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Using LibGuides as a Platform to Disseminate Information About the Affordable Care Act

Ever since the panel session Libraries & Health Insurance: Preparing for October 1 was presented at the American Library Association (ALA) annual meeting in Chicago on June 30, 2013, it became clear that the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) would have an important role in preparing Network members for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Initially the number of inquiries received by our office was a trickle, but as the October 1 open enrollment date neared, the amount of interest grew substantially. Public libraries in particular were concerned about the potential impact and the influx of questions they might receive about how to apply for health insurance through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, from people who do not have health insurance through their employers. Complicating matters even further, some states have their own ACA health insurance exchange, for example, Covered California.

Libraries and the Affordable Care Act

We considered a variety of communication methods to keep our Network members apprised of ACA developments, which were coming at an ever quickening pace. Options included development of a web page, email announcements, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and LibGuides. We knew that some information, such as training sessions, was time sensitive, while other information would be used primarily for reference purposes. We also needed to include state-specific information for Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada. In addition, we began planning regional webinars and other training activities. After weighing the pros and cons, LibGuides became the clear choice for the resource. Its benefits include:

  • The ability to update quickly
  • Ease of use; not much technical knowledge required for basic editing
  • Several staff members can have editing rights
  • Ability to have separate pages (tabs) across the top of the page (useful for state-specific info)
  • Ability to track statistics and see which sites are driving traffic to our guide
  • Boxes and links can be shared within the guide, thus reducing workload by eliminating duplication of content
  • Other LibGuides users can adapt and reuse the guide for their own purposes and avoid recreating the wheel

The link to the LibGuide is prominently located on our web site. It started with a main page and few categories. Boxes were originally created using Rich Text/Dynamic Content Boxes, which allows for nice presentation, but has limited ability to track usage of the site. We decided to move to the Links and Lists Boxes format, which offers the ability to track statistics and check for broken links, but has fewer formatting options. The page quickly grew, and new boxes were created to divide the content into manageable categories. The guide currently has the following content boxes on the central part of the main page:

  • New Links and Breaking News!
  • Upcoming Webinars and Trainings
  • State-Specific Resources
  • Getting Up to Speed – the Essentials
  • Get Official Resources
  • Resources for Libraries
  • Uninsured Population by State

Additional information is included in the narrow right-hand column of the guide. Four tabs were created for the states in the Pacific Southwest Region, each with similar content. The state pages include information about each state’s insurance exchange and associated resources, such as educational and outreach materials. Sections for Medicaid, Breaking News, and Upcoming Events are also included. The LibGuide is updated regularly, often on a daily basis, which we plan to continue at least through the duration of the open enrollment period ending on March 31, 2014. The updating process involves searching at least once a week for general and state-specific news, with a focus on items that will be useful for libraries.

LibGuides has proven to be the ideal platform for hosting ACA information. Prime benefits include the ability to easily create content on the fly without needing extensive technical knowledge, well-defined sections (boxes) that have unique features, and the ease of sharing content both within the guide and with other guide creators. We hope that by sharing our work we will make it easier for many libraries to keep up with this rapidly evolving topic! We would also like to acknowledge other guides created by Network members in the region; the Arizona State Library, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Libraries.

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