Health Happens in Libraries Through Community Engagement

Kendra Morgan /

OCLC’s Health Happens in Libraries magnifies the role of public libraries as key contributors to our personal health goals, the health of the communities we live in, and our collective goal of a healthy nation. The U.S. IMPACT study found that 28 million people in America use public library computers and seek assistance from librarians for health and wellness issues, including learning about medical conditions, finding health care providers, and assessing health insurance options. The demand and need to meet health needs is there, and this program aims to address the evolving health landscape and prepare library staff. By building the knowledge, skills, and confidence of library staff to meet patron needs for health information and services, and through guidance toward intentional partnerships between libraries and local community health experts, Health Happens in Libraries enhances public library capacity to advance health and wellness priorities in the communities they serve. This project is funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and is managed by OCLC in partnership with ZeroDivide.  

Five U.S. public libraries have recently been selected as participants in the 2015 program activities of Health Happens in Libraries. Staff at these libraries will plan and implement community health activities that will establish or deepen local partnerships to bring meaningful health services to their communities.

  • Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (New York)
  • Crandon Public Library (Wisconsin)
  • Hampton Public Library (Virginia)
  • St. Charles Parish Library (Louisiana)
  • Wilkes County Public Library (North Carolina)

Participants were selected from a pool of 74 applications; the five chosen demonstrated dedication to community health, leadership capacity, and commitment to sharing the outcomes of their experience with the field. These libraries represent a diverse group of communities in both urban and rural populations and they serve communities of 6,000 to over 900,000 people. Each of the participating libraries will receive stipends and facilitated support, to plan, implement, and evaluate community health programs that are responsive to local needs and develop local partnerships. The experiences and processes of these libraries will be shared with the field through an online community of practice hosted by Project resources and results will be posted and distributed in July 2015, to inspire and inform the development and delivery of community health programs by other public libraries.