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Title:Small and rural public libraries: Supporting community health and wellness
Author(s):Lenstra, Noah; Rubenstein, Ellen; D'Arpa, Christine; Burke, Susan K.
Subject(s):Public Libraries
Programming and outreach
Health literacy
Continuing education
Abstract:Distance from metropolitan areas has been found to correlate with health outcomes, with rural areas rating the worst in national health rankings. Rural residents are less likely to have easy access to health professionals, with 77.2% of rural counties in the U.S. in “health professional shortage areas” (ALA, 2017). While public libraries do not typically provide health care (with some exceptions), they do commonly assist patrons in finding health information. Because libraries are often the most valued organizations in their communities (Pew Research Center, 2013) as a resource available to all and used by many, they are well positioned to address health and wellness needs through public programs. Small and rural libraries are often staffed by non-MLIS librarians, have fewer resources to support training and networking, and staff may be unaware of best practices related to health and wellness programming. In order to increase opportunities and education for staff in these libraries it is crucial to understand how public library staff currently develop, deliver, and assess these programs. This research examines how small and rural public libraries support community health and wellness through public programs, and seeks to: • Obtain an in-depth understanding of health and wellness programs in small and rural public libraries • Learn how libraries collaborate with outside organizations to provide such programs and how public library staff view their roles and responsibilities in offering them • Learn the perspectives of outside collaborators who partner with libraries • Understand the perspectives of patrons who use or do not use library programs for health and wellness information and lifelong learning This research will comprise at least 16 case studies of library systems and individual public libraries in small and/or rural areas in Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Vermont. Four individual libraries from each state will be studied, and, where applicable, their library systems, enabling comparisons across different regions of the country with variations in state health profiles and state-level library infrastructures. The study will result in an educational model that will 1) teach librarians and other library staff how to effectively develop, assess, sustain, and extend programming and services; 2) inform library practices and LIS pedagogies; and 3) inform potential partners how to work with small and rural libraries to develop and implement health and wellness programs. The researchers will also develop training modules for LIS educators and students in collaboration with partners in the four state libraries that will include information about best practices for funding, partnering, planning, advertising, and assessing health and wellness programming.
Issue Date:2019-09-24
Series/Report:Public libraries
Information literacy
Continuing education
Genre:Conference Poster
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23

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