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.
Hi, my name is Trish Hull. I’m the library manager of the Kearns branch of the Salt Lake County Library System. I am also very involved in public health and sit on the Utah Health Literacy Coalition. Today we are joined by a group of public health and public library professionals from the state of Iowa. Welcome all. And thank you so much for joining us.
Angie Doyle Scar: Hi, I’m Angie Doyle Scar. I work for the state health department. I have been there for going on 20 years and I’ve done everything from health policy that involved the ACA, outreach, stakeholder engagement, all kinds of different variety of work there at the health department.
Abby Less: And this is Abby Less also with the Iowa Department of Public Health. We are in the bureau of policy and workforce services. Again, like Angie said, special projects, all sorts of different things.
Mary Murphy: Hi, I’m Mary Murphy. I’m the library director at the Perry Public Library in Perry, Iowa. I’ve been here for 10 years. We have been fortunate enough to be selected for this pilot project.
Todd Simonson: Hi I’m Todd Simonson. I’m a public service manager with the Cedar Rapids Public Library. We were fortunate to be the urban portion selection for this grant and really I work with a lot of the projects that we did. So that’s why I was selected to represent.
Trish Hull: Angie and Abby what was the motivation behind this project?
Angie Doyle Scar: Abby, please jump in because Abby does really good with the details. So our former director Gard Clabaugh was interested in applying for a federal grant that addressed with social determinants of health. The grant actually has not opened it back up. This was just us being proactive of when and if it did. So he convened a small group of people at the department to start brainstorming ideas. I have a love for public health hence why I’ve been working for nearly 20 years. And for libraries, I spent a lot of time in libraries as a child, and it’s always been a near dear to me. So I, one day came up with the idea of trying to see how we could get these two to partner and do more on community and communities to work together. So I brought the idea to Abby. She thought it was great. We did some environmental scans of what was happening in other places, and we could only find a handful of places in the country. So we really did just start to brainstorm how this would look and what this would look like. We took it to the small group, our director, and they said if you can find funding go forth. So we applied for Telligen grant and Abby you can help me here, please.
Abby Less:The funding we applied for was through the Telligen Community Initiative. Their mission is to initiate and support innovative and forward looking health-related projects aimed at improving health and social addressing social determinants of health. So the project we applied for was called Harnessing The Power of Iowa’s Libraries. It was initially supposed to be a one-year project, but due to COVID, we got a six month extension. IDPH’s project was one of 18 grants selected for the 2019 grants cycle. So it was a highly competitive grant. We were awarded $50,000 and split that between the two pilots in Cedar Rapids and Perry. The project goal is to support and equip Iowa’s libraries with the tools, resources and programs to collaboratively address social determines of health gaps and improve population health. So the two pilot projects sites are working with their local public health agencies to execute the project.
Trish Hull: Do you know much about the other projects that were selected for this grant at the same time as you or were there any similar projects at the same time?
Angie Doyle Scar: Focus as a social determinants of health with Telligen but nothing on these lines. No.
Abby Less: Yes this is the only project that I’m aware of through Telligen that grant cycle that was focused on partnering libraries and public health. I think there were maybe a couple in the past but I didn’t see any this year that year.
Angie Doyle Scar: And we understand that every community in Iowa looks different and the way that there two organizations will collaborate will look different. And that’s why we really try to pick a more urban and more rural so that they could be duplicated statewide later in the future. And these two communities were picked because of another grant work we did where our local public health did a really good job in engaging non-traditional partners and their communities. So we built off the work that they had already started.
Abby Less: And then one thing I will emphasize is that this project is truly community-driven. We, you know, secured the funding and are here at the state level to support and guide but really they came together at the local level with their local public health agencies and thought thoughtfully about what their community needed and what their library patrons were asking for. One of the initial steps was to review their community health needs assessment that’s done every five years in every county in Iowa to give a starting point to see what the top priority needs are in their community to offer those additional services within the library.
