As the Consumer Health Coordinator for the NNLM South Central Region, I have the opportunity to support community partners and help serve a variety of populations. Everyone needs access to health information! A Philadelphia Pew study found that more than a third of people coming to the library are seeking health information (Library Journal). Upon attending the Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia, I learned how public librarians are rising to the call in big ways.
Librarians from all over the nation held sessions that ran the gamut of subjects and ideas. Several covered the topics of outreach, community engagement, civic engagement, after school support, STEAM programming, diversity, health information, the opioid epidemic and more. I attended a session where UPenn taught us how to administer Narcan. Media outlets have picked up on this, an example below:
“In at least three major cities — Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco — library employees now know, or are set to learn, how to use the drug naloxone, usually known by its brand name Narcan, to help reverse overdoses. Their training tracks with the disastrous national rise in opioid use and an apparent uptick of overdoses in libraries, which often serve as daytime havens for homeless people and hubs of services in impoverished communities.” (CNN).
For more information, see the article in American Libraries magazine: Saving Lives in the Stacks: How libraries are handling the opioid crisis.
Other sessions were lighter hearted and intriguing. One session I walked into had a speaker fully dressed in Harry Potter-style academic regalia and led us through a visualization activity. We found out later in the session that this was a way of teaching coping skills. The session taught us how to use fandoms to build STEAM summer camps for youth and also to approach challenging topics delicately. Instead of having a session for teens on depression or suicide (what teen would come to that?) one can have a “defense against the dark arts” class. For the National Library of Medicine’s take on how to use Harry Potter to teach about science, see the exhibition page.
From striving to be the “community’s university”, to discussions of how to provide health information resources, librarians showed how hard they are working to provide resources and connections within their communities.