Express Outreach Award Highlights: Reaching Out to Los Angeles
by Darlene Parker-Kelly, MSLS
Director, Library and Learning Resource Center
Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science
Los Angeles, CA
It was not long ago that I accepted the position of Director of Library/Learning Resource Center at Charles R. Drew University (CDU), located in south Los Angeles, and I knew immediately that our Library needed to become involved in outreach initiatives. My efforts began with a call to Judy Consales, the Director of the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library at UCLA, and she indicated that I needed to contact the Regional Medical Library (RML), and so the quest began. The first outreach initiative involved a collaboration between CDU Health Sciences Library and the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library at UCLA, which led to partnerships with a number of community organizations. Cathy Brown, Outreach Coordinator from the UCLA Biomedical Library, and I were the primary outreach organizers. Our project goal was to participate in four health or community fairs, but we became ambitious and by the end of the project we had successfully participated in 10 health fairs! We attended three chamber of commerce events, three faith-based organization events, three women’s conferences, and one school readiness event.
At the events, we saw many people interested in learning more about their health and wanting to know where they could find reliable health information. As a result of the project, over 1000 persons in Los Angeles County received handouts and brochures for National Library of Medicine resources. We utilized live online demonstrations whenever possible. We distributed handouts for MedlinePlus (English and Spanish), AIDSinfo, Clinicaltrials.gov, Genetics Home Reference, NIH Senior Health, and ToxTown. Reactions from the attendees were extremely positive! Many people thanked us and indicated that the information that we disseminated was very valuable to them, and they would share this information with family, co-workers and friends.
Locations of the health fairs included Pasadena, for California State Senator Carol Liu’s Annual Women’s Conference, and we attended the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation Walk/Run at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium, where I had the chance to see some of CDU’s students participate in the Walk/Run! Each of these events left a lasting impression that we have connected with people who want to know how to better take care of their health issues. We heard from many attendees that while there is so much information on the Internet, they were happy to find a resource such as MedlinePlus, which does not have advertisements. Would we participate in additional health or community events? You bet!
Some tips for anyone planning a similar project include wearing a hat if you are outdoors, wear flat shoes and loose fitting clothing, bring water, a snack, a student assistant, lots of handouts, and giveaways. But most of all bring your smile, your desire to help others, and the willingness to learn from each and every encounter. I continue to participate in health fairs that are sponsored by Charles Drew University, which are wonderful opportunities to become involved with our student groups. During Library orientations, I take a few minutes to discuss our outreach initiatives, which support the mission of our institution. I believe health sciences librarians are in a unique position to create partnerships, build community relations and make a difference in the lives of many people! I wish to express special thanks to Cathy Brown, the UCLA Biomedical Library staff, and the CDU Library staff.