Season 2 Episode 16
Trish Hull: Welcome to Share Public Health, the Midwestern Public Health Training Center’s podcast connecting you to public health topics, issues, and colleagues throughout our region and the country, highlighting that we all share in public health. Thank you for tuning into this series where we explore the benefits of strong partnerships between public health departments and public libraries. 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. We’re so happy you’re listening and learning along with us.
I’m Trish Hull. I am the manager of the Kearns Library branch of the Salt Lake County library system. I’m also a founding member and current member of the Utah Health Literacy Coalition. We have been involved with health initiatives for a while now and are always looking to make partnerships. And so I’ve been involved with this public health public library taskforce for a while now and learned a lot. And I just want to say right off the bat that I was very privileged to actually go to Brooklyn Public Library about two years ago, and I spent about 10 minutes just taking pictures of the front door. I think Brooklyn Public is the most beautiful library I have ever seen. It was just gorgeous. I went in and it had so many awesome things. I brag about it all the time. So I was really excited to know we were going to be talking to you.
Eva Raison: Hi, I’m Eva Raison. I’m the Director of Outreach Services at Brooklyn Public Library. Outreach Services at Brooklyn Public Library focuses on reaching more vulnerable communities. So we have a couple of different service areas that focus on particular populations, including older adults, people impacted by incarceration, people experiencing homelessness, immigrants. And most recently we’ve been focusing on health. I had a background working primarily with immigrant services and adult education. And in 2018, when I started as the director of our department, one of the first orders of business was a grant that we had gotten from Robert Wood Johnson to plan a health initiative. I do not have a library degree. I have a degree in Latin American and Caribbean studies and I’m an adult educator. So I worked teaching literacy to adults in English, and my first job at the library was coordinating an adult basic education program. And then I ended up working in English classes as well for adults and got really passionate about the work of libraries. It just seemed like the perfect place to be to do work without… It’s this beautiful way of working in community without necessarily prescribing what people have to do, that it’s just this very open model of letting, the door is always open and people come and you build relationships and start to see what people need. So I’ve found my professional home in libraries but I’m not a librarian.
Trish Hull:And I think that’s really key thing that you just said because I don’t think the world at large understands that librarians are connecters. Building relationships and connecting different parts of the community, the other parts of the community and to us, it’s all about the books. Books are still there. That’s always our brand, but it’s way more than that. And that connection piece is key. You mentioned a project where the Brooklyn Public Library partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. What did that look like?
Eva Raison:The Robert Wood Johnson project was a planning grant for us to look at what was happening in public libraries across the country, look at the data in Brooklyn of where public health needs were and think through what a public health initiative would look like at Brooklyn Public Library. So we worked with a consultant who had a background in public health. We met with potential partners. He interviewed a lot of people, including population health experts in New York City, other library systems. We looked at the data, we had a planning group that met several times with him to document sort of the shape of how public health was viewed in general at Brooklyn Public Library among people who were already invested in some way, whether they oversaw our essential collections around health or they had been involved with disabilities community, or they had already been hosting health programs. That’s a lot of times what we find when we start to formalize certain services is that the work that has been happening for a long time, it’s really just connecting those folks and to be more intentional and coordinated in the way that we did it, which makes it more possible to do larger partnerships and start to be more intentional about what we’re trying to achieve. So that planning process was about a year long and it produced a report and sort of a roadmap and action plan of what it was that we wanted to achieve and what areas we wanted to focus on. So one thing that came out of that, we met with… The Department of Health had recently been really focusing on racial equity and really using that lens to look at all of their work. They had established some health equity centers in Brooklyn. We met with them and that was a really formative meeting to just really think about how we were impacting the health equity. It’s very easy in the library to just sort of very broadly say, “Well, we do everything for everyone.” But we also have very specific resources. So how can we leverage those resources to not just have a baseline of services that are for everyone, but also impact equity and think about deploying those resources in a way that’s conscious of the health disparities that exist in our community. So, that’s one of the reasons we focused on maternal health. I mean, obviously we’re well positioned for maternal health, but that was one focus area. We focused on mental health as well, mental health and wellness. And some of that had to do with the needs that we were seeing among the most vulnerable people that came through our doors or sort of reflected health disparities that existed.
