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Region 4 News October 3rd, 2022
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Connecting Libraries to Diverse Communities Brings Research Psychologist to ALA

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

By Rochelle Cassells, Ph.D.

I am a research psychologist.  I conduct science and health education research and evaluation studies with diverse community members, students, teachers, and faculty.  So how did I end up at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference this summer?  This is both a long and short story.

The short version is that I applied for the NNLM professional development award, and they funded my travel and conference fees.  I highly recommend this opportunity to others.  The longer version is that I serve as the evaluator for a project based in the Salt Lake Valley that seeks to increase the capacity of public libraries to meet the health information needs of diverse communities.  This project was previously funded by NNLM and is currently in its third iteration.

We know that lack of access to reliable health information and low health literacy contribute to pervasive racial and ethnic health disparities.  We believe that libraries, as sociocultural institutions, are uniquely positioned to deliver trustworthy and accessible health information and resources.  But how do we accomplish that, especially when our research found that individuals from diverse communities seldom use libraries and, if they do, do not feel welcomed there?

We developed a multi-stakeholder partnership consisting of two public library systems, leaders from five diverse communities, and a research university.  The participating libraries hired individuals from diverse communities (Community Wellness Liaisons; CWLs) to bridge the gap between their communities and the library.

I presented our findings in a panel discussion titled “Connecting to Diverse Communities for Health Literacy” at ALA.  I shared this effort’s successes and challenges, highlighting the model’s value for others interested in replicating it.  My primary message for librarians interested in this work is to consider what more their library can do to market itself as a service organization.   Research shows that individuals from diverse backgrounds seek work that allows them to pursue communal goals such as helping others.   If libraries can continue to alter the perception of what they do and offer, then individuals from diverse communities may be more attracted to library careers.  This approach is necessary and important because libraries will need to hire more diverse people for the goals of this model to be achieved and sustained.

For more information on this project, see my final report or view our webinar.

(Dr. Rochelle Cassells is a research associate with the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah.)

Members of the ALA panel on Connecting to Diverse Communities for Health Literacy in June: From left, Toan Lam-Sullivan, Karen Nguyen, Dr. Rochelle Cassells, Trish Hull, Kari May and George Strawley.



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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