Written by April Wright, NNLM All of Us Community Engagement Coordinator, National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), Southeastern/Atlantic (SEA) Region. For questions, please e-mail April Wright
Being new to health sciences libraries, I had no idea of the possibilities that awaited me. Having worked in public libraries for several years, I understood the delights and challenges of learning, through questions patrons asked. Health related information is one of the more difficult topics I encountered when working in public libraries. I knew about MedlinePlus as a “source for reliable health information,” but not about the broader world of resources the National Library of Medicine (NLM) provides enabling health consumers to find discover much of what they need. Public librarians are uniquely poised to help their users navigate that world and guide them toward being engaged in and well-informed about their health outcomes.
The MLA Symposium: Health Information for Public Librarians opened the door to equipping public librarians with the tools for developing expertise and creating sustainable health information literacy initiatives. These tools include the opportunity to earn a Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) Certification through participation in free classes offered by the NNLM regions and access to a number of additional benefits available to public librarians by becoming a free NNLM network member.
The NLM Strategic Plan, NNLM’s partnership with the Public Library Association PLA in its Health Literacy initiative, and NNLM’s All of Us Community Engagement Network provide a cohesive incubator for health information literacy programming and services in public libraries to grow and thrive. Participants were encouraged to create a Library Program/Service Action Plan and a Professional Development Action Plan to help engender a sense of commitment to their role as health information stewards after the Symposium experience. Given the discussions at the end of the second day and the following comments, it feels like we are off to a great start! Some of our participating members provided the following feedback:
As someone who works in a public library, it was very enlightening to learn more about the world of medical librarianship and the potentials for collaboration in our community around disseminating consumer health information. The MLA conference helped me gain more knowledge on the health reference interview, as well as ways to train staff on best online health resources and titles. I will definitely be accessing more MLA and NLM/NNLM resources for my public library as we promote health literacy to the public. –Elizabeth Roth, Be Well Program Coordinator, Nashville Public Library
I am looking forward to having our library promote the All of Us Initiative. In addition, I was so intrigued by the scope of the research presented about the All of Us initiative at the symposium, I signed up as a participant myself. In the workshops, I learned so much about leveraging our position as a known reliable source of information in the community into becoming a hub for medical and health resources that I could not jot everything down fast enough. – Joslyn Bowling Dixon, Assistant Director, Prince William Public Library System
It was a great experience for me to attend the National Medical Library Association Symposium where I conversed with public library staff members from other states and also members of the medical library field. After hearing about Medline Plus and returning to the Waynesboro-Wayne County Library, I instructed our library staff to place an icon on our sixteen public access computers so that we can encourage our patrons to utilize this informative database. I also posted the benefits of using this website on the library’s Facebook page as well. – Patsy C. Brewer, Library Director, Waynesboro-Wayne County Library
If you participated in the MLA Symposium: Health Information for Public Librarians, I would love to hear your thoughts and how you used the information to provide health information within your library!