Trish Hull:As you mentioned earlier, public libraries are such important hubs for communities. So it is exciting to hear them being recognized and utilized with the health equity centers partnership. How did the health equity centers within the Brooklyn Public Library come about?
Eva Raison:A health equity center was basically the Department of Health, it’s a community health center that they put in neighborhoods that had significantly lower health outcomes than the rest of the city. And it was an attempt by the health department to look at both healthcare service delivery but also some of the surrounding social determinants of health so that these health equity centers also had cooking classes for dads and visiting for people who were separated because of incarceration and other kinds of social supports. So they were trying to look at different models beyond healthcare delivery. That was interesting because it was sort of thinking, well, where do we best fit? We’re not trying to like become healthcare delivery.
Trish Hull:I wanted to ask you about your COVID-19 Test and Trace initiative with NYC Health + Hospitals. I’m sure when COVID hit, you guys were forced to pivot like most places around the country were around the world. This sounds like a really awesome initiative that libraries were able to participate in. Could you tell us about that?
Eva Raison:As I’m sure you know, New York City was hit very hard by COVID-19 and we didn’t have an infrastructure at that time for testing. So the city, over the summer, launched a huge test and trace initiative that includes free testing all over the city, pop-up texting and mobile centers, and includes tracing efforts for anybody who tests positive and then also take care, which is, they call it Test, Trace and Take Care, which means that also people who test positive have access to hoteling. Anyone who shares a bathroom or lives in a space where it’s hard for them to isolate has access to hotels. They have connections to food resources. They send people home test kits if they had a contact and are likely to have been exposed. So that is a huge operation. One piece of that is part of the orientation that our department of public health has taken, increasingly in the last decade or so, is a huge piece of tests and trace, they had community engagement. So they knew they would only be successful with this huge operation that they set up if they partnered with community-based organizations and other members of different communities to get the word out, to build trust in what this program was, to answer questions, to talk about it in a culturally responsive way that is specific to different neighborhoods and communities. So they put out a request for proposals to do the community engagement and education around the Test and Trace program. We are one of those 30+ partners around New York City who are engaging in education and engagement for test and trace, which we thought was a really good role for us as librarians and as library staff. It was important for us, actually we have both librarians involved in the project and administrative staff. In our system, administrative staff are more likely to be from Brooklyn while some of our library staff may have grown up somewhere else and come to New York City as part of their career. A lot of our what we call clerical staff have grown up in Brooklyn and may have started as part-timers at the library and worked in their branches for a long time or in their communities for a long time. So it was important to us to have a mix of different titles in our team. And what we essentially did is we reassigned 14 staff to spend half of their time doing community engagement and education around COVID. That meant tabling in front of branches. That meant going out and canvasing on busy streets, popping into virtual programs and doing sort of like public service announcements, distributing masks, distributing palm cards in different languages and packages of materials to stay safe and just get the message out to normalize as much as possible from a trusted institution that getting tested was a good thing to do, to answer the phone when a tracer calls. Obviously masking has been a very contentious issue, so just kind of keeping masks very available and encouraging people to wear them. So that’s a lot of what the Test and Trace team has done. We also hired some part-time folks who had been working on our census efforts and had a lot of good experience working in partnership with community organizations in doing some of this direct outreach. We have a team of about 20 people right now at BPL that are working on Test and Trace, including our community health coordinator who is a public health professional, but she and one of the other librarians lead the team with me and we do outreach every single day into different communities, into priorities of codes that the department of health sends us. And they set the priorities based on where rates are going up and the testing rate isn’t what it should be. We have certain zip codes that everybody’s already assigned to, and then we try to organize our outreach week to week. We’ve distributed over 130,000 masks.
