Public Health and Public Libraries

The United States is home to approximately 2,800 local health departments that serve their communities with important public health services. Over the last decade, however, these departments have faced workforce challenges. One-fifth of local health departments noted decreases in their FY 2017 budgets and, between 2008 and 2017, more than 55,000 jobs were lost as a result of continued funding cuts. Fewer workers and smaller budgets force health departments to sacrifice programs and outreach to their local communities. To address these challenges, health departments can look to partner with local public libraries.

The American Library Association estimates there are more than 16,500 public library buildings spread out across the United States. These libraries reach urban, suburban, and rural populations. Public libraries see more visitors than physician offices in a given year, and research shows that many individuals utilize public libraries for health information access. In fact, a 2015 study found that over 40% of computer-using patrons report using libraries to search for health information. From the opioid crisis to telehealth to overall health literacy, libraries are well-positioned to cost-effectively collaborate and support access to important public health messaging and literature that builds healthier communities.

For the first year of this project, we conducted focus groups with public health professionals and librarians, fielded a survey, and conducted a literature review. In the coming months, we will be releasing a tool kit, success stories, and more information to help you develop and strengthen partnerships with your public libraries or health departments.

Check back to see what we've added.

We want to hear from you!

Visit our events page to register for the discussion groups. Registration for the webinars will be available soon.

This project is a partnership with the Network of the National Library of Medicine-Greater Midwest Region, the Public Library Association, the Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, and the Midwestern Public Health Training Center.

This project is supported by the National Library Of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UG4LM012346. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.