Health Literacy

Because Librarians Know Information Is the Best Medicine for Healthcare Questions - Libraries Transform -

Promoting Healthy Communities: A Health Information Initiative

Promoting Healthy Communities: A Health Information and Health Literacy Initiative logoAccess to current and reliable health information is imperative for the well-being of all Americans, and public libraries are frequently a "go-to" resource as people navigate complex issues of health care, insurance, aging and more. A new nationwide initiative from the Public Library Association (PLA) and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) will increase public library workers’ knowledge and skills related to consumer health services. Throughout the nine-month "Promoting Healthy Communities" initiative, PLA and NNLM will assess health information needs among public librarians and share free resources and professional development opportunities that will help public library staff better serve their patrons’ consumer health needs. A new website with health information and links to training and other resources for public libraries will be unveiled in early 2018. This initiative will lay a foundation for building an ongoing partnership between NNLM and PLA to sustain engagement among public librarians, regional medical libraries, and other health information and service organizations.

Project Goals and Implementation

The PLA/NNLM partnership will strive toward the following four overarching goals:

  1. Input from public library staff leads to enhanced knowledge among PLA, NNLM and other library support organizations,enabling them to execute quality health information programming and training.

  2. Public library staff nationwide have increased awareness of the importance of consumer health information services and of the resources available through the NNLM and their local Regional Medical Library (RML).

  3. Public library staff have increased knowledge and confidence to address consumer health information needs through library services and programs.

  4. Efforts to engage public librarians in consumer health information services are sustained and grow through the engagement of new partners.

New PLA Advisory Group to Advance Health Literacy & Consumer Health Information

PLA recently formed a time-limited Health Initiative Advisory Group to develop and implement strategies to advance public library services related to health information and health literacy. The Advisory Group will convene from October 2017 to June 2018 via monthly online meetings and in person at the ALA 2018 Midwinter Meeting. It will oversee an assessment of the needs of public librarians, develop web-based tools and education for PLA members, and help PLA and NNLM promote the value for public libraries to better serve communities through health reference services and other programming. For more information, or to join the email list for future information about this initiative, contact Scott Allen at

Health Initiative Adivisory Group Roster

  • Scott G. Allen, MS, Deputy Director, PLA (Chicago, IL)
  • Francisca Goldsmith, Library and Media Consultant, Library Ronin (Worcester, MA)
  • Noah Lenstra, Assistant Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of North Carolina (Greensboro, NC)
  • Margot Malachowski, NNLM - New England Region
  • Carolyn Martin, NNLM - Pacific Northwest Region
  • Pattie Mayfield, Director, Bertha Voyer Memorial Library (Honey Grove, TX)
  • Susan McClelland, Health and Wellness Librarian, Oak Park (IL) Public Library
  • Maria Mucino, Library Region Manager, Maricopa County (AZ) Library District
  • Bobbi Newman (co-chair), NNLM - Greater Midwest Region
  • Julie Robinson (co-chair), Refugee & Immigrant Services & Empowerment (RISE) Outreach Manager, Kansas City (MO) Public Library
  • Marion Scichilone, Assistant Managing Librarian, The Seattle (WA) Public Library / Central Library
  • Stephanie Smith, Youth Services Librarian, Gloucester County (NJ) Library System
  • Melanie Welch, MS, Project Director, ALA Public Programs Office (Chicago, IL)

Continuing Education

In-Person Learning Opportunities

2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting

The Health Needs of Your Community are Increasing, How Will You Meet Them?
Part of the Symposium on the Future of Libraries

Saturday, February 10, 2018, 1:30–2:30 PM
Colorado Convention Center, Room 402

A recent Pew study found that health is the second-most searched-for category of information online. Public libraries are on the front lines of health information needs of their communities. With a growing population over 65 and increases in chronic disease, the community need for reliable health information and programming tied to health and wellness is growing. This session, offered as part of the Symposium on the Future of Libraries, will cover how to determine the health needs of your community, find local and national partners, funding, and offer sample ideas of health and wellness programs. This session is interactive, so bring a pen and your thinking caps and be prepared to participate!

Public Libraries Supporting the Health and Wellness of Your Community
Part of the PLA Promoting Healthy Communities Initiative

Sunday, February 11, 2018, 1:00–2:30 PM
Colorado Convention Center, Room 110

Americans are constantly bombarded with information related to their health, but the messages they’re receiving may not be understandable, reliable, or even credible. Is your library prepared to help them? Bring your questions to this Midwinter Discussion Group, and experts from NNLM and public libraries will answer them. Topics may include where to find reliable health information; providing health and wellness programs for your community; the health reference interview; opioids and libraries; and the health and wellness of library staff.

PLA 2018 Conference

Stand Up for Health: Health and Wellness Services for Your Community
Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Pennsylvania Convention Center

Health information is the number two most searched for information online. This preconference will review core competencies of providing health and wellness services, coach you through understanding your community’s needs, and explore how to create fun and informative health-related programming for different age groups and special populations. Participants will learn about core reference and other materials, tips for helping library users evaluate health materials, and an action plan to put your new expertise to work. This preconference is part of Promoting Healthy Communities, a new nationwide initiative from PLA and National Network of Libraries of Medicine designed to increase public library workers’ knowledge and skills related to consumer health services. The free PLA on-demand webinar, "Putting the Consumer Health Information Specialization to Work in Public Libraries," provides an excellent background and introduction to issues that will be covered in greater depth at this preconference.

Medical Library Association 2018 Annual Meeting

Symposium on Health Information for Public Librarians
Tuesday, May 22, 2018, 7:00 AM-10:00 PM
Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
Hyatt Regency Hotel -  Atlanta, GA

PLA is partnering with the Medical Library Association (MLA) and the Greater Midwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) to provide learning and networking opportunities for public library workers in the area of consumer health information. The three organizations are teaming up to present a Symposium on Health Information for Public Librarians, taking place May 21-22 at the MLA Annual Meeting & Exposition in Atlanta, GA. The Symposium will provide a unique opportunity for public and health sciences librarians to work collaboratively on consumer health information programming. Registration for public libraries is open.

U.S.-based public library workers with responsibility or interest in consumer health information and health literacy qualify to receive free registration for this one-and-a-half-day symposium. Stipends of up to $500 to cover travel and lodging expenses, provided by NNLM, are also available.

Online Learning

Putting the Consumer Health Information Specialization to Work in Public LibrariesPutting the Consumer Health Information Specialization to Work in Public Libraries
A FREE on-demand webinar
Panelists: Carolyn Martin, Bobbi Newman, Erin Donlan, Susan Kroll, Debbie Stanton & Scott Allen

Education about consumer health services and programming can help public librarians stay current and develop new programs and services for their communities. This on-demand webinar provides an overview of educational programs available via the National Network of Libraries of Medicine about consumer health and specific health topics. These programs can help librarians get the Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) credential, which brings an additional, recognized level of expertise to their libraries and helps them connect with community partners. This on-demand webinar reviews CHIS requirements and benefits and showcases specific projects and programs that public library staff have developed with the knowledge they gained from consumer health educational experiences. More…

This on-demand webinar also provides an excellent background and introduction to issues that will be covered in greater depth at the PLA 2018 preconference, “Stand Up for Health: Health and Wellness Services for Your Community.”

Developed resources reported on this wesites are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012346. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.