Trish Hull:I have a question. We discovered here, after talking to some people in the public health area, we did a similar thing where we redeployed some library staff. Did you find that there were some communities that it was difficult for them to understand COVID, what it was and why this was an important thing; that they had some cultural beliefs that were kind of leading them in a different direction. I had a doctor once say he had talked to some patients from a certain culture that were saying this is a punishment that we have this and we shouldn’t be stopping it. It was a religious almost belief that they were being punished for something. And other cultures and languages were having a difficult time understanding what was happening because the information just wasn’t there. Did you have a plan to deal with that? Did someone else provide that material? And did you see that happening?
Eva Raison:We talked about it within our team. It was also a really big part of the discussions on the coordination calls with the other community-based organizations. I think in New York, compared to other places, we have to spend less time convincing people that it’s a real threat, just because we went through, I remember, almost a month of where I heard ambulance sirens 24 hours a day. So I think it’s easier. The fact that it exists is less of a thing, or that it’s a threat. I’ve seen some of the cultural stuff come into play almost in which people’s cultural practices that are really important to them, that people aren’t willing to give those up for the sake of COVID. There was a lot of tension between the city and some of these communities. And we were uniquely positioned because we were not the city. Because we’re not government, we had more trust.
Trish Hull:I like that you mentioned that, and I was going to ask you that, did you feel overall that the library really played a significant role because you are a trusted place? I had one of my librarians who’d go to different Hispanic businesses to talk about the COVID regulations and what they had to do to reopen. Our state is a partially open state, mostly open state. But they were afraid of the government. They saw her coming and she’d say, “Health department,” and they’d all go, “Oh, not sure.” “No, no. Library! Library health department.” And they would be like, “Oh, okay, come talk to us then. It’s okay if you’re the library.” So it sounds like you saw that as well.
Eva Raison:Yeah. I mean, I think Borough Park was the most intense that it got. But that’s because we also had handed over our building to the health department. But in general, yes, absolutely. Having some of our staff who actually live in the neighborhood and they work at the library, I think, yeah, like I was saying earlier, I think libraries are seen as less pushing an agenda and more just sort of having the information available, so there’s a trust there for sure.
Trish Hull:Did you work with the populations of people experiencing homelessness? I know we have a lot of centers where people are, they were getting the information. But we also have a lot of people experiencing homelessness who are just on their own out in their own camps and wherever. I ran into one man in my neighborhood and he said, “What are you talking about?” This was like in June, and he had no idea that there was a pandemic. He had no idea that he could get sick, and I’m amazed he hadn’t gotten sick prior to that. But it made me think about all over the country how many people may not even be aware that there’s COVID because if you don’t have a device, if you don’t have a home, you don’t have a TV, you don’t have power, how do you know what’s going on there?
Eva Raison:And for some of us who constantly read about it, the information also changes all the time. And there’s this huge background noise of all the misinformation too. It’s, yeah, our age of information has turned into like an explosion of disinformation.
Trish Hull:Were you able to reach those communities at all. Did you try and do that?
Eva Raison:We have had a social work program that partners specifically with an organization called Breaking Ground that does outreach to people who are living on the street or are unhoused. That included one social worker for all of Brooklyn Public Library and two peer navigators. So we followed similar models to what a lot of other urban library systems have done. And it was very beneficial, especially when our buildings were open, but we haven’t done as much of that work right now when our buildings have been closed because, one, we don’t have like a big downtown library that is also adjacent to like a place where a lot of people who are experiencing homelessness are. Housing instability and homelessness are sort of like spread all over Brooklyn. And so a lot of our social work program really engage with people who were in the libraries, as many other libraries have done. And once our buildings closed, we didn’t have that same resource to offer people. One of the biggest things we could offer was sort of just like having a place to come in from the cold weather and that because our buildings are not open, that we are not providing that sort of baseline, let alone social work support. So other than sort of general canvassing, we haven’t done any outreach that’s been specific to people experiencing homelessness.
