Health Happens in Libraries

Read on for great examples of libraries supporting their patrons with health information, and please send us your story to share!


Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library | Bristol, PA | Community Served: 9,633

Submitted By | Dana Barber, Library Administrator | October 2014

The Grundy Library is busy building a partnership with our local hospital Lower Bucks Hospital. Currently, we are partnering to provide access to Affordable Care Act (ACA) navigators who are available on Tuesdays at the Library to assist individuals one-on-one with healthcare coverage questions. No appointment necessary. This service will be available throughout the 2015 open enrollment period as well.

We are exploring other ways to partner and bring health literacy education to our constituency, and received many new ideas through the efforts of PA Forward. In particular, I was very excited to hear about Engage for Health, a community education program for Pennsylvania libraries, which was created by the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania. This program empowers library staff - either alone or in cooperation with health professionals - to provide basic health education on talking to care providers. We are looking forward to implementing it!


Sarasota County Libraries | Sarasota, FL | Community Served: 390,000

Submitted By | Ann W. Hardy, Community Engagement Coordinator | October 2013

The Sarasota County Library System has partnered with the Community Health Center of North Port, Inc. to provide three Certified Application Counselors who circulate within 8 of our libraries. The counselors spent half a day at each library every week in October 2013. From November 2013 through March 2014, the schedule will change to accommodate demand, but we expect to offer at least 80 hours each month where Certified Application Counselors will be available to answer questions in the libraries. Sarasota County Libraries have always been a source for health care information in our community, and the Counselors will provide personalized and in-depth information on the Affordable Care Act and its impact on individuals in our community.  


Santa Clara County Library District | Cupertino, CA | Community Served: 900,000

Submitted By | Mark A. Fink, Library Services Manager for Outreach and Public Awareness | October 2013

PlaneTree Health Information Center opened in October, 2011. The Center is a partnership between Santa Clara County Library District and PlaneTree. PlaneTree is an independent, nonprofit community service, and has provided health information to the public in two prior locations since opening in 1989. Santa Clara County Library District recognized that the public was looking for a trusted, noncommercial source for health information, and the library decided to step in to serve this role.   

In its new location at the Cupertino Library, the PlaneTree Health Information Center provides relevant and reliable health and medical information to individuals, so they can make healthy choices about their lives and informed decisions about their health. PlaneTree’s expert, caring librarians and volunteers work one-on-one to help individuals find information so they can understand more about health concerns and communicate more effectively with their doctor and other health care professionals. PlaneTree does not offer medical advice.

Individuals can visit the PlaneTree Health Information Center in person, the PlaneTree website or contact staff to learn more about any medical condition and treatment options, as well as ways to keep themselves and their family healthy. PlaneTree Health Information Center services are free to everyone.


Indianapolis Public Library | Indianapolis, IN | Community Served: 877,389

Submitted By | Carrie O’Maley Voliva, Public Services Librarian | October 2013

The Indianapolis Public Library has always played a role in connecting patrons with vital resources and we see health literacy as one more way we can assist community members. We heard President Obama’s call for libraries to help with educating citizens and providing computers and meeting spaces for the Health Insurance Marketplace rollout this summer, and we immediately began preparing for this new service opportunity. We created an Affordable Care Act Infoguide, with a callout from our homepage, and have been adding resources as appropriate.

Nearly 200 people attended five Health Insurance Information Sessions held at our Central Library. We partnered with several local health groups and navigators and conducted these programs as panel discussions along with Q&A and a short introductory presentation on the basics of the new healthcare law. We have started our new program “Navigating Healthcare at the Library” in which healthcare navigators are traveling to many of our 23 branches and setting up information tables and assisting patrons one-on-one with their insurance applications. More than 400 people have attended these additional sessions thus far and we have many more scheduled from January - March 2014.

For day-to-day assistance, reference desks are stocked with handouts with the Health Insurance Marketplace checklist of materials needed to enroll with the contact information for national and local resources at every reference desk. I also keep a Health Reform display stocked with books and information sheets in the Central Library atrium. We anticipate continued demand for healthcare information, particularly tied to the Affordable Care Act.


