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Librarian Solves Personal Research Problem While Creating a New Service

May 15, 2014

Karen Parry is a professional librarian and a manager of information services at the East Brunswick Public Library (EBPL).  Yet, when her mother got sick with a rare disease she wasn’t able to find anything helpful on the Internet… even with her specialized research skills.  That led to the “Just for the Health of It” initiative between her library, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (both in New Brunswick) to promote health literacy.

Public libraries no longer only lend books, e-books, CDs and movies.  They are community centers and meeting places, provide test proctoring, research services and resource support for small businesses.  When Karen’s original research did not turn up satisfactory data, she discussed it with the EBPL director and was told to do some additional work and see where it would lead.  Her initial investigation indicated there was a plethora of information but it was very difficult to access and tie it into meaningful use.

At that point, a program was started on a test basis to see if there was customer interest and whether the Library staff could handle it along with their other extensive duties.  The test was successful leading to some EBPL librarians becoming certified as Consumer Health Librarians.  Initial funding came from private donors, the EBPL Foundation, National Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  A year later, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital joined in a test program to have a certified librarian at two health centers one day a week.  These weekly visits became immensely popular and anticipated by patrons who received customized packets of information tailored to their individual reading ability, visual constraints and in their native language.  Reports are provided in the seven prominent languages spoken in Central New Jersey.  Additional test collaborations have indicated that there is a great demand and a valuable service can be provided to the public.

Simply put, library members and others in the community including many underserved population groups can request information about specific diagnoses to become more understanding of their ailment and empower them to be effective advocates about their treatment.

Websites are being developed by the EBPL to make the information more accessible, trustworthy and free of language barriers.  Programs are also being established to train medical students and support group leaders to access vetted health information through established health portals at many hospital support groups.  Additional information can be accessed at www.wellinks.org.

The EBPL has become a nationally recognized leader in these new services and the programs are still in their infancy.  Libraries, such as the EBPL, are at the cusp of filling the latest needs of the community they serve.  The traditionally static insulated library has become a dynamic mobilized outreach organization serving a much wider base.  Congrats to the East Brunswick Public Library.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 6hawthorne permalink
    May 16, 2014 2:45 am

    Hi Ed  This was a very important article since I did all my research at the library when I was in college Today I still go to library to get publication for research such as Value LineInvestment which I don’t get at home.. Old Bridge has a very go Library.Bob Nagler

  2. June 12, 2014 5:40 pm

    An article written by Karen explaining the whole story can be accessed here: http://nnlm.gov/mar/newsletter/2014/05/east-brunswick-public-library-carves-niche-in-health-literacy-with-just-for-the-health-of-it/
    I highly recommend this article.
    Ed

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