Trish Hull:I think that’s a universal feeling, I know. I was at a library that was close to a Metro line and we got a lot of unhoused people. It was so hard when we closed. They didn’t have no computer access and all of your benefits and everything from using computers. We had people stopping us out in the parking lot saying, “Hey, I really need to just use a computer.” I think we really didn’t use the service and I understand why we couldn’t be open, but I don’t know. I know we’ve all been very conflicted with this dilemma. Did you want to talk more about some of the other initiatives and things you have going on aside from COVID, back maybe when the world isn’t upside down again and then you can get back to that?
Eva Raison:Yeah. The other thing we have going on is our Healthy Communities initiative which we launched in October of 2019 with a big staff conference, a two day staff conference, that included lots of different community partners coming in and doing presentations around our focus areas. It included a second day that was really focused on staff-led presentations, people sharing their programs that they had done on reproductive health, around food, around mental health. And also we had like a hackathon because libraries love hackathons of any kind, but it was a program hackathon where people created their own programs that they got funding to implement. Unfortunately just as everything, all of those programs were about to launch. We also had created some toolkits around those focus areas and we were about to do a big launch of programming. Literally when we were about to launch, everything shut down to the point where even our supplies, our building was closed. All the supplies we’d ordered for our healthy communities programs got sent back because there was no mail. But that did not stop us. That was part of our National Network of Libraries of Medicine, the NNLM, All of Us Community Engagement Grant. Some of the programs we continued and we offered them virtually. We had also just started a Healthy Communities Network that had met of different community organizations where we just kind of introduced the library and talked about all the types of partnerships that are possible at a library and all the ways that we can support their work. We had specifically reached out to a certain partners that were supporting things around mental health, maternal health, healthy aging, things that were in our sort of focus. I think we only had one Healthy Communities Network meeting, but out of that came a lot of our virtual programming for the rest of the year. We’ve partnered a lot with New York Presbyterian and Methodist Hospital. We’ve done a lot of programs that we’ve hosted with local community partners and they’re able to reach, even similar to our buildings, a different audience than they would if they just hosted it themselves. So we’re doing a lot of sort of weekly virtual programs. We’re doing a lot of sort of health and wellness series where we might have healthcare providers do a seminar or we have active and moving classes for everyone, chair yoga and different kinds of dance classes and things like that as long as everyone makes sure they don’t trip in their living room. But yeah, we’ve continued to do a lot of that virtual programming. Now that staff, I think, are more settled into their branches, we’ve been starting to work more directly with some of the branch staff who had specific ideas for programming to try to reactivate the things that they had started. Most of our work in that area has been up to this point more around climate change. We had like Climate Wednesdays and we would have different speakers come in. More recently we’re partnering with PBS Science Fridays or NPR science Fridays, and they’re doing discussions and book discussions around that at Central Library where we’re ordering what they call simultaneous use licenses of books so that multiple people can check out any book at the same time. I think if I was working in adult literacy, I definitely think it would be a really good topic for adult education classes and building that vocabulary. But I think it’s hard. Like right now, what we’re trying to do is just slow and steady go in and talk about these core public health messages in as many of our virtual programs as possible to distribute the key messages. But I think about that all the time. Like, does anyone even know what asymptomatic transmission means? There’s all of this vocabulary. I find myself on New York City’s data website and they’ve changed the metrics several times in like a seven-day rolling average and flattening the curve. I feel like I’m trying to educate myself. Sometimes just to decide if I can go to the grocery store or send my kids to school, like I need to be an epidemiologist. And that’s someone who’s… I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure it out. I think it’s hard. I don’t think it’s necessarily always teaching all the jargon. It’s more boiling it down so that the messaging is clear.
