Consumer Health Literacy in the Public Library
Christina Pryor, MLS
St. Louis County Library
I came to St. Louis County Library just over a year ago as a Reference Librarian but prior to that I was a corporate medical Research Librarian. I had also worked at a medical publishing company and an academic medical practice. In all I had almost a decade of experience in the medical area but I assumed that was over when I moved to the public library setting.Shortly after I started at St. Louis County my manager sent me to a session on consumer health literacy by NNLM. Having been a medical librarian I was familiar with the tools presented, however, I was caught off guard about by the videos and statistics presented about consumer health literacy in this nation. I immediately started thinking, “What can I do to help my customers at St. Louis County?”
By the time I arrived back at my library, I had a plan. I wanted to assemble a consumer health literacy lecture series but I knew that it would be a challenge to get people to come to the library to hear a librarian talk about health literacy. What would make them come to the library? St. Louis County Library needed a medical partner. I contacted SLUCare, the Physicians of Saint Louis University, and they were immediately on board with the idea. When I left that first meeting, I knew we had a beneficial partnership for both the library and SLUCare.
The “SLUCare 60-minute check-up” lecture series at St. Louis County Library was created. Each month SLUCare would send one or more physicians to the library to cover a different medical topic such as how to get the most out of your doctor visit. In addition to the lecture by the physician, I would do a brief presentation on consumer health literacy including health literacy tips or a demonstration of a medical research tool such as MedlinePlus. SLUCare also provided clinical staff to provide free blood pressure screenings at each event.
I knew we had a winner! In January 2011, we held our first event at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters and over 70 people registered for the event. Each month we have consistently had an average attendance of 40-50 people at the library and our highest registration was 100 people for the arthritis lecture.
We had the right formula for the lecture but that was not the only key to the program’s success. SLUCare promoted each lecture with newspaper and direct mail advertisements. They also ran radio spots mentioning the library. St. Louis County Library used our email newsletter as well as our social media vehicles to promote the series. The marketing and promotion of this series has led to its success.
Both SLUCare and St. Louis County Library have been pleased with the results. Now that I have become the Reference Manager at St. Louis County and we are preparing for our last “SLUCare 60-minute check-up” for 2011, SLUCare and I are planning for another great year in 2012. If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact Christina Pryor at St. Louis County Library.