Guest Post By: Emily Weyant, East Tennessee State University
Librarians at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) regularly exhibit at conferences and health fairs promoting NNLM products as well as those from other legitimate educational, government, and non-profit organizations. In effort to extend this outreach, librarians proposed a series of exhibits to take place in early 2020 at local health fairs and continuing medical education (CME) events in Johnson City, TN. Specific events identified included the Corazón Latino Festival, Men’s Health Fair, CME events for primary care and pediatrics, plus county based health fairs run by medical students from the Quillen College of Medicine (QCoM).
Funding was procured from NNLM to facilitate the printing of consumer health handouts for these events. Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many of the planned events were postponed or cancelled. Prior to this, librarians were able to attend two events in February: “An Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts: Hidden challenges: Deaf singer/songwriter Mandy Harvey to share story, music,” held at the Millennium Center, and the “Color My World Healthy Health Fair” at the Carver Community Recreation Center, both in Johnson City, TN. Both of these events allowed librarians to network with the community as well as other departments at the College of Medicine. Materials already procured for the postponed or canceled events will be used for relevant community outreach performed by the library as soon as it is permissible.
Exhibiting at local events affords librarians the opportunity to both learn from their surroundings and enact positive changes. While exhibiting, librarians interact with their local residents and are able to learn more about the needs of their community. Librarians also expose attendees to medical librarianship, which educates the public on what medical libraries do and how they function within their communities. An added benefit of exhibiting at local events is interacting with other departments from one’s own university. Frequently departments that do not have time or need to interact with one another on campus may run into each other while at an outside event and create new connections that were previously unexplored. QCoM librarians have experienced this type of networking in the past and have pulled new teaching and research opportunities from these encounters.
Setting up exhibits at local health fairs, or events held by one’s university, can frequently be a cost-effective way of making your library’s presence known both within and outside of your institution. Often the cost of exhibiting at university events is nonexistent except for materials while local events may request exhibitor fees of varying degrees depending on event and location. Although these outreach efforts have been placed on hold for the time being, QCoM librarians look forward to returning to public service when safe and appropriate.