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Midwest Matters April 12th, 2024
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Le Mars Public Library is Making an Impact on Community Health Thanks to NNLM Book Discussions

Posted by on March 4th, 2024 Posted in: Public Libraries, Public Libraries Spotlight
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The NNLM Book Discussion program offers librarians, health professionals, and public health workers a unique opportunity to explore health issues affecting their communities while enhancing their health information services and outreach.


We recently received feedback about the direct impact of participating in these discussions on health information outreach in public libraries. Shirley Taylor, Library Director of Le Mars Public Library in Iowa, shares her experience:

“I would like to say that I really loved the book club discussion on Palaces for the People.  This book & discussion re-energized me to serve our community. It was important for me to think about library services as social infrastructure and key factors in resilience and quality of life for a community.   As a result of the class, our library is doing a 10-week Beat the Blues challenge to help everyone learn strategies for getting through the long winter months.  As part of this program I have been writing a newspaper article every week in which I have been promoting Medlinplus.gov.  That is such a great resource!    Our library also added light therapy lights for check-out so people could try one to see this would help them.”

Participants in Beat the Blues engage in small challenges each week, earning punches on their punch cards for small prizes. For the activities, Shirley utilized resources from NIH and MedlinePlus, such as Get Excited About the Brain and Practicing Gratitude Ways to Improve Positivity. In addition, Shirley contributes a weekly article to the local newspaper, featuring health information about combating the winter blues and highlighting resources like MedlinePlus. Many of these insightful articles are on the Le Mars Public Library’s Facebook page. Shirley says, “MedlinePlus had so many great articles and handouts for our topics!  And so many of them were available in Spanish!!”

The small weekly challenges were:

  • Week 1- Practice Gratitude: Handout: Gratitude sheet & a journal
  • Week 2- Cognitive Health: Handout: Word search/game handout
  • Week 3- Foster relationships: Visit the library with a friend to have a free hot drink (coffee, apple cider, tea, hot chocolate)
  • Week 4- Exercise Week: Handout- from MedlinePlus
  • Week 5- Art & Creativity: Handout several coloring sheets & free colored pencils
  • Week 6- Humor: Check out a funny book or DVD
  • Week 7- Cognitive Health: Handout: A variety of brain games
  • Week 8 – Mood Food: Handout: A recipe for mood-boosting foods and a dejunking your diet flyer
  • Week 9- Learn something new. Use the library’s digital newspaper database to see the news stories & ads on your birth date.
  • Week 10- Scavenger hunt in the library and prize week. People with four punches on their card get in free during the library’s movie night at our local theatre on March 11.

Through these efforts and utilizing resources from NIH and MedlinePlus, libraries like Le Mars Public Library are making significant strides in promoting health literacy and well-being within their communities.



You can participate in NNLM Book Discussions by registering on our website to discuss titles and topics that interest you.  You will have three months to participate in either an online or live discussion to earn 4 Medical Library Association (MLA) Continuing Education credits at your own pace. Rooted in Universal Design for Learning principles, this program allows you to engage with the chosen book in your preferred format (print, audiobook, ebook) and timeframe.

 Upcoming Book Discussion titles and dates

At Home on an Unruly Planet: Finding Refuge on a Changed Earth by Madeline Ostrander

  • May 1 – July 31, 2024

You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon

  • August 1 – Oct 31, 2024

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

  • November 1, 2024 – January 31, 2025

Topic: Dementia, Book TBD

  • February 1 – April 30, 2025


Image of the author ABOUT Bobbi Newman
Bobbi Newman (MLIS, MA) is the Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist for NNLM R6 at the University of Iowa. She is the author of Fostering Wellness in the Workplace: A Guide for Libraries. She developed the popular NNLM course “Wellness in the Library Workplace.” Bobbi is a mindfulness student and a member of Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). She currently serves as a member of the Advisory Board for Let’s Move in Libraries. She divides her time between her dog, reading fantasy and nonfiction, playing video games, crafting, kayaking, biking, and gardening.

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This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Grant Number 1UG4LM012346 with The University of Iowa.

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