Dodging snowflakes, I made my way to the Philadelphia Convention Center on the morning of Tuesday, March 20. That day, Bobbi Newman (NNLM GMR), Monique Mason (Akron-Summit County (OH) Public Library) and Carolyn Martin (NNLM PNR), and I would lead 75 public librarians through the basics of health and wellness reference services, and explore ideas for health-related programming and outreach. Stand Up for Health was one of six preconferences scheduled before the opening of the Public Library Association (PLA) 2018 Conference.
We began crafting our preconference in autumn, taking notes from NNLM’s Health and Wellness @ the Library class. As we live in different regions, we met virtually to bounce around ideas and concerns. After the holidays, we started meeting weekly to allocate topics and discuss logistics. We arrived in Philadelphia ready to greet a room full of enthusiastic participants.
The purpose of NNLM’s strategic focus on public libraries is to develop long-term partnerships and collaborations that bring NLM’s information resources to the community.~ https://nnlm.gov/public-libraries
I volunteered to open the session with an introduction to Consumer Health. Confident that I was in among people who support reading aloud, I recited the poem This is Bad Enough by Elspeth Murray and read an excerpt from Suzanne Strempek Shea’s memoir Songs from a Lead-Lined Room. I worked in two pair-and-share activities and one table discussion in my allotted hour. After the coffee break, Monique took the lead. Her segment focused on the health information reference interview. As a currently practicing public librarian, she spoke from experience.
The hottest topic cropped up after lunch. When Monique gave an overview of collection development policies, discussions bubbled up about evidence-based materials vs. popular (but not science-based) titles. Should libraries collect from sources like Dr. Oz, Dr. Mercola, Gwenyth Paltrow and Tom Brady? If libraries are spending public dollars, shouldn’t they respond to public requests for these titles? How do librarians distinguish between these selections and science-based resources?
Ultimately, there was no resolution of this sticky subject.
We shifted gears with Carolyn’s presentation on MedlinePlus and other websites from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. I give presentations on these websites as part of my job, and I appreciated Carolyn’s style. I hadn’t thought to highlight NIH websites independently of their inclusion within MedlinePlus.
As we took our last break, Bobbi asked participants to jot down successes and struggles with offering health-related public library programs. These notes were put up on flipcharts. Bobbi selected themes from the notes, and created short breakout sessions. Themes included: outreach to teens or seniors; programming topics on healthy eating or sexual health; and developing community partnerships or raising awareness of the public library as a source of health information.
Emily Plagman joined us in the late afternoon for an overview of PLA’s Project Outcome. This is a very cool assessment tool, freely available to public libraries.
Bobbi wrapped up the day by outlining the next steps. Participants would submit a take-home assignment on their library’s health collections. At that point, they will fill out the standard NNLM evaluation of the class. I am curious to hear the results.