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Region 5 Blog August 17th, 2022
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All I know About Partnerships

Posted by on November 1st, 2021 Posted in: Blog, News from NNLM Region 5
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We hosted an NNLM Region 5 Listens Session with the theme of Partnerships as our discussion topic and to be honest, it didn’t go so well. Our Region 5 staff came to listen, assuming participants would bring experience and lessons learned to the discussion. Unfortunately, our participants actually came to learn the basics because many of them haven’t partnered before. We ended the session early and I can’t imagine anyone was pleased. So, while I can’t do a rewind, I can share what I know about partnerships within the context of the questions we asked at the Listens Session based upon my twenty years of experience as a community consumer health librarian.

How do you identify potential community partners?

  • The short answer: look around. Consider an approach I call a community scan. Ask yourself, who is providing health services or supporting health within the community? A local hospital, for sure. And yes to the public health department. But what about the local senior or community center? Churches? Food bank? Veterans groups, Area Agency on Aging, Local chapters of health support or advocacy organizations, such as the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI), the Alzheimer’s Association, the Parkinson’s Foundation, PFLAG to name a few. What about local schools? Perhaps you can partner with local schools to teach school-age children health literacy skills. Does your community have Community Health Workers (CHWs)? If so, perhaps you can partner with them to support their ability to find reliable and culturally appropriate health information to share with their patients/clients.
  • If you are a hospital library staff member, your community scan will look a bit different. To the above scan, add what support groups are operational within the hospital? Are they interested in having you present to their group? Relevant topics may include how to evaluate online health information or resources for that specific diagnosis or condition. Could you partner with nurse or patient educators to help review patient-facing materials for health literacy? If you have health navigators, perhaps you can contribute to their onboarding experience and share resources and tools to support their patient education or Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) needs. Would a LibGuide for health navigators be a useful tool?
  • If you are in an academic health sciences library, again, in addition to the ideas above, your community scan may also consist of asking what departments are doing outreach with their students. Ask how can the library support this work? Can you partner with department staff to help ensure students have relevant patient information and educational resources for their outreach efforts? If your institution supports interdisciplinary education, does it address health literacy? If so, is the library embedded in this effort? Perhaps the library can host virtual presentations of guest faculty speaking on topics relevant to community health concerns.

What types of collaborative projects have you done with your community partners to advance health information access and use?   

Outreach projects of mine included the following:

  • Organized an annual general health fair with partners from the local hospital, public health, many social service agencies and community-based organizations with a health focus. Library staff offered participants the opportunity to enter a prize raffle by playing a game using MedlinePlus
  • Organized an annual heart health fair with community partners including the local hospital, public health department, community-based organizations offering heart healthy activities, clinical dieticians offering heart-healthy nutrition information & recipes, high school cross-country coach who created an easy, heart-healthy walk for the event.
  • Participated in the annual Diabetes Fair with other community partners sponsored by a local endocrinology practice and Diabetes Support Group. We provided diabetes recipes and health information from reliable diabetes resources.
  • Organized and offered semi-annual health lecture series featuring local healthcare providers.
  • Collaborated with the local public library to offer a recurring children’s healthy story time, featuring age-appropriate books and activities focused on a health message.
  • Served as a guest instructor in a high school health class that taught students how to evaluate web-based health information.
  • Participated as a member of the Regional Health Equity Coalition.
  • Contributed to the planning and conducting of the Community Health Needs Assessment.
  • Contributed to the Community Benefit Report of the library’s parent healthcare organization.
  • Taught digital health literacy skills to older adults at a community senior center.
  • Partnered with area public libraries, senior centers and graduate health professions students to present a program on navigating the healthcare system, tips for talking with your healthcare provider and web-based resources for reliable health information.
  • Taught an introduction to health literacy to hospital staff at new hire orientation.

What advice would you share when working with community partners?

  • Start small. It’s the advice I give most often. Make sure you truly have the time to devote to lead or participate in any partnership efforts. I’ve always found it more positive to scale up rather than cut back.
  • Approach your partnership as a mini-experiment or a pilot project. Like buying a new shirt: Try it on and see if it fits.
  • Make sure your project partners’ organizational mission aligns with your organization’s mission.
  • Have clearly define partnership project goals.
  • Have clearly defined partner roles.
  • Meet your assigned project tasks on time. If possible, exceed expectations.
  • Bring positive energy to the partnership. Believe in it. Most of all, enjoy it!

What kind of support can NNLM offer collaborative community partnerships?

  • Funding awards: Outreach, Technology and Professional Development awards
  • Education and training classes to develop skills
  • NNLM staff expertise to brainstorm partnership ideas and point to resources/educational materials in support of partnership projects

Thanks for letting me share what I know about partnerships. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things, even so, I hope this was helpful. I welcome your comments, questions and feedback.

Please note: Our next NNLM Region 5 Listens Session will bel held on Tuesday, November 16th at 3:00pm PST and our discussion topic will be: Lifelong Learning: NNLM Education Programs. Interested? Register here.

Image of the author ABOUT Michele Spatz
Michele is the NNLM Region 5 Outreach and Engagement Coordinator. She has extensive experience providing consumer health information and a passion for health literacy. Michele truly believes, "Because of you, Libraries Transform.®"

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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