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Partners in Health Information Literacy and Dissemination: Strategies for Visibility and Outreach to New Audiences

This is the first in a series of articles about ways that Pacific Northwest regional medical librarians can become more visible (and valued) in their communities by collaboratively promoting themselves and health information resources.

One effort in support of helping network members be more visible partners in their states and local communities is a new brochure, produced by the NN/LM PNR’s Regional Medical Library (RML), featuring an insert including the names of local regional medical librarians.

The new brochure’s insert, specific to a state, will list the medical librarians who have simply expressed a willingness to advise community-based organizations (for example, public libraries, K-12 schools, social service agencies, faith communities, small businesses) on health information-related concerns. Examples of services regional medical librarians might provide to community-based organizations (CBOs):

– Training to find health information on the web.

– Accessing articles.

– Partnering for funding from NN/LM PNR or other sources.

– Co-exhibiting at health fairs or other events.

– Offering free materials (available through NN/LM PNR) to introduce NLM health information resources to a CBO’s staff and clients.

The RML will distribute the NN/LM PNR brochure with the insert listing the state’s medical librarians to the state’s public libraries and other CBOs suggested by regional librarians.

Why CBOs? When libraries offer support to CBOs and other third-party organizations in your communities, you also promote the idea that health information is “universal” even if health care is not, and that health information should be integrated into other social, economic, political and environmental interventions at the local level.

The RML hopes to develop a medical librarian brochure insert for each of the 5 states in the PNR. If you are interested in having your name and institution included for your state, please contact Roy Sahali, NN/LM PNR Community Resources Coordinator at rs@u.washington.edu

Or, you might also use other strategies to promote your services locally, such as:

– Contribute to the Op-Eds column in your local newspaper.

– Suggest to a local radio station that they might interview you as a health literacy expert.

– Investigate community TV as a means to promote and demonstrate how to find trusted Web-based health information.

– Use the “new media” to reach the keyboarders among us—social networks, blogs and wikis are good ways to engage more diverse audiences.

One example of a large-scale promotional effort using radio and TV is Montana State Library’s campaign “What’s Your Story? Find it at the library!” This marketing and programming project is designed to help Montana libraries promote their varied services to the public. “What’s Your Story?” reminds Montanans of libraries’ value to the communities they serve. The campaign targets one key audience annually and MSL staff work to develop an entirely new set of tools and materials for libraries to use in their promotional efforts. Marketing and programming materials include programming suggestions and guides, tips on collaboration within communities, how-to guides on everything from writing a press release to controlling interviews, as well as TV and radio ads, bookmarks, posters, and other promotional items.

“What’s Your Story?” debuted in late 2005 and targeted the state’s growing senior citizen population. The current focus is on Baby Boomers. For more information, visit the What’s Your Story? Web site: http://msl.mt.gov/WhatsYourStory/. The RML has partnered with this Montana campaign to highlight the need for health literacy among seniors and Baby Boomers, and hopes to partner with other state and local marketing projects, large or small, to promote network members and health literacy resources.

Through promotional endeavors planned to increase network member visibility at both state and community levels, the RML hopes to increase the general public’s awareness and use of online health information resources, and to reach health professionals with little or no previous contact with medical librarians, while providing support for network members. In addition, we hope to build public awareness of the National Library of Medicine as an identifiable and trusted source of health information, offering free online resources such as:

MedlinePlus, one of the best general health information Web sites.
(http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus)

Household Products Database, offering health and safety information on household products.
(http://hpd.nlm.nih.gov/index.htm)

ToxTown, an introduction to toxic chemicals and environmental health risks you might encounter in everyday life and everyday places.
(http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov)

PubMed for health professionals, which includes over 17 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles, and provides links to full text articles and other related resources.
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez)

Trusted health information should be available to everyone. As regional medical librarians, we can help make it available to our local communities and underscore the value of our services at the same time.

Let the Regional Medical Library know about your marketing and promotional activities and ideas.

To find out how the RML could be a partner in small- or large-scale state and local marketing projects to promote your services and health literacy resources, contact Roy Sahali, NN/LM PNR Community Resources Coordinator at rs@u.washington.edu.

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