Information Revolution: Mustering the Militia: Collaborating with Public Libraries to Provide Consumer Health Information Services to 17 Rural Tennessee Counties

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Objective: To enable primarily public libraries and secondarily public health workers and rural hospital staff to be consumer health information providers with the goal of creating a program that could be copied nationally, enabling public library workers to become an important resource in reversing our national health information illiteracy.

Setting: Three regions of the state regional public library system covering seventeen counties and two regions of the state public health department system.

Participants: Public library staff, public health department staff, and rural hospital staff. Program: East Tennessee State University (ETSU) College of Medicine Library partnered with public libraries to improve the delivery of health information. Four free classes were taught multiple times: “Prescription for Success,” “An Apple a Day,” “PubMed for Public Librarians,” and “From Snake Oil to Penicillin.” Regional public library directors were used to convince their staff of its value and obtain the concurrence of their boards for release time for class attendance. Classes were also developed for the public health workforce and rural hospital staff. Existing classes (with all teaching materials on the National Network of Libraries of Medicine [NN/ LM] Website) were used with the existing public library system.

Results: Five-hundred thirty-three students attended the classes. Fifty-two public library workers received MLA’s Consumer Health Information Specialist certification. Thirty-one public libraries have joined NN/LM. All ordered MedlinePlus marketing materials for their libraries from InformationRx.org.

Conclusion: This project helped address the public health problem of health information illiteracy by filling the gap the average person has in finding quality health information. A strength of this project is its easy replication. The project used materials that were readily available and put them to use. Any library could replicate this project in its own service area saving time and cost to the library.


Philadelphia, PA

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