Public Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis with Their Communities

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The nation is experiencing an opioid epidemic. In October 2017, a national public health emergency was declared by the federal government under the Public Health Services Act. As the impact of this epidemic is felt in communities across the country, public health and human service organizations are working on responses that include healthcare, education, law enforcement and the judicial system, emergency services, drug and addiction counseling, and community services. Public libraries around the country are choosing to be part of this response.

This project ran through December 2020, with funding from a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and in partnership with the Public Library Association (PLA). Throughout the project, OCLC identified, synthesized, and shared knowledge and resources to help public libraries and their community partners develop effective strategies and community-driven coalitions that work together to address the opioid epidemic in America.

This project had the following deliverables:

  • produce Summary Report and Supplemental Case Studies that explore a diverse set of communities in which the library is an active partner in response to the opioid epidemic;
  • through virtual discussion sessions, gather additional insights and resources from government agencies, public health and human services organizations, philanthropic and community organizations, and library leaders;
  • synthesize the research and cross-sector perspectives into a call to action white paper, Call to Action: Public Libraries and the Opioid Crisis, that offers resources and recommendations for how libraries might respond to the opioid epidemic in their local communities; and
  • broadly share the information with public library directors and their staff so that they can more confidently make better-informed decisions about their libraries’ strategies, policies, and activities in relation to the opioid epidemic in their communities. 

The project also raised awareness among other sectors that libraries, in their role as community anchors, make powerful partners; this realization will encourage more, and stronger, coalitions and networks that include libraries as key partners.

The program is made possible by support from OCLC and the Public Library Association and through a National Leadership Grant (project number LG-00-18-0298-18) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


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