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Region 4 News June 21st, 2024
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A Look at How Academic Health Sciences Libraries Engage Native Americans

Posted in: #CC/Academic List, #Health Interest List, #Health Sciences List, #Public/K-12 List, All Members

Academic health sciences libraries interested in engaging Native American communities in a deep, meaningful way would benefit from sustainable funding that would allow them to carry out a project over the course of multiple years, University of New Mexico researchers found in conducting a scoping review.

Presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association in early May, team members said they screened 2,787 items from academic publications and grey literature including blog postings to identify 47 unique outreach or engagement programs with Native American populations. The projects were conducted by academic health sciences libraries in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The review sought to explore trends and themes in how those libraries have conducted outreach and engagement with Native American communities in the hope of learning about and sharing effective practices.

“If we want to make sustainable, impactful engagement and outreach projects which can reach all the way to the empowerment level of the participation spectrum, long-term funding is necessary,” said Allison Cruise, a second-year associate fellow with the National Library of Medicine who conducted her research with four other team members at UNM. “It was clear that the fantastic Native Voices exhibiting project from NLM promoted many collaboration and partnership opportunities. Determining ways to sustain such collaborations outside of short-term projects is a major challenge for academic health sciences libraries.”

The number of programs each year peaked between 2003 and 2006, then again from 2013 to 2017. The Native Voices Exhibit, a traveling exhibition that the National Library of Medicine offered between 2013 and 2020, accounted for most of the second peak.

Early major funders for projects included the Gates Foundation and NLM. Common partners for libraries included both federal and tribal government organizations, as well as federal libraries and non-governmental organizations.

Most projects involved training, but others covered collection development, website development, exhibits and purchases of technology.

The study looked at the level of interventions engagement projects used with their respective communities, relying on a framework that identifies five levels of public participation.

The majority of projects intervened at only the lowest level – that of informing the community – and fewer numbers of projects consulted, involved or collaborated with the community. Only one project engaged its community at the empowerment level, where the community has full decision-making power about what is implemented by the whole process.

The information could prove especially useful in multiple states including New Mexico, where more than 200,000 Native Americans make up 11 percent of the state population. While facing significant health challenges and disparities, Native American communities also bring unique assets, strengths and resilience to the table, Cruise noted.

Next steps in UNM’s research include interviewing stakeholders throughout New Mexico to learn more about outreach and engagement initiatives and what types of projects will be most useful for communities. Researchers also hope to conduct further analysis of the data collected from the scoping review.

Other project team members included Nydia Villezcas, Jon Eldredge, Alexis Ellsworth-Kopkowski, and Melissa Rethlefsen. The scoping review was conducted with NNLM Region 4 funding provided to the UNM Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM013732.



Contact us at:
Network of the National Library of Medicine/NNLM Region 4
University of Utah
Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
10 North 1900 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-5890
Phone: 801-587-3650
This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

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