National Network of Libraries of Medicine
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Libraries, Literacy and the Pursuit of Healthiness: A Western New York Health Information Literacy Outreach Project

The Western New York Library Resources Council (WNYLRC) is seeking a Community Engagement Network grant from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region (NNLM MAR), that will help ensure all people in the Western New York (WNY) region are aware of and able to access information they specifically need to live healthy lives. The project will accomplish this through a series of steps: First, enhance health literacy skills and knowledge, among library staff in the region, specifically utilizing the resources of NLM, so that people in the region will recognize the reliability and utility of libraries for providing quality health information. Participants from libraries in six counties will complete required NNLM coursework to acquire Community Health Information Specialization (CHIS) Level One certification. Second, all newly certified library staff will help their patrons learn how to access and use quality health information resources, through both one-on-one reference services and through outreach programs at participating libraries, emphasizing services for groups who represent traditionally “underserved” populations. Third, the participants will utilize their newly acquired skills and knowledge to encourage and provide training to other library staff in the region to broaden the scope of services. Our goal is to ensure all people across the region, especially those recognized as “underserved,” have equal opportunities to locate, access and use health information resources they need and deserve. The overall desired result is to enhance public awareness of and, ability to to access health information and participate in promoting their own healthiness through interaction and participation in library services and programming resulting from the project. This focus on improving individual health information literacy is aligned with the mission of NNLM, which seeks to: …advance the progress of medicine and improve public health by providing U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information and improving individuals' access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health.
Identify any specific population(s) this project will serve: 
Medically Underserved Areas/Populations
Behavioral/Social Determinants of Health
African Americans or Black
American Indian
Latino or Hispanic
Identify roles of participants this project will serve: 
Educator, K-12
General public
Library or information professional
Public health professional
Student, college & post-grad
Student, K-12
Project Lead:
Grace DiVirgilio
Funding Source: 
Project Funding:
Federal Fiscal Year: 
Funding Amount: 
Funding Period:
May 1, 2019 to Apr 30, 2020
Project Status:
In Progress


Libraries, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Healthiness: A WNY Health Literacy Project Kick-off Event
Activity Description:
Advocacy opportunity and further grant participation information: The kick-off event for the Libraries, Literacy & the Pursuit of Healthiness: A Western New York Health Literacy Project took place on September 10, 2019. Program Co-Coordinators Olivia Helfer, Grace DiVirgilio, and Heidi Ziemer greeted attendees from school and public libraries participating in the event.
Activity Dates:
Activity Type:
Other Promotional Activities
Partner Organization(s):
Western New York Library Resources Council (Member Organizations)
The Libraries, Literacy, & the Pursuit of Healthiness Grant Kick-off Event, hosted at WNYLRC, was the first in-person meeting of grant participants. This event provided participants with an opportunity to hear from state legislators as well as learn more about the specific requirements for their participation in this grant-funded health literacy project.
Activate, Collaborate, Educate: Health Outreach Programming in Your Community
Activity Description:
Workshop NNLM MAR Health Programming Coordinator, Michael Balkenhol, taught a 3-credit Medical Library Association (MLA) and Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) CE eligible workshop entitled Activate, Collaborate, Educate: Health Outreach Programming in Your Community.
Activity Dates:
Activity Type:
Partner Organization(s):
National Network of Libraries of Medicine (Member Organizations), Western New York Library Resources Council (Member Organizations)
Activate, Collaborate, Educate: Health Outreach and Programming in Your Community was presented by Michael Balkenhol at WNYLRC and introduced grant participants to many helpful consumer health and programming resources. The twelve participants represented school, public, and special libraries from three counties (Erie, Niagara, and Genesee) as well as 3 WNYLRC staff librarians.