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Dragonfly November 14th, 2019
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National Medical Librarians Month: Katja Wolfe

Posted by on October 28th, 2019 Posted in: Blog, Health Literacy/Consumer Health, Health Observances, News from Network Members, News From NNLM PNR
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In honor of National Medical Librarians Month in October, we are featuring librarians in the PNR region who are medical/health sciences librarians as well as those who provide health information to their communities.  We are fortunate to have Katja Wolfe, from the Soldotna Public Library, be our guest blogger for the last post in this series.

Where do I work? Soldotna Public Library, Soldotna, Alaska. Katja Wolfe

I am a public librarian at a busy rural library on the beautiful Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska. While I am not a medical librarian, I have had an interest in health-related reference services and programming ever since I started working at the library. That’s partly because I was a researcher for a chronic disease management organization before I became a librarian, and I never lost my desire to help people lead better and happier lives. I also work in a town that is home to the largest hospital on the Kenai Peninsula (separated from the library only by a parking lot and a couple of trees), and it is one of my library’s aims to have relevant and accurate information and resources available for its patients and the community at large at all times.

I am not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that health literacy skills are crucial to making sense of the large amount of health information available in print and on the internet. The patrons we encounter on a daily basis may simply be looking for information on healthy living or find themselves unexpectedly in need of information about a serious health issue. It is my job, and that of my coworkers, to help them find information that is accurate, timely, and easy to understand.

Enter the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. I was very excited to discover that there is a professional development resource for public librarians like me to learn about health reference, and I have freely shared this resource with my fellow coworkers.  I have taken four courses and several webinars offered by the NNLM, all of them related to providing quality health reference services to patrons of all ages and all abilities. The first two courses I took, Health on the Range and Stand up for Health, helped me learn how to assess community health needs and focus on issues particular to rural areas such as the Kenai Peninsula. Part of the latter course helped me assess and improve our health and wellness collection. I also attended Beyond an Apple a Day, taught by Carolyn Martin, this past spring at our state library conference. The half-day training introduced Alaska librarians to resources such as MedlinePlus, available through the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Finally, I completed Wellness in the Library Workplace this April, which gave me a lot of great ideas to prevent burnout and make the workplace less stressful. And, if you didn’t already know, being a public librarian can get pretty stressful and overwhelming. This year, I applied for and received the MLA Consumer Health Information Specialist (CHIS) Level I certification at no cost thanks to the NNLM. I am looking forward to continuing my education and work toward Level II.  Soldotna Public Library

In July 2019, I was invited to attend the Libraries as Partners in Health seminar at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. What an amazing opportunity. The seminar included a review of available health reference resources, a tour of the campus (including a tour of the National Library of Medicine), a lively discussion about health-related programming, and an opportunity to meet and network with peers in my region of the U.S. I am grateful that I was able to attend this meeting.

All of this to say that I really appreciate the resources and support that are available to public libraries like mine. It has greatly improved the way we provide consumer health reference at my library.

Image of the author ABOUT Carolyn Martin
Carolyn Martin is the Consumer Health Coordinator for the NNLM Pacific Northwest Region. She works with various libraries and community organizations to increase health literacy in their communities.

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