Becker Library, Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Public Library Collaborate to Improve Access to Health Information
While it may seem that Google is the only place people visit to find information, the neighborhood public library continues to stand as a reliable - and for many community members, the most accessible - source of information on topics of interest. Recent research has suggested that as many as 20% of questions in public libraries may be about health information, and that 75% of Americans think it is important that public libraries provide health information.
As part of its community outreach efforts, the Becker Medical Library has partnered with the St. Louis Public Library and the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) at the Siteman Cancer Center on an ongoing project to provide better access to credible health information for people using the St. Louis Public Library.
The project, started in 2010 and funded through PECaD’s community outreach and education program, has three major achievements to date:
- A survey of St. Louis Public Library staff was conducted across all 16 branches to gather information about the types of health questions received from the public and to gauge staff interest in receiving training on credible health information resources. The survey results indicated that over 86% of the SLPL staff believed their patrons would benefit from greater exposure to consumer health information and an overwhelming number of staff was interested in learning more about current health information resources
In July 2012, we provided two training sessions for staff of the public library. The 3-hour training sessions focused on:
- Credible, free resources of health information such as MedlinePlus.gov
- Free resources for cancer information from the National Cancer Institute
- Subscription products from EBSCO available via the public library
At the request of SLPL staff, additional topics were added, including the ethical provision of health information, and compassionate information assistance for cancer patients and their caregivers.
- In August 2012, health information kiosks were placed at each of the regional branches of the public library across the city: Buder, Carpenter, Julia Davis and Schlafly. The kiosks are stocked with pamphlets and brochures on a wide variety of health topics. The content of the kiosks was chosen by a collaborative ranking process among staff from the libraries and PECaD
Future plans for the project include:
- Hosting focus groups for the public, facilitated by PECaD
- Developing programming for the public library that draws on the expertise of WUSM faculty in response to topics of interest identified in the community
- Revising and repeating the training for public library staff
Becker Library is happy to talk to WUSM students, staff and faculty who would like to learn more about this project, or how the library can assist in areas related to community health or consumer education. Please contact Will Olmstadt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 362-4734.
The Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) is funded by the National Cancer Institute, U54CA153460.
St. Louis Public Library, founded in 1865, has 16 locations with 4.6 million items and 2 million visitors annually.
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