Public Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis with Their Communities

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The opioid epidemic was declared a national public health emergency in the fall of 2017, the impacts of which have been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020. In March 2021, the American Medical Association reported that more than 40 states indicated recent increases in opioid-related deaths and, as before the pandemic, rural areas continue to be impacted heavily. Recent provisional data from the CDC National Health Statistics Center show that between April 2020 – 2021, opioid overdose deaths increased by 28%, from 78,056 to 100,306.

To support libraries choosing to respond to the opioid crisis, WebJunction is developing a set of free online resources that staff at public libraries can use to determine how their library can address opioid use disorder in their local communities through an IMLS National Leadership Grant. This initiative will help strengthen and support libraries—and, more broadly, the communities they serve—as the nation continues to struggle with the opioid crisis.

The resources developed through this initiative will include pragmatic strategies, tools, and other content to help guide libraries—particularly those in rural areas—as they determine their specific communities' needs and define the roles and activities their library is most suited to carry out. These resources will help libraries assess their staff strengths and capacity, identify key local partners with whom to collaborate or coordinate, and plan and implement an initiative that contributes to ending the opioid crisis.

The project is designed to lead to these outcomes:

  1. Provide professional development for the library workforce that helps to build the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to respond to the opioid crisis in their community.
  2. Produce a free, well-tested set of practical resources for responding to opioid use disorder that WebJunction will host sustainably and promote widely to the library field.
  3. Collect and share stories from up to 15 libraries that use the resources to plan and lead a project that addresses opioid use disorder in their communities. 

Previous work:

This initiative builds on OCLC's IMLS-funded study, Public Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis with Their Communities (2018-20), and will provide libraries with resources that align with five recommended areas for action that emerged from that project:

  • Evaluate local health data
  • Seek community partners
  • Educate staff and community members on the issue
  • Consider staff care need
  • Offer programs and services that support local needs

Learn more about the previous project’s findings and resources at Public Libraries and the Opioid Crisis


The program is made possible by support from OCLC and through a National Leadership Grant (project number LG-250082-OLS-21) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Most Recently Added

Books, Programming, Resources: Helping Patrons Through the Opioid Crisis

Publish Date: News / 16 June 2023

The opioid crisis which has crashed through American communities has brought patrons to public libraries seeking information about opioids and addiction. This collection of resources can help you connect patrons to the information that they need to s...

WebJunction to Lead and Support New IMLS Grants

Publish Date: News / 25 August 2021

OCLC's WebJunction program is pleased to announce their role in five new IMLS grant projects. In addition to leading one of the new grants, we will serve as advisory, dissemination, or design partners on three additional IMLS National Leadership Gran...

Call to Action: Public Libraries and the Opioid Crisis

Publish Date: Webinar / 31 March 2020

This webinar will present a newly published call to action, offering strategies for public libraries to consider as they determine a local response to the nationwide opioid crisis.

Call to Action: Public Libraries and the Opioid Crisis

Publish Date: News / 26 February 2020

We're excited to announce a new report from OCLC and the Public Library Association (PLA). Call to Action: Public Libraries and the Opioid Crisis, offers tested strategies to consider as libraries determine local responses to the nationwide public he...