Angie Doyle Scar: And Abby and I did site visits at the very beginning. And one of the things that was clear to me when we did those site visits is both these hospitals are I mean hospitals sorry, both these libraries got it. And they were already doing some public health activities within their library, even if they didn’t know to call it public health. So for instance Mary in Perry was checking out bicycles. I know that Cedar Rapids has treadmills in their reading areas. So they were already implementing some of the things that we would consider public health even though I don’t know that they would know and they can speak to this but they would know to call that public health. So then really we just were there even our local public health to support some of the ideas that they were already starting to work on.
Trish Hull: Mary why were you interested in this project for your community and organization?
Mary Murphy: Roughly around 800 and population hopefully cross your fingers are population increased with the latest census. It was ironic because we had formed a committee of interested parties from the hospital from the rec center, from Hispanics United Riparian Library about concerned citizens for health initiatives. And we were toying with this idea because I was aware of the Telligen grant also. And I had talked to them at Telligen about what we could do as a community and through the LOI that I had letter of interest that I had issued to Telligen we were then turned down for a grant. I think it’s a something that you work and define and refine what your goals are but we wanted to do something to how should I say raise awareness of healthy habits. And some of these healthy habits could be reinforced by, you know, walking, eating better and any way about when we were turned down about, oh it wasn’t a month or six weeks later that Abby and Angie contacted me about doing this. And so it was meant to be, and so I was like, “oh my gosh when one door closes, you know, another one opens.” And Abigail she hopped from Dallas County Health Department and I and Angie and Abby met together. And we were all on the same page about using the library as this point of initiation of programs highlighting health and how we can increase awareness and also have early adoption of good health habits. So that’s how I became a partner. We in Perry have about, I just wrote another statement in need. I believe it’s around 60% Latino in our high schools and all are in the school district. So we have a very diverse population here not only Latinos, but other countries. We have a Tyson plant here in Perry and that draws from world all over the world. So it’s kind of cool because we have restaurants from all those places to here in Perry and you need a lot of people from all over the world. We were brainstormed about what we could do to with this grant money and what we can sustain in the future with our what we have as staff here at the library.
Trish Hull: Todd why were you interested in this project for your community and organization?
Todd Simonson: So Cedar Rapids is about 135,000 people I think that’s one of the most recent estimates I have. We have two branches. We have our main library downtown and then we have a branch library called the Ladd Library and that serves the residents of our southwest side of Cedar Rapids. We’re also pretty unique. We have a partnership. So with Marion and Hiawatha and we call ourselves the Metro Library Network and we do a lot of services circulating materials between all three branches working together very close. And that really covers the north and northeast sides of Cedar Rapids areas. So this project wasn’t done with Marion and Hiawatha necessarily, but we do have kind of that schematic to work with really echoing with Mary we were. When we first got a call to request we were excited we started brainstorming and came up with a list of a thousand ideas. We met with county public health department with Linn County Public Health and with Angie but really we start generating ideas. And, I’ll say, I normally talk about the projects later but we really focused on what was the need of our entire community. We have a larger homeless population in Cedar Rapids and probably most of the rest of the state has. And so that’s something that we focused. We’re very our programming department’s very successful. We have a lot of family input. So really taking the focus of continuing programs, continuing support for people of all ages for our families but then looking at how can we target our underserved parents or families. So we saw a large need there. The other population that we see a lot of is the senior citizen age. And so really that was a focus group that we took into consideration. So we met in, we met together started brainstorming and now like go kind of what Angie and Mary has said that really the great thing about this is it’s formed a great working relationship with Linn County Public Health. I know since this project we’ve worked with them in other areas. And really, it’s just, it’s nice to know the contact. I think if you ask Linn County Public Health if you ask library staff, we’re in a position where we want to help people but sometimes time gets the better of us. And so it’s not knowing who to who your go-to person is in that time and not knowing can kind of get in the way. But since this grant we’ve partnered with Linn County Public Health, on a variety of other issues to best support our community. So that’s been really a great thing we’ve seen.
Trish Hull: Mary what are some projects your library has been involved with in partnership with public health that you were excited about?
