Call to Action: Public Libraries and the Opioid Crisis

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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 health emergency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 130 people die every day from an opioid overdose. As trusted local institutions, public libraries connect community members to credible, accurate information and services that can help support needs around substance use disorder. The call to action was informed by case study research with eight public libraries that have created community responses with local partners, as well as discussions with government agencies, public health and human services organizations, community organizations, and library leaders.

The call to action encourages public libraries to:

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

Even in communities where the overdose rate isn’t high, the issues connected to opioids can be challenging. Opioid misuse impacts not only the individual, but also families and friends who may be seeking relevant information and resources.

“This epidemic affects people of every age and in every walk of life. The public health implications are impacting every community in America,” said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. “As trusted institutions, public libraries are on the front lines of this issue, interacting with people who are looking for answers to important questions. We believe that the findings from this study and strategies outlined in the report will offer insights to help each library and each community address its unique needs.”

The OCLC-led project was supported by a $249,714 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS, project number LG-00-18-0298-18) to collect and share knowledge and resources that support public libraries and their community partners to address the opioid crisis. The previously released case studies and summary report feature opioid responses from libraries serving populations from 16,000 to more than 800,000 people. Documented activities and programs include training on naloxone use, access to peer navigators, author talks, film screenings, and public awareness campaigns.

“Through these collaborations, public libraries are strengthening our community networks to improve access to relevant resources, increase communities’ awareness and knowledge, and literally save lives,” said PLA President Ramiro Salazar. “This research and call-to-action report provide a range of concrete examples that can be replicated in communities of all sizes.”

The project team conducted eight research-based case studies highlighting varying opioid response efforts across the US, involving the following libraries and community partners:

  • Barrington Public Library; Barrington Adult Youth Team (BAY Team) (Rhode Island)
  • Blount County Public Library; Blount County Recovery Court (Tennessee)
  • Everett Public Library; Snohomish County Human Services (Washington)
  • Kalamazoo Public Library; Recovery Institute of Southwest Michigan (Michigan)
  • New Orleans Public Library; New Orleans Health Department (Louisiana)
  • Peoria Public Library; Human Service Center of Peoria (Illinois)
  • Salt Lake County Library; Utah Naloxone; R&R Partners (Utah)
  • Twinsburg Public Library; Summit County Community Partnership (Ohio)

In addition to the new call to action, case studies and summary report, a 2020 WebJunction webinar explored the call to action, featuring staff at the Kalamazoo (MI) Public Library and the non-profit organization Faces and Voices of Recovery about their respective efforts. There is also a Facebook group with content and resources for library staff across the country.

We’re looking forward to sharing more about the project with you and encourage you to use these resources to help support local needs.