Public Library Association joins with OCLC to help public libraries, partners respond to opioid epidemic

For Immediate Release
Mon, 10/08/2018


Laurence Deutsch

Manager, Communications

Public Library Association (PLA)

CHICAGO — The Public Library Association (PLA) announced today that it will collaborate with OCLC on new project to collect and share knowledge and resources to support public libraries and their community partners in addressing the opioid crisis. OCLC was awarded a $249,714 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to perform this work. 

Together, the two organizations will produce eight case studies of varied communities in which the public library is already playing a role in responding to the opioid crisis. The project team will glean additional perspectives and insights from government agencies, public health and human services organizations, community organizations, library leaders, and people directly affected by the epidemic. A steering committee of library leaders, partner organizations and researchers will guide the work. The project will run through December 2019.

"Public libraries are the cornerstones of many communities and are often seen as safe spaces," said Skip Prichard, OCLC president and CEO. "Library staff are finding themselves on the front line of this issue. We are grateful to IMLS for this grant that will allow us to engage with and share key learnings from libraries and their community partners to strengthen our collective response to the opioid crisis."

In addition to the case studies, the project team will create a call-to-action white paper, host a WebJunction webinar series, continue to moderate a Facebook group, and curate content and resources for library staff across the country. This new effort builds on past work, including the Opioid Crisis Townhall and related conference library programming and published articles.

"This project also will raise awareness among other public and non-profit sectors that libraries make powerful partners," said PLA President Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne, PhD. "PLA is proud to be part of this vital effort with OCLC and with our members who are activating and strengthening community collaborations to best serve all people. I look forward to continuing to build and share this expertise widely."

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 115 people die every day after an opioid overdose, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that misuse of prescription opioids costs $78.5 billion a year. More than 20 percent of patients who have been prescribed opioids misuse them, and the Midwest saw a 70 percent increase in opioid overdoses from July 2016 through September 2017.

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About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Public Library Association
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 10,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA offers professional development opportunities, unique public library initiatives, and a conference that welcomes public library staff into meaningful partnership. In collaboration with its parent organization, the American Library Association, PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders.

About OCLC
OCLC is a nonprofit global library cooperative providing shared technology services, original research and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research and innovation. Through OCLC, member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. Libraries gain efficiencies through OCLC's WorldShare, a complete set of library management applications and services built on an open, cloud-based platform. It is through collaboration and sharing of the world’s collected knowledge that libraries can help people find answers they need to solve problems. Together as OCLC, member libraries, staff and partners make breakthroughs possible.