Mary Murphy: The first one that we initiated was the fresh fruit and vegetable recovery rescue. And we’re in a town with two grocery stores at well actually two Anglo grocery stores and two Latino grocery stores so four altogether. And what fresh fruit and vegetable recovery is all about is rescuing the fresh fruit and vegetables and the produce section of the grocery stores before they’re put in the dumpster. They’re by law they are only allowed to put out, let’s say lettuce for a certain amount of days but then at the end of the, those days there is still some nutritional value in the lettuce. And so it can be put or rescued and made available to people and people can eat more healthy. I was astounded by the statistics that over 50% of the fruit and vegetables that you see in the grocery store are wasted and that’s a low figure. Some people say it’s as high as 80%. So I talked to the managers. The joy of living in a small community or being partners in a small community is that you know everybody. So I talked to the managers of the local stores and they were all for it. I had help with Steven Williams from Eat Greater Des Moines. And he helped me a lot, get it all set up. We bought a refrigerator, a commercial one that’s in our lobby. And I know this wouldn’t work for a lot of communities because other partners or other people or entities are doing it in their communities when you get to larger communities. But it worked very successful for us. We had a driver pick up the fresh fruit and vegetables bring it to the library, drop it off. And when you, when we opened at 10 people would come in. We did it on a first come first serve basis. And then the, it was magnificent because they would all the fresh fruit and vegetables would disappear by five o’clock so they would be in the hands of people who could take advantage of these in their diets. I was astounded that people that I had never seen were coming into the library to take advantage of the program. We also did a story walk and I just wanted to address something that Angie had said that great ideas get disseminated very quickly. I’ve got to say, there’s a story walk revolution going across Iowa right now. I had, I was in a meeting let’s see last Friday. And then last a week ago, Tuesday where I was disseminating information about story walks. And the story walk, we have the stations are not watertight. And so we have to laminate everything. Well, Iowa Prison Industries have solved this problem and now they have watertight stations that you can put your pages in from storybooks which solves a lot of lamination problems. But I can tell you that it is becoming such a popular program because people like it. We have gotten such great feedback from our community about the story walk, not just families but the one that I had cited before was someone that took her mom through the park. And we have this beautiful park in Perry called Wiese Park. And it has a 10 foot wide flat cement path. And she takes her mom and her wheelchair around to the book when she walks with her mom. And it’s one of those special things to do with mom. And she said, they both really enjoy the books. And we’ve been changing the books about once a month. So I would say that was, is a success. It’s a permanent story walk. We’re actually thinking about putting a mini storied walk around the library. So when they, when kids or anybody comes to the library, they just walk around the perimeter library and enjoy a small story walk. We’re doing healthy cooking classes. Just giving people an idea of how to be more healthy and among other things. I don’t know how long you want me to go.
Angie Doyle Scar: Mary how did the prison industries get engaged in this to be able to assist?
Mary Murphy: Well, Iowa Prison Industries makes furniture. I didn’t know if you knew this. But about was it six, eight weeks ago? Things come across my email and I, we actually look into Iowa Prison Industries making a circulation desk for us. And so we are on their email list and I saw that they were selling these story walk stations which are probably 18 by 24. And when it said weatherproof I was just like, “oh my gosh that’s something that barking dog out of Vermont doesn’t, you know, ours don’t have. And so we have to laminate every piece.” So it’s.
Angie Doyle Scar: Wonderful thank you Mary.
Mary Murphy: Yeah so yes, it’s those little tidbits of information that makes it so much easier for the next person to do it.
Angie Doyle Scar: That’s right. And that’s what this project is all about. Thank you.
Mary Murphy: You’re welcome.
Trish Hull: The story walk sounds like such a great idea during the pandemic, because it is another way to engage with the library in a COVID safe way.
Mary Murphy: I wanted to actually, when I kicked it off to have a story time featured there an outdoor story time. Well, that didn’t happen. So we took pictures and we publicized it but people are using it. They are intrigued. Yes.
Trish Hull: As Angie said earlier, Mary, you all have been doing some health related programming for a while. How did the support from IDPH and the input from Dallas County Public Health change or strengthen the work you were doing?
