Ray County Library
Data is changing the landscape of information technology. It has an impact on the decision making process for many library services. Health and wellness programming is one of many areas in which data-driven technology tools can assist libraries in the decision making process. The Ray County library was a recipient of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine MidContential region’s Community Engagement Technology grant. During the grant term, the Ray County Library, a small rural library in Missouri, utilized Orange Boy’s Savannah community engagement technology tool to collect information regarding library use for health and wellness programming.
During the months of data collection, Savannah gathered and analyzed information regarding how library customers interacted with the library and its services. Some of the areas of analysis included: check-outs, library visits, program attendance, and general activity and engagement with services. For this project, one of the initial questions that prompted the grant was what types of health and wellness programs are needed in our community? To answer this question, we wanted to have a better understanding of how customers are utilizing the library.
The data gathering process revealed many interesting characteristics of our library customers. Users primarily circulate adult and children’s print materials, and the majority of frequent visitors who check-out items are over the age of 45. Additionally, library users seem to live in particular areas of the county. The majority of users are from the surrounding town, with additional concentrations in the townships in the southern portion of the county and smaller numbers of users from the northern and northwestern portions of the county. One possible reason for this concentration of users may be the proximity to the Ray County Library. Residents who live in the northwest side of the county tend to travel via routes that do not take them into the city of Richmond regularly. Additionally, the library has many users who come only occasionally to utilize a specific service such as, print or fax a document.
With the increased knowledge of community needs from Savannah, we were able to correlate the acquired data with information found in area health reports from Community Commons, a community based non-profit organization that tabulates health reports nationwide. Through this process, we have identified three key health indicators for the community: mental health, substance abuse, and heart disease. Subsequently, the three areas in which we plan to increase health and wellness related programming are mental health, general healthy habits, and substance abuse. The library has existing programs and partnerships that cover two of the identified areas: substance abuse and healthy habits. The library is an active partner in the Ray County Coalition for Youth, which is a community-based organization that works with youth and community organizations that support youth to fight substance abuse by providing education and alternative programs and support to area youth. The library also hosts programs each month for seniors that are led by a nurse from the area hospital.
Future programming plans include collaborating with the local extension office to provide healthy eating and exercise programs for children and working with area mental health service providers to provide mental health programming.