Queens Public Library wins Marshall Cavendish Excellence in Library Programming Award

Contact: Cheryl Malden

Program Officer

(312) 280-3247



For Immediate Release

April 6, 2010

CHICAGO –The 2010 Marshall Cavendish Excellence in Library Programming Award goes to Queens Library in Queens, N.Y., for the Queens Library HealthLink and Cancer Action Councils, the American Library Association (ALA) announced. The award is given by the ALA each year to either a school or public library that provides programs that have community impact and respond to community needs.

This year, the library is partnering with the Queens Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society of Queens and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to bring cancer information, screenings and treatment referrals to medically underserved communities in Queens. The project, called Queens Library HealthLink, is funded through a five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health.

According to the American Cancer Society, Queens, N.Y. has a lower rate of early stage cancer detection compared with the rest of New York State. The county’s major hospital center, Queens Health Network, has a rate of late-stage diagnosis of breast cancer that is almost three times the national average, and a rate of late-stage diagnosis of prostate and colorectal cancers nearly twice the national average. Every week, 182 people in Queens are diagnosed with cancer and 68 people die from it. Reluctance to access free healthcare is suspected to be a significant factor in these statistics. Communities with low income tend to have higher incidences of late cancer detection. In Queens, low income often overlaps with recent immigration. More than 47 percent of Queens’ residents are born outside the US and speak a language other than English at home. An unknown, significant number are undocumented. Language, immigration status, lack of health insurance and lack of wherewithal to navigate the complex system are all seen as barriers to diagnostic and preventative health care.

Queens Library, with its long history of outreach to and trust among new Americans, was in a good position to help remedy this situation. Even those immigrants who are usually distrustful of perceived “government” agencies feel comfortable using the library. Queens Library HealthLink was launched in January 2007. Its primary focus is on the 20 out of 61 community libraries specifically identified as being located in medically underserved communities in the context of cancer statistics. It is expected that the information disseminated at these libraries will spread throughout Queens.

All public services staff in the targeted libraries has been intensively trained in referring customers to free and low-cost healthcare. Cancer detection and prevention literature is distributed through the library in English and several languages, including the American Cancer Society’s low-reading level series which serves the library’s large population of low-literate adults and those for whom English is a second language. Workshops in English and Spanish are being held in the libraries on topics such as colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, nutrition and healthy living; the speakers are physicians and health educators provided by the project partners. Educational programming has reached nearly 1,100 people at more than 50 separate events. More than 300 of these are primary speakers of languages other than English, a critical audience as language is assumed to be a barrier to obtaining care. Two smoking cessation programs were held and attended by 23 people.

A mobile mammography screening van visits participating libraries. When budgets permit, a mobile van that does Pap smears, colorectal screenings and prostate screenings also visits. Referrals and follow-up visits are made by the health care professionals on the van. Those wishing to be screened sign up at the library, a place they are accustomed to visiting with confidence, regardless of their immigration status or other confidentiality issues. Queens Library’s services have a reputation for being free and multi-lingual, also increasing visitors’ comfort level. To date, Queens Library HealthLink has held 19 screening events at which 254 people were served.

Queens Library HealthLink has also provided two grant-funded Community Outreach Coordinators on staff under the supervision of the library’s special services department. These coordinators organize Cancer Action Councils, or CACs, in the targeted libraries. To date, there are about 115 CAC members, including community volunteers and interested members of the library staff. These councils meet regularly at the library to plan cancer information, prevention and awareness activities tailored to their own community’s needs and interests. Examples include groups that walk in the annual breast cancer event; Smoke-Out promotion and participation; and community health fairs that offer non-invasive screenings onsite and give referrals for other tests. One CAC is making a community cancer quilt that will be displayed in the library. Another organized an “Entertainment for Your Health” event at the Central Library, featuring a performance by a popular local music group and some words from a medical professional. One CAC sponsored the screening of a PBS special on surviving cancer with newscaster Linda Ellerbee, followed by a panel discussion and –Q-&-A period with medical professionals.

While healthcare seekers are in the library, they are also introduced to other library services that may benefit them, such as English classes, homework help for children, adult basic education, family literacy and health literacy classes. Outreach events are held at area religious organizations, housing developments and community-based organizations, at which library services are introduced along with healthcare information. Queens Library HealthLink is also promoted at general library outreach events, such as a recent Job Readiness Fair.

The true impact of Queens Library HealthLink will not be known for many years. The project partners hope to improve community health statistics through education and early interventions. Queens Library hopes to expand on its role as a trusted presence in the community to help save lives through healthcare information and referrals, while engaging more Queens residents in the value of library service.

Jonathan C. Kinloch, jury chair of the Award Committee said, “Queens Library, demonstrated to the members of the 2010 Marshall Cavendish Excellence in Library Programming Award Committee, the importance of this program to library staff in responding to the cancer awareness needs of the residence of Queens, New York. This recognition by ALA, will hopefully play a role in the continuation of this worthwhile and auspicious program.”

Members of the 2010 Marshall Cavendish Excellence in Library Programming Award Committee are: Jonathan C. Kinloch, chair, Detroit Public Library; Michael M. Martinez, Reinhardt College, Waleska, Ga.; Romina Gutierrez
, Princeton Public Library; Princeton, NJ; Jasmine Y. Posey, Greenwich Library; Greenwich, Conn. and; Tobi Oberman, Skokie Public Library; Skokie, Ill.

The Cavendish Award will be presented at the 2010 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The deadline for submission of applications for the 2011 Marshall Cavendish Excellence in Library Programming Award is Dec. 1. Guidelines and application forms are available on the ALA Web site: