Objectives: To understand the challenges and opportunities for public library workers that arise around health information in the 21st century. POPULATION: 57 public library workers from across the United States. 56% were professionals; 11% held jobs focusing on children and young adults. 42% were in suburban settings, 35% in cities, 14% rural and 9% in towns.
Methods: Focus groups allow researchers to explore ideas and insights from a small group of people, using scaffolded questions to keep the participants focused on the topic at hand. For this study, the investigator conducted a series of virtual focus groups using Web-based GoToMeeting (LogMeIn.com). A total of 57 participants met in groups of 2-5 between March and May 2018. Sessions were recorded, transcribed and coded using NVIVO (QSR).
Results: Multiple themes were discussed; this presentation focuses on the answers to one key question: "“What is the biggest challenge you see for public library workers who get health information questions?” Participants identified a range of challenges; the five most frequently discussed were the public’s need for medical Advice, their Expectations and role Boundaries for library workers, their Expertise (or lack of it), and the need to Evaluate information. Computer literacy, Health literacy for both patron and librarian, and general literacy were also areas of need. Finally, the need for training in health information resources was a recurring theme.
Conclusions: The public's need for health information is one of the oldest recorded in public libraries.To best support the public in its pursuit of health, library administrators and library science educators alike need to join hands across the aisle and begin educating library workers at all levels in the best ways to meet these needs. The virtual focus group methodology proved to be a valuable way to explore the values and the characteristics that library workers in all settings, from major metropolitan areas through villages, have in common.