Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

The National Library of Medicine's Native American Outreach Portfolio: A Descriptive Overview*

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

The National Library of Medicine's Native American Outreach Portfolio: A Descriptive Overview*

Article excerpt

Objectives: This paper provides the most complete accounting of the National Library of Medicine's (NLM's) Native outreach since 1995, when there were only a few scattered projects.

Method: The descriptive overview is based on a review of project reports, inventories, and databases and input from the NLM Specialized Information Services Division, National Network Office of the Library Operations Division, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and Office of Health Information Programs Development of the Office of the NLM Director. The overview focuses on NLM-supported or sponsored outreach initiatives involving Native peoples: American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.

Results: The review of NLM's relevant activities resulted in a portfolio of projects that clustered naturally into the following areas: major multisite projects: Tribal Connections and related, Native American Information Internship Project: Sacred Root, tribal college outreach and tribal librarianship projects, collaboration with inter-tribal and national organizations, participation in Native American Powwows, Native American Listening Circle Project, Native American Health Information, and other Native American outreach projects.

Implications: NLM's Native American Outreach reached programmatic status as of late 2004. The companion paper identifies several areas of possible new or enhanced Native outreach activities. Both papers highlight the importance of solid reporting and evaluation to optimize project results and programmatic balance and priorities.


Over the past eight years or so, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has gradually evolved from sponsoring an occasional Native American outreach project to a more programmatic approach that includes diverse types of projects and activities. An earlier transNLM outreach review in 1995 concluded that Native American outreach warranted more intensive attention [1].

The attention to Native Americans is driven in part by the significant health disparities experienced by the Native American community and, thus, the importance of health information outreach projects that can directly or indirectly help reduce health disparities for Native Americans [2-6]. In its broadest sense, NLM through its Native American outreach is attempting to encourage access to and use of health information by health providers, patients, and the general public in Native American communities. Additionally, based on learning in the early Native American and related projects, NLM is striving to give greater emphasis to building community-based partnerships-in this case, for example, working with and empowering local health professionals and community-based organizations in Native communities.

NLM's overarching goal is to strive to make a difference-to help Native Americans make better and more effective use of health information to address their own and their communities' health issues. This implies a commitment to improved efforts to measure the impacts of NLM's Native American outreach activities. The purpose of evaluating the work is to build a knowledgebase, so that outreach staff can do better in the future and make best use of the scarce available resources.

In this paper, the authors present a complete description and project-specific evaluative commentary, where possible, of each of the major groupings of NLM-conducted or sponsored Native American outreach projects over the past eight years (see the accompanying paper for an overall evaluation of these programs).


Tribal Connections I, II, and III

The Tribal Connections (TC) program emerged in part from NLM's 1996 review of its outreach programs. The review concluded that Native Americans had not received adequate priority in NLM's overall efforts to address the needs of minority and underserved communities. …

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