Mary Murphy: It actually gave me more of a push to address those needs. I think libraries have partnered with different entities in their community. One of the partners that we, oh we have successfully gone is with the school. And I’m working on little free libraries with the on the school grounds and dismaying lots or distributing lots of books to, you know, the free and reduced lunch crowd. We did this last year during the pandemic when the schools were closed and handing out lots of books. And I have partnered with the instructional part of the outreach of the Dallas County Hospital on several things, classes, Tai Chi classes, raising awareness about diabetes because of our Latino population. It’s more prevalent in Latinos. it’s more successful the more partners that you have and the more buy-in that you have from your partners and their audience. So everybody brings something to the table in the partnership. So I, we are the first ones in this area to have bicycles. And I really like that a person could come into the library check out a helmet, a bicycle, and take it for the day. It’s, I can’t say that they’re checked out every single day because we have, it’s a bicycle community. If you know anything about Perry we’re on the bicycle trail, we have bicycle shop. It’s a bicycle community but people who visit the community and their host wants to go on a bicycle ride. They can check out bicycles. We have four of them that are, you just have to be above 18.
Trish Hull: That’s great. Thanks Mary. Todd, I’ll turn it over to you to talk in detail about some of the programs your library has implemented.
Todd Simonson: Sure. So the first program I want to talk about it was called the Service Support Navigator Position. And really one of the a trend we were seeing is we have a growing population that was socioeconomic disadvantaged either homeless or really struggling financially to get a lot of the health services they needed. And with that, we saw some, an increase in behavior trends and really those behavior trends typically a library has a bad behavior and remove the patron call the police that’s we were seeing an increase in that and it temporarily put a bandaid on the problem but it wasn’t a permanent solution. So with this position we partnered with a local homeless agency. the Willis Dady Homeless Agency and we contracted a position and used part of this grant to supplement that contract. And really the benefit of it was we brought in a person whose main job was to work with this underserved population to find out the root needs of what were causing issues where they’re lacking services and really focus on getting help and resources to that group of people that we just weren’t having an outreach on being a government facility. So we’ve seen great increase in that really it dropped the calls to the police. Part of it was staff training, developing a service model. But really what we’ve seen is people have gotten access to resources that can be going to the doctors, going to the hospital, getting food where do I get a healthy meal, finding housing so that they aren’t temper or permanently displaced and really working with people to make sure their health needs are met. And as a result of that, like I said we’ve seen a huge increase, a huge success at the library that we haven’t had as many behavior issues with individuals and really that connection is built. So if there is a bad day people know there’s someone there to help me. So that’s been a huge success that we’ve seen. It’s been very well supported in the community. One of the benefits, I think Mary kind of talked about this is continuing to build partners. This program really, I think it brought some issues to the forefront that we’ve had. We’ve been able to expand off it. So during the summer we have ambassador program and that really it employs people who used to face homelessness to make sure that it’s not just people coming into the library but it’s people across our community that need resources and they’re getting access to the resources. It’s brought together local organizations. This year was the first year that we implemented a permanent day shelter. So we had night overflow shelters that were at capacity but really during the day, what were we doing with people who didn’t have a place to go especially during the winter when it’s cold. And really I think that’s a success that it’s brought together a lot of other local partners to where we’re addressing issues that might’ve been ignored prior to that. So that’s the main program I’m proud of that. We did. We also like Mary, we focused on healthy cooking and really we had a great plan in place but then the pandemic hit and it turned our programming it limited to doing in-person programming. So we had to take an approach how to tie it in with our new, with the reality of COVID. And we went to virtual programming we were able to implement that into our summer reading program and really to our I guess one of the successes we saw there was if we had that in-person programming, you could judge 50 to 100 people as being a really successful program. The virtual programs had views of 1000 to 2000 people per program. So we just had a significant outreach in that aspect. And we were able to work to modify that. And then really the other program that we focused on was circulating fitness kits. And so really our intent there was there’s all of these we realized the importance of health, but there’s some times if somebody is on a limited budget, it’s not as easy to go out and say get a yoga mat and do yoga. That’s going to be your go-to. So really the intent was we have some of these materials for people to try to see how they could improve health and fitness and their lifestyle. And the hope there is if they did see something that was really good it worked well for them that they will then be able to have tried it out. So they know what would be effective and really help them to save to go get that equipment if they continued. The other thing I’ll touch on, and this was with the pandemic and with the show that came through we weren’t able to get fourth program we wanted but I think this is a great example of the partnership is we were looking at doing something with a raising a reader program. So really focusing on people that showing expecting parents, mothers, the importance of literature even before they gave birth. Our whole focus when we initially were talking about that program was focusing on our entire community and really promoting the importance of literacy, just through working through the partnership that we got with Linn County Public Health. I think they really brought another element to the table. And so they had great data that they brought that said really infant mortality rates is high amongst a certain underrepresented population within our community. And that was lower social economic, African-American expecting mothers who didn’t have a high school education. And so we were able to see that and say, “okay, really how can we use our existing raising a reader program? And how can we expand that to show all people in our community, the importance of literature of health during that population.” And I’m just proud of that. It wasn’t necessarily within my department but I thought that was really great that we’re able to take something. We were existing planning work with Linn County Public Health and expand that.
