Library staff gather virtually for discussion of national opioid crisis

For Immediate Release
Mon, 09/18/2017


Laurence Deutsch

Manager, Communications

Public Library Association (PLA)

CHICAGO -- From discarded needles in outdoor spaces to overdoses in bathrooms, public libraries in communities of all sizes are acutely impacted by the dramatic rise in opioid abuse. More than two million people in the U.S. are estimated to be dependent on prescription opioids or heroin, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 years of age.

Responding to this growing issue, the Public Library Association (PLA) and WebJunction teamed up to present a virtual “town hall meeting” on the opioid crisis earlier this month. During the 90-minute online event, representatives from libraries and other community organizations described their efforts and plans in addressing this crisis locally.

Among the panelists were four library staff: Vanessa Christman, assistant director of the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Public Library; Shawn Cunningham, director of communications and strategic initiatives for the Multnomah County (Ore.) Library; Kim Fender, director of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (Ohio); and Rachel Fewell, Central Library administrator of the Denver (Colo.) Public Library. They were joined by Dana Murguía, senior manager for public health with the Humboldt County (Calif.) Department of Health & Human Services and Hadi Sedigh, associate legislative director for justice and public safety with the National Association of Counties.

Through a chat session and Q&A with the panelists, the 500+ attendees shared their thoughts, ideas, and concerns about the opioid problem in libraries. The lively discussion covered such topics as interacting with patrons in crisis, performing direct intervention with drug users, and collaborating with community partners. PLA and WebJunction will use the information gleaned from this virtual town hall meeting to develop future opioid-related content and resources for libraries.

The presentation slides, chat log, and a full recording of the event can be accessed here. Library staff are also encouraged to visit the growing collection of resources on the opioid crisis and to join the newly created Facebook group. Webjunction has also posted a detailed summary of the webinar here.

About PLA
The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 9,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. For more information about PLA, contact the PLA office at 1 (800) 545-2433, ext.5PLA, or