need to be met more at Senior Centers, church senior groups, etc. so we’re exploring that. I’m working with our PR/graphics staffer on coming up with a “brand” of libguides or pathfinders that we can use to highlight library materials, websites, groups, etc. on different topics (diabetes will be the first). These would be print as well as on our website and social media. And I’m not afraid to take other’s ideas and adapt for Brown County! I’ve seen good ideas from others in my classes and really like a couple of programs highlighted in recent public librarian spotlights here, such as the Walking Book Group (see Danielle Henson ) and the Diagnosis Bags (see Nicolette Warisse Sosulski.)