Mary Murphy:Todd was the raising a reader program partnered with ISU extension and outreach?
Todd Simonson:That one wasn’t that one was we were working with a United Way on that. And getting the early childhood literacy I think was the first component but it just kept building that the pre-literacy or the pre-birth literacy was so important.
Mary Murphy: Yes. We partnered with ISU Extension and Outreach for raising a reader is a program that they have and we’re targeting children between the ages of two and five, and, you know, providing books and mentoring so good.
Todd Simonson: And that was, I think, where we were going with it with this program, which we’ll do eventually but I know our programming manager who was taking the lead of it, something, I didn’t know as a man but just how they have books to read for expecting mothers while you’re pregnant that are shaped to work around. It’s something they’re specially designed for expecting mothers and with the baby growing. So that was part of the. We’re looking at ordering those types of books, because it is important to start reading to your child before they’re born. They hear your voice, build that relationship and start to hear literature. So we were, that was what was so exciting about Linn County Public Health. They really opened our eyes to it that pre birth literacy is huge. We were going to look at providing these kids to local doctors’ offices to hospitals and we’ll still do that. But I think the pandemic got in the way of getting things manufactured and really it took an impact on medical, the medical community what it really hindered to a point those partnerships. But I would say that it’s still a great foundation that we can continue to expand on even beyond the grant period.
Angie Doyle Scar: And one of the things that I love about this is I know that so often libraries are seen as a place to check out books. And so when you hear about these activities, I mean libraries go well beyond, they are essentially community hubs, especially in rural communities. When I used to do outreach for a program at the health department, I had outreach coordinators across the state, and I told them to reach out to their libraries and a few of ’em didn’t understand why. And I said, “I guarantee you, especially in these small communities, the librarians know.” This program I worked on was kids health insurance. And I said, “these librarians are default the community social workers. And they know whose family plant just closed down who are probably losing their insurance. And, you know, they really are those, they can be those community hubs.” And Cedar Rapids I think just as a perfect example, and especially with their homeless population is also still yet a community hub. And so libraries are so much more than just checking out books and we need to showcase those efforts more.
Trish Hull:I think that is one of the reasons partnerships and collaborations are so important because too often libraries are asked to take on work that we aren’t aware of or haven’t been trained to do. So having these strong partnerships can help bridge the gap in order to allow us to be that hub and the connector.
Angie Doyle Scar: We’re so often the background. People don’t realize what public health does because when we’re doing our work well then you don’t see us. We are, I mean, right now obviously the pandemic change that little bit but generally we are not seen. And so when we build those partnerships, then it what am I, it not accelerates, but rises up even the work that public health is doing in a more visible, positive way. So it really is a win-win for both organizations and for the local communities also.
Todd Simonson: And it is. And just to echo that like, so I now since I’m spearheading this and I have a close contact at Linn County Public Health with the vaccinations coming out with COVID, they have just been inundated with calls. There’s a lot of confusion because who’s eligible to get a shot. Where can I get a shot? Is the shot safe? And really they do not, they’re stretched to capacity. And so getting disseminating information out is not always the easiest and the public health is experts. And last it was probably two weeks ago though. Cindy just reached out to me and said, “we have been getting so many questions about this. We have this information about vaccinations about the process. We’re trying to get it out. Can we drop a couple of flyers off?” And my immediate response was, “we’re doing our curbside pickup. We have the bags, we’ll take up to 5,000 flyers.” And really, we have them for people that come in, we have them at our self-checkout stations, but it was easy for us to say, “this is important to our community” So now all of our staff just drop a flyer in the bag. And who knows if 100% of those are being read but we’re getting the information out that’s important. And so y’all can’t see this, you hear it. But when I said that, I saw Angie like shaking her hand.
