Public libraries are the front line of health information needs in their communities. Public libraries fill four very important roles in community access to health information. First, they provide access to print and online consumer health information. Next, almost all public libraries offer free access to computers and internet services which allow access to up-to-date online health information. Third, public librarians answer health-related inquiries from their community members. Finally, many public libraries offer health and wellness related programming and outreach for their communities.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) provides free, research-based, health resources to public libraries and other community organizations that serve public health needs.
In 1998, the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) began collaborating with public libraries to connect consumers with National Library of Medicine health information resources including MedlinePlus.
The NNLM has eight Regional Medical Libraries (RMLs) that connect with the public libraries in their service areas. NNLM Regional Medical Libraries webinars and asynchronous classes on health topics. The RMLs also offer funding for health outreach, and other activities, sponsorship for the Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS), programming ideas, and educational materials.
Contact your region to find out about opportunities near you!
NNLM provides resources to help enrich your programs. Join our free membership network to take advantage of all that we have to offer. Membership is institutional, not individual.
Members are eligible to take advantage of services that include:
- Your organization will be listed in the NNLM Membership Directory
- Free webinars and presentations
- Online training on NLM Resources with classes customized to meet the needs of your organization
- Professional development
- Online training and webinars for your K-12 community
- Exhibiting at conferences and health fairs on free health information
- Free informational materials for order and download on National Library of Medicine (NLM) resources
- Funding opportunities for consumer health outreach and for traveling exhibits
- Grant and proposal writing information
In an effort to support libraries who want to remain engaged with their communities through the COVID-19 pandemic NNLM staff members and members have offered a number of webinars on virtual programming and the recordings are available on our YouTube channel. Some recordings that may be of interest include:
- Providing Virtual Programming in a Health Crisis
- Building Resilient Communities Online and In-Person
- Introduction to Mindfulness: Nourishing Ourselves in These Times
- Virtual Programs for Preschoolers: How to Encourage Wellness, Movement & Creativity
- Providing Library Senior Services in a COVID-19 World
You can see more upcoming webinars, self-paced courses, and asynchronous online classes on our training page.
NNLM All of Us Community Engagement Network is offering virtual health programming designed for public library audiences. We hope that this will be a great resource for libraries who are interested in offering virtual health programming but might not have the capacity to do so. Events are regularly updated on this page and can be promoted alongside your library’s other programs. Check here for upcoming and past events include author interviews, citizen science learning events, and more.
The Medical Library Association Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) offers training in providing health information services to consumers and recognition for the accomplishment of acquiring new health information skills.
CHIS courses are offered by the NNLM at no cost. It is easy to meet the requirements for both levels with NNLM courses. There is a cost for earning your CHIS, but NNLM Greater Midwest Region is currently sponsoring that cost. Visit to learn more about earning your CHIS at no cost.