GMR Success Stories
Stand Up for Health: Health and Wellness Services for Your Community PLA Pre-Conference Workshop, Philadelphia, PA, March 20, 2018
Written for Midwest Matters by Sherri McConnell
What happens when a roomful of librarians get together to talk, eat and breathe health and wellness for a day? You get enthusiastic conversation, lots of ideas and determination to create programming at their home libraries. On March 20 over 80 librarians from all over the country got together at a Public Library Association pre-conference workshop to learn about health information from knowledgeable NNLM staff and to learn from each other. Participating in the workshop and doing a little homework earned you the Consumer Health Information Specialist certification from the Medical Library Association. At my table sat librarians from Kansas, Vermont, and Pennsylvania (and I’m a Michigander), and all day long we shared our program successes and challenges. Librarians are fascinating people, and I heard from two of them during the introductions: a librarian preparing to ride her horse across Michigan and another who built a Hobbit-themed wine cellar in her basement with her sisters.
In the next 7 hours we covered large topics like the definition of health literacy and challenges to library staff in providing health information in a public setting; finding and accessing sources of health information; creating programming and finding community partners; how to measure program efforts with PLA’s Project Outcome; and learning about NNLM’s funding opportunities for public libraries. The fun was in the details. Here are some gems:
Health Literacy: If you’re a public librarian you have probably experienced the difficulty of a health reference interview, and we talked about what that means for providing accurate, trustworthy information. Answers to health questions need to be tailored to who’s doing the asking and why. The question may be complicated but the answer needs to be uncomplicated. Appearance is not a clear indication of health literacy level, and many people don’t want to admit that they don’t understand the information given to them.
Health Reference: Our number one challenge is that patrons think we know everything, but the great news is that there are so many reliable resources thanks to the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus. More great resources can be found here on the NNLM website. And remember when judging health resources use these guidelines to measure trustworthiness, the CRAAP test or the Trust It or Trash It test.
Free Professional Development and Stuff: Librarians are always looking for professional development opportunities and NNLM offers free, online classes on consumer health. Check out the schedule here. Libraries can also order free materials on topics like aging, mental health, exercise and heart health here. Did you know there is a MedlinePlus magazine that your library can receive for free? If you are a fan of MedlinePlus and you would like to share that enthusiasm with your patrons, you can find subscription information here.
Popular vs. Science-Based Selection: Selectors of the 600s and beyond know this struggle very well, balancing science-based titles with patron demand for popular titles from the likes of Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola. The discussion was lively but the issue went unresolved. As always we must balance professional judgment with meeting the demands of our communities.
Sharing experiences: The best part of the day. Boards of Post-It Notes displayed program successes and challenges, and we gathered in groups to share experiences. There were too many ideas to write down but this photo gives you an idea of the wealth. https://bit.ly/2GJdKgQ If you are looking for more ways to share your program ideas, you can do that on the Programming Librarian. If you want to discuss health in libraries, this Facebook page is a good place to start, Libraries are Champions of Healthy Communities. Just ask for permission to join.
For months our local ‘Community Conversations’ group was grappling with how to get funding to bring Alzheimer’s Speaks Founder, Lori LaBey to our area. We had been seeing an increase in the number of patrons that were attending our Alzheimer’s Association programs here at Westchester Public Library and wanted to bring them more information on the subject. Lo and behold, I attended my first ALA conference in Chicago and got to meet our NNLM, Greater Midwest Region Rep, Bobbi Newman. She listened to the problems we were experiencing with getting Lori to our area and spoke to me about the opportunities that NNLM offered public libraries. After working diligently on the NNLM grant, we were overjoyed to be chosen to receive the Public Library Outreach Award for Community Conversations with Lori LaBey!
Our Community Conversations committee met to assign duties to the local partners to get the ball rolling on this event. Working through some setbacks in November, we finally secured the dates with Lori to arrive in March. We planned for 2 events at Westchester Public Library and thought we would plan the 3rd event at a nearby local community college that had a nursing program. We decided to have an early morning session for this event along with a 10-table health fair. Always expect the unexpected and have a backup plan! Five days before the event, we chose to cancel the community college session due to low attendance.
I proceeded to contact a neighboring high school that had a vocational health sciences program to see if they were interested in hosting Lori LaBey at their school. They were thrilled to hear that this was a possibility and asked if she could speak to 2 classes. I immediately contacted Lori, and she was thrilled that she got the chance to talk to our future caregivers. After speaking to the first class, the teacher introduced the student officers to Lori. The president of the class bravely told us her story that the class had decided to champion Alzheimer’s earlier in the school year when her Grandmother had passed away from this incurable disease in October 2017. They organized a fashion show to raise funds for Alzheimer’s and wanted to donate the proceeds to Alzheimer’s Speaks!
During the 2 events at the Westchester Public Library, Lori presented the film, His Neighbor Phil, which showed how dementia relates to your own family, circle of friends, workplace, and business. After the film, she discussed ‘caring roles’ and ‘protection vs. perceptions’ and why care partner roles are changing, as well as answer questions. Our local Community Conversation partners provided grab-n-go food bags, water, tissues and pens for the evaluations for all the events. These educational events were free to the public. We had a great turnout for all the sessions and Lori stayed long over the end of the program to answer the audience’s questions.