Trish Hull:But I think the other piece of this, and our Utah Health Literacy Coalition deals with this on some level, the medical world speaks on a 12th to 15th grade level. The people who come in our buildings and most of us read and understand anywhere from a fourth to an eighth grade reading level. And so the stuff comes out and people have no clue what they’re saying. And it isn’t even a question of whether they believe it or not, it’s just, what does that mean? I don’t get. I’ve talked to these medical people. They’ll send me stuff and they’ll say, “What do you think about putting this out?” And I’ll scratch out almost every word and say, “Why do you have to say inoculation? Why don’t you just say a shot? Why did you have to say lalala medication, just say the drug makes you better. Make it as simple as you can for people to understand.” And they’re like, “No, we have to be accurate and say these important words that no one understands.” And I feel that there’s a lot of that out there. I also thought the big issue, I think, we’re facing now that has changed our world in the last few months, last year, is people used to believe what we said. We were trusted and the library was considered a good information source, and science was fairly respected and believed. That’s just turned on its head right now. We get people, we’ll say something, “Well, that’s not true.” And we’re like, “Yeah, what do you mean it’s not true?” It’s like I heard a meme the other day that just made me laugh. And they said, “I have this horrible disease doctor.” They were talking to me. “I have this horrible disease, who should I go see? Are you sending me to this specialist? This doctor?” It says, “No, I’m sending you to the comment section of Facebook because that’s where the experts are.” And it’s like, who do you trust, the people with all these degrees or the guy who flunked 12th grade science. And yet we have this battle and I don’t know, I’m just not sure how we’re going to handle that. I think it’s something the library community really needs to work on is how to help people understand facts and what is fact and what is opinion. And that science may change and we get new information, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and that it just changes. I don’t know when you said that about your program that you were starting, the initiative, and you talked about that you were trying to overcome the inaccuracies that people have because people have many, I feel like that’s just increased exponentially and I’m not sure how you’re going to do that coming out of COVID. I’d be really interested to hear how you deal with that and how you navigate that when we’re out of COVID.
Eva Raison:Yeah. I mean, I think it also has to do what you’re saying about just speaking plainly and clearly I think is really important, but it also made me think about access. Like it’s easier for someone to go on Facebook and ask a question and get 10 opinions than it is to go on MedlinePlus. So we need to figure out a way for people to not like Google vaccine but to trust. I think we still have the trust within our library and we can’t squander it. Like it’s a resource we have to guard. But I feel like we need to find a way to go beyond thinking of it like database training and have it be more about sort of where do you get your information literacy. People aren’t usually breaking down the door for information literacy. So I think we need to figure out ways to embed that stuff into our regular work. Well, I wonder how much stuff is coming in through chat, reference and email reference. I haven’t asked our librarians that, if they’re getting those kinds of questions or if everyone just thinks they’re an expert at this point. Yeah, I do think it’s going to be a challenge ongoing, and I think it’s a challenge right now. We’re transitioning from the question of what keeps us safe from COVID and if is it real to the vaccine, where you have to get to vaccines. There’s a lot of medical mistrust. That’s going to be a huge task for all of us, I mean, to understand, can we trust the process of how to make sure that it’s safe? I think about it. We did learn a lot from our social work program in how they use a harm reduction model around substance abuse and mental illness. I’ve been trying to think about approaching all of this stuff like with a harm reduction model rather than just thinking, “You jerk, why can’t you just stay in your house and keep a mask on?” So trying to think about how we do that in our customer service with people, knowing that people are often in kind of a strange place emotionally right now, like all of us. And also in having these conversations where there’s just too many masks, they’re giving out information about vaccines, of like trying to take a nonjudgmental approach while also offering information, and knowing-
Trish Hull:Would you describe what that harm reduction model is?
Eva Raison:What I understand harm reduction model to be, I mostly thought about it around offering services or around substance abuse that public health workers or social workers… It’s like rather than… An example is needle distribution, clean needle distribution, which we haven’t done at the library, but we have talked at times about putting safe disposal into all of our bathrooms. But basically the idea that you can’t just say don’t use drugs. That sometimes you just need to think about rather than just like completely cut it out, talk about what could reduce the harm to that person. So rather than having drug use be illegal, what if you had more clean needles available or you offer people other kinds of assistance. Maybe even if you think that the most harmful thing they’re doing is substance abuse, you might still go at it by talking about food access or things like that. That you’re just trying to find ways to… I’m not a public health person, so I’m just…
Trish Hull:No, that makes sense. And we’re sort of… I think that’s really important. We do have needle boxes in our, ooh, I don’t have any of my new one. I need to do that. In our old library I had some in. I would get people coming in saying, “Why do you have those needle boxes in there?” And I kind of wanted to say, “Well, why do you think.” It was like, do you not recognize that maybe we have drug users in the community? But we also gave out and we still do give out free Naloxone needles and stuff. I’ve been amazed how fast people come in to get that. We’ve had some people who don’t understand and they’re saying, “Well, you’re just encouraging drug use.” And we’re like, “No, we’re discouraging death. We’re not encouraging drug use.”