Angie Doyle Scar: I love it.
Todd Simonson: And I think that goes to show the success of this partnership.
Angie Doyle Scar:I agree. That is wonderful.
Mary Murphy: A lot of the things that IDPH is putting out now is bilingual and the Latino council just sent a flyer an electronic flyer out last week and we both posted it on the library website Facebook page and Hispanics United for Perry Facebook page. So trying to kind of point to this is where you can find information that’s relevant to you that this whole, where can I get a shot is like the conundrum of the community. It’s like, who’s got it? Where can I get on the lists? You know, who’s eligible? it’s been it’s, you know, you don’t have very many people clamoring for information all the time the same specific piece of information. And to be that connector in the community is what we do.
Angie Doyle Scar: Yep and even beyond COVID immunizations I know Mary you talked about diabetes. I mean, this relationship now, when people ’cause I know people come to libraries and they use you guys as a reference resource to look up health needs. And so libraries will help public health gives the tools to the community, to the proper tools, the responsible tools for people to be able to manage their health better. So.
Mary Murphy: I would agree with you, I have taken some training of from NNLM about MedlinePlus and pointing people to how should I say really good information. Because what happens is when people look up things on the internet it’s interspersed with advertising. And if you don’t have a discerning eye you don’t know whether it’s an advertising for a commercial product or if it’s the information.
Trish Hull: I’m curious what were your relationships with your county health departments like before this project kicked off?
Todd Simonson: I think I’ll start. I don’t think we, I think it was an extent that we knew there was a Linn County Public Health department and there were times when we might collaborate between, but I really think it’s brought the two agencies much closer. I know I shared the example about the flyers but when COVID first started and Linn County Public Health was doing press releases. We were a natural way for them to do their efforts that started daily but then it moved to weekly press briefings. And we just, by working together, they knew we had resources in the library that could make that work. We shortly before COVID we were again on the grant. We planned a staff development that we gave to Linn County Public Health because libraries general. One of our, one of the important things to us is information literacy. Mary touched on this, but making sure information that people get is reliable, accurate. And that’s really one of our expertises or one of our areas of expertise in the library. So it’s funny it’s we call it the crap test to go through and evaluate information. But shortly before the pandemic, I went over to Linn County Public Health and I gave that a workshop just proving or going through how to know what information is reliable. How to verify it. Because we have become so relying on the internet that there are many people that you hear something in one new source and you think that’s 100% true but really challenging public health. Like how do you make sure the information you get out is accurate? It is seen as the reliable information. So I just think this continued to this really brought together the two agencies really opened our doors to processes and really, yeah, the grant was important but I think we’ve become a great area of support. And we realize instead of working a part on our strengths how can we use each other to work together and really support our community better?
Angie Doyle Scar: I just want to just real quick, ’cause Mary and Todd keep on talking about the grant. And I just to give them a pat on the back, we are talking about a fairly small grant. Both local communities are just receiving just over 20 grand to do this work. And so this is a lot of work that is being done for a small amount of money. I mean, it’s not, I don’t want to, you know, we are so happy and so grateful for Telligen to give us those opportunities. So I don’t want to minimize the amount of money in the grant, but really when we talk about some of the other grants that we work with and work on this one is not huge. And so there is a lot of work being done and that again is the magic of working with, you know, local community agencies and the amount of work they can get done for small amount of money.
Trish Hull: I think that is true of small health departments and small libraries.
Mary Murphy: I would say likewise with the Perry Public Library and Dallas County Health Department. We knew of each other. We had sporadically talk to each other. I knew about the assessment that the health department does because I had used some of the research and statements of mean for grants. But I am happy to say that we are working toward the same goal right now. And it’s always fun to have another colleague that I call Abigail all the time now. And I like it when I have a source that can tell me, you know, what is the truth? Tell me, because I have to refute it to all these people who come into the library and won’t wear a mask. So I just talked to Abigail a couple of weeks ago and I said, “this is my understanding that even though you’re vaccinated, you can still get it. You can still get COVID and you can still carry it. So we all need to wear our masks.” And so I feel grounded that I have that relationship now with a professional that can, you know, it’s my source. In many of my partnerships with the school with the businesses in the community, it just enriches both of our missions to serve the community that we collaborate together and we get more done.
