Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) South Central Region: A Medical Library for Public Libraries

By Leaf, Brian | Texas Library Journal, Fall 2020 | Go to article overview

Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) South Central Region: A Medical Library for Public Libraries


Leaf, Brian, Texas Library Journal


OCTOBER IS HEALTH LITERACY MONTH, AND IT IS RAPIDLY APPROACHING! I think this year Health Literacy Month feels more urgent given the abundance of health misinformation constantly bombarding us. But even before COVID-19, the state of health literacy skills in adults across the nation was a concern that deeply impacted the health of our communities. To put this in real terms, the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy asked participants to perform health-related information tasks such as:

* Circle the date of an appointment on a slip

* Identify what you can drink before a test in instructions

* Give two reasons a person with no symptoms of a specific disease should be tested after reading a clearly written pamphlet

* Calculate an employee's share of health insurance costs for a year

Each task correlates with a degree of literacy. The ability to circle a date on a slip is at a "Below Basic" level while calculating health insurance is considered "Proficient." Unfortunately, only 12% of adults nationwide test at a Proficient level. And study after study since then has demonstrated that adults generally have difficulty using everyday health information.

Fortunately, public and school libraries have long been involved in health programming. Charlie Carts are used by some to teach teens about nutrition and gain cooking skills.

Other libraries partner with parks and recreation departments to offer programs like StorvWalk®. encouraging reading and the outdoors by placing laminated story pages on wooden stands along a trail. What's truly been inspiring me lately are the ways libraries have pivoted their services and continued to thrive during the pandemic lockdown. Many librarians have turned to virtual programming in unique ways or learned new digital skills to enhance online activities, and the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) is no different-except that our free trainings and funding are for you, the public library staff!

The South Central Region (SCR) is your Regional Medical Library. You may have seen us exhibit or attended our presentations at TLA, but we're a "field force" for the National Library of Medicine with a mission to help improve access to health information and improve health literacy in Texas and the surrounding states.

Located in offices on the 3rd floor of Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, TX, we're federally-funded to work with public libraries to address health literacy in the region. In 2017, we contributed to the partnership between the American Library Association and the National Library of Medicine to develop Because Statements as part of a free health literacy toolkit.

As you work to provide programming and meet the needs of your communities, we want to help support your work in any way we can. Here are some of the free national opportunities that are coming up from SCR and other Regional Medical Libraries across the nation (link takes you to registration page; login required to view):

* Grey Literature Resources to Support Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery (9/9/2020)

* "Because I See What You Do": How Microaggressions Undermine the Hope for Authenticity at Work (9/17/2020)

* Cooking Virtually: Culinary Literacy Programming Online (9/17/2020)

* Correction of Health Misinformation on Social Media (9/28/2020)

* Virtual Program for Public Library (9/29/2020)

We also work with the Medical Library Association (MLA) to provide Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) certificates. …

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