I have so many people who come in and say, “Well, have a son, my roommate, I’m worried that at some point they’re going to OD and I want to be prepared or whatever.” I think that’s what you’re talking about is that that makes a lot of sense because you’re right, you can’t just tell somebody, “Stop using drugs.” And I don’t know if New York is like Utah, but to get into a drug treatment program is not easy. You can’t just walk in the door and say, “Hey, I’m ready to quit. Help me.” The moment you have that, there should be treatment available so when you hit rock bottom and you’re ready to change, you can get it. Instead, you have to wait weeks and months. And by then, life has changed.
Eva Raison:No, it’s one of those things that gets lost in the mix. We had a panel as part of our justice initiatives of looking at sort of the intersection of incarceration and public health. We do these like twice a month and they’re mostly focused on issues around the justice system and incarceration. But one of the speakers just talked about, we were already in the middle of an epidemic with opioids, and this is on top of that, like that didn’t go away. And so, sort of that will be another place where that’s going to still be there when this all goes away.
Trish Hull:Probably worse.
Eva Raison:Yeah, right. But she was just talking about that and addressing the opioid epidemic, and yeah.
Trish Hull:You guys work with the incarcerated. The one thing I remember when I came to visit your library was you had an art display. I can’t remember exactly the library’s part in this, but it was they went to the prisons and asked each prisoner who was there for like life, if they could have any picture in their cell, what would it be? Some would say this city scene, or some would say these woods, or this mountain, or whatever, this lake, and then you had artists actually draw those pictures and give them to those prisoners. I thought that was the most unique and wonderful program I’d ever seen.
Eva Raison:That was from our arts and culture. I think people really responded to that. It was beautiful. They had, yeah. You saw the written description of what people requested and then you saw the photograph or the painting. Yeah, I think we have our jail and prison services program that’s been going on now for since about 2013 where we go into jails and distribute, we have weekly book cart service. Now we’ve been doing it all through mail, and talk about not having access to information or basic public health precautions like hand sanitizer or masks. But one of our group, some of our staff are working on a zine about COVID that they’re going to distribute in Rutgers.
That’s a challenging thing, obviously, because the information has changed, of course, since they first started working on it. And sometimes you can put, I mean, especially with incarcerated people, you can put what’s supposed to happen and then there’s what really happens. Like if you have symptoms, you should contact the health center or whatever the chances of… Yeah, it doesn’t always work the way it should.
Trish Hull:Is there anything you’re doing now or do you have plans for in the future when you can open again?
Eva Raison:We do have plans for the future. We want to start to relaunch a virtual version of our Brooklyn Supports program, which was our coffee. That’s sort of a standard model for a lot of social work programs in libraries, it’s coffee and conversations. So the social worker or a lot of times peers will set up coffee and information and snacks, and people just come up to the table and get a cup of coffee and sometimes talk about resources, or if they’re looking for housing or have another need that is very informal, so people don’t have to identify themselves. It’s just sort of on the floor of the library.
