Head of the Health Sciences Library Stony Brook University Stony Brook, New York
Background: It has been demonstrated that social work interns have successfully provided social services in a public library setting. To build on this premise, academic health sciences librarians partnered with the Master’s Program in Public Health (MPH) to develop a pilot program in which MPH students were trained to deliver consumer health information in public libraries within high needs communities. Nursing students and social welfare students were also part of this program, and they provided services to the community that were directly related to their respective areas of expertise.
Description: The health sciences librarians provided training and mentorship to MPH students, so they could proficiently provide health information to patrons in public libraries in areas identified as having health disparities. The MPH student was placed in these libraries to answer health related questions from patrons, using the resources available through the health sciences library, as well as freely accessible consumer health materials. The health sciences librarians also provided health literacy instruction to the nursing and social welfare students to ensure that they could provide accurate and reliable health information to patrons. The students also encouraged to create and deliver health-related programming. A data capture form was completed after each patron contact to identify specific health concerns within the community and to inform future programming and outreach efforts. This experience fulfilled practicum requirements for the MPH student, clinical hours for the nursing students, and contact hours for the social welfare students..
Conclusion: The success of this pilot program was evaluated using several measures, including the number of patrons served and feedback from hosting library directors. There have been approximately 300 patron contacts, and overall the library directors are pleased with the success of this program. Students are currently delivering virtual presentations to library patrons on a variety of health topics in place of on-site services, which were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently plans to continue this program into the fall, including offering virtual one-on-one consultations to patrons as well.