Rochester Public Library | Rochester, MN | Community Served: 144,000

Submitted By | Susan K. Hansen, Librarian/Webmaster | October 2013

We recently launched the Wellness Corner, a private space where activities like non-invasive health screenings, nutrition information, and career counseling can take place. The "corner" is staffed by nursing and medical students from nearby colleges as well as other professionals such as dieticians from the MN Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. We have implemented a 'self-serve' calendar where patrons can sign up for when they, and a space that fits their activity, are available. We are not only addressing the physical ‘leaves’ of a person's wellness, but also the social, mental/emotional, occupational, environmental, spiritual and intellectual 'leaves' by working with other agency and community partners to bring in classes and programs throughout the year on a variety of topics such as "Living with Chronic Illness" or "Dealing with End of Life Issues". We're working very hard with local agencies to get the word out to places that serve our seniors, low income, homeless and minority populations that we've added a new format for health information: the human interaction format!

We will also be working with local Affordable Care Act navigators to make our computer lab area available for helping to sign up residents. This is a similar approach to tax time, when we'll also be opening our computer lab for partners working with income-qualified residents for free online tax filing.


Franklin County Public Library District | Brookville, IN | Community Served: 11,100

Submitted By | Melody Gault, Director | October 2013

The Franklin County Public Library District plans a Celebrate Women’s Day of Health at both our library branches each year. We invite the area hospitals and various organizations to have booths. Each booth offers a door prize. We always have a doctor who gives a keynote address at noon. Lunch is available free and is provided by one of the hospitals. It has grown each year. We have been providing this service for about six years now. Avon comes and paints finger nails, a local massage therapist does neck and back massages, Safe Passages always has a table, we try to have a wide variety – something for everyone.

We also have a Healthy Living Series. Various doctors and healthcare professionals provide discussions on various “hot” topics. We have had menopause, prostate cancer, childhood obesity, concussions, and heart health, just to name a few.


Marian J. Mohr Memorial Library | Johnston, RI | Community Served: 29,000

Submitted By | Grayce J. Moorehead, Associate Director & Reference Services Librarian and Lori DeCesare, Reference Librarian | October 2013

As librarians, we have a professional responsibility to provide quality information and services to our patrons, patrons who have as many diverse abilities and limitations as healthcare issues. This challenge of librarians helping find health information sources for the public is not unlike many other subject-specific informational challenges we have faced in the past, especially in difficult economic times. The impasse lies with the level of technology expertise and access that is required to search out what is needed. We are ready.

After attending the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services Consumer Health seminar in September 2013, we immediately strategized as to how to educate our public library patrons about online healthcare resources.  Our “basic” computer class was redesigned and marketed to educate users in basic computer operation and Internet searching using healthcare websites. A webliography was created and followed listing links to Consumer Health Complete through AskRI, MedLine Plus, NIH Senior Health, the Rhode Island Department of Health and HealthSourceRI (the healthcare marketplace for Rhode Island).  In addition, a bookmark was designed with a basic overview of HealthSourceRI, including contact information via phone and Internet/Facebook.


Charlotte Library | Charlotte, VT | Community Served: 3,750

Submitted By | Margaret Woodruff, Library Director | October 2013

In Vermont, the Affordable Care Act is being administered through Vermont Health Connect. Thanks to several local agencies, at the Charlotte Library we have been able to host three sessions relating to the Affordable Care Act. Last spring, Vermont Health Connect presented an introduction to the program, including details for employees, small employers and individuals. On October 3, 2013 a Navigator from the Vermont Campaign for Healthcare Security brought the community up to date on the enrollment process and more recently, Navigators from the Vermont Family Network and a representative from BlueCross/BlueShield were on hand to answer individual questions from our patrons in one-on-one sessions. We hope to continue to offer space and resources so that everyone will feel prepared and secure as the program moves forward.