So we are trying to figure out how to do that virtually, and I think we can do it. We have to, I think the COVID outreach work, the test and trace outreach work we’ve done has given me more confidence to do some outdoor outreach type of things, and that in-person engagement I feel like we can do it safely, and that still has to be a part of things because obviously a lot of the people we try to reach with Brooklyn Supports don’t probably have access to the internet. I think in terms of severe mental illness, that’s sort of the next thing that we’re going to be doing. But in general, one of the things we’ve been focusing on is just breaking isolation. And so, we work with home-bound people. So we have a Phone Buddies program where library staff have been matched up with the home-bound patrons that we serve through books by mail just to do wellness checks and say hi. We did meet a little bit with our city partners so that we at least know how to refer people to more services if it’s needed. But isolation is a huge challenge right now.
I think also I’ve been thinking about doing more training around trauma and around what we’re all going through for young people and for our staff too, like to do some training around trauma so that we understand each other and we’re able to sort of better understand, when we do open our doors, all the different ways people may be behaving. So I’ve been thinking a little bit about that, but yeah, I think it’s hard. I’d be curious to know what it’s been like for you to have those 30 minute intervals and what to do when someone’s vulnerable and you feel like this is a safe place for them.
Trish Hull:Yeah. It’s been tough. In my building we just, at some point you have to say, I’m sorry you’ve been here awhile. We generally try and be accommodating and I’m sure we’re letting them stay longer than 30 minutes. We don’t have a stopwatch on or anything. And so far we have not hit our max of the number of people who can be in our building. And so we’re a little bit more lenient, but I think the harder ones are the ones that get a little belligerent and angry that we even have a restriction or that we aren’t doing programming. I think it’s hard on staff. I agree that staff really needs some moral support, that self-care is really important. And yet it’s really tough to get right now because usually you have a place to go where you can give yourself self-care. Now we’re kind of going from one stressful situation to home, which is generally also a stressful situation.
I think we’ve got to figure out some really good mental health. We have a good healthy lifestyles program here in our Salt Lake County, and they’re always sending out stuff to the employees. Let’s do this fun thing. We have Mindful Mondays and just a lot of ideas and they’re trying to really boil up the staff. And I think they’re doing a good job, but I think we still just, we have this role that we want to serve our patrons and we’re not able to. We don’t have those programs. We can’t have where you sit down and talk with somebody and let them spill their guts for a while because you have to be six feet apart. There’s no sense of that intimacy or that privacy. We can’t go in a meeting room because they’re not open and you just can’t do the stuff you want to do to help people.
I think we’re going to really regret this on the other side that we didn’t figure out a better way to do it, which you’re absolutely right. The people who need it often do not have access to the internet or if they do, they don’t have the skills to know all the different places to go. It’s not enough just to give somebody a computer and a hotspot and say, “Okay.” Now you’ve got to give them the tools and the skills to know where to go and how to navigate it, and we aren’t able to do that right now.
Eva Raison:I think it’s really a good place to end up in our conversation of just talking about staff and talking about the people who work in libraries. And if the audience for this podcast is also public health professionals, do not forget about libraries. We’re not sitting quietly behind a desk. To know that often some of the most vulnerable people who really need support are often in our spaces, and library staff are often asked to respond and could use more support for that, both the professional side of that work of being able to navigate resources and support people and also the emotional labor that comes with it. And to sort of be recognized for our role in the system in that way. Even if we’re not seen as officially part of the system, we’re seeing people as like-
Trish Hull: To the public health people, often I’ll hear them say things like, “You guys are just social workers. You know that you guys do the same work we do, just you don’t know.” I think we need to look at those public health workers though, too. I know right now Utah’s like 100% capacity in their hospitals and they are stressed to the max. I mean, the people that work in those buildings. And you can’t just turn anybody into a nurse or a technician or a somebody. And so it’s tough. It’s really tough for them, and I think it would be nice to get some kind of initiatives going to help all essential services people that are just stressed to the max out there.
That wraps up today’s episode of Share Public Health. We hope you will join us next week as we explore the concept of find free public libraries with the Director of the Northern Region office of the Network for Public Health Law, Jill Krueger, J.D.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of Share Public Health. Thank you to our host, Trish Hull, the Network of the National Libraries of Medicine, the Public Library Association, the Midwestern Public Health Training Center, and the Prevention Research Center for Rural Health. 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.