Trish Hull: To give some background to listeners, Todd is with the Cedar Rapids Public Library which is about three blocks away from the Linn County Public Health building. And Mary is with the Perry Public Library which is a car ride away from the Dallas County Public Health department.
Angie Doyle Scar: And I think that brings up another really good point. And there are some exceptions to this rule, but one of the things with the collaboration and consideration as it, for the most part health departments are county wide. We do have a couple of exceptions in Iowa but for the most part and our funding is driven by generally county funding with some state and federal funding. And while libraries correct me, if I’m wrong, you guys but are generally you’re township, you’re city governance. And so our health department could be working with multiple libraries and multiple libraries could be working with one health department.
Mary Murphy: Correct. Most of our funding is local and we do get state funds and we do get grants and donations.
Angie Doyle Scar: Great thank you.
Todd Simonson: And I’ll say, because I think I was it’s really, I moved here from Phoenix. And so when you think about city and Cedar Rapids, to me that’s just a large town, but in Iowa Cedar Rapids is a major city but there’s several smaller communities in Iowa. And one of the things I think Mary and I, one of the things we really did that was effective is just talking about the, so we presented at the ILA Iowa Library Association Conference. We did one with the medical presentation a medical conference, and someone will have to interject the name, but we did that a couple of weeks ago. And one of the things we said is regardless of the size of your town, or regardless if you have a public health department that, like Linn County, since we’re such a large county we do have a lot of staff at our public health. One question we got was while our public health workers only maybe it has one person it might be a not even full-time position. How do we collaborate with that? And really we just said the important first out is to make that initial connection. I’ve I think it’s fair to say everybody can be stretched to their own directions. Library staff can, public health staff can, especially during COVID but really make that connection, see where you can work together to better provide resources and support to your community. That’s the first step. And Angie, I appreciate what you said earlier. The 20,000 for Cedar Rapids. That’s not the major part of our budget. Our support service navigator position did cost more than that in total. So the money really did help us but really the importance was that connection and using your partnership resources to better provide access to the community.
Angie Doyle Scar: And I wouldn’t even maintain with our small departments. Once those discussions happen, then they could help each other reach each others, again, their goals. So there’s going to be overlap. So I don’t know it just by being creative I think they can actually lessen some of the workload instead of creating more of the workload. That’s what I would hope could happen through those conversations.
Trish Hull: Angie it seems like places with larger populations in Iowa may have an easier time collaborating. Yet have the smaller communities with less staff time and resources may realize more profound impacts as a result of these collaborations. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Angie Doyle Scar: There are going to be advantages and disadvantages to our rural and urban, and I know I listened to one of your webinars earlier about what do we mean by rural and urban to Todd’s point. And I know when I meant with Mary that she doesn’t consider herself real rural because they really are. Perry is the community hub of that community. And so we just use those terms for the sake of the grant but I love communities being able to define that themselves. So if Mary doesn’t want to consider herself rural then we need to come up with another term for that. But the go back to your question. So in small communities, ’cause I’ve lived in a very small community and now I’m in the biggest urban community in Iowa and in small communities, you know each other, again going back to when I was talking about Hawkeye Outreach, small library, small public health are going to know when certain companies close down. They’re going to know who’s uninsured. Our local public health received grant money to do outreach for numerous programs. And they’re always trying to think of creative ways to do these outreach and to reach their population. That is a focus that is a priority of our local public health to reach communities outside their local public health office walls. And what better partner to do that than your local library. So that is just one example how on a rural community it really not only the impact is significant but those are relate. Your kids probably go to school with each other, right? Or your husbands work together, or, you know those relationships are there frequently while in an urban setting, there may be more resources. There may be more programming but those relationships sometimes are a little bit harder to, I would maintain it to establish.
Mary Murphy: I would agree with you Angie just last week I had a gentleman come in who was evicted and he needed a place to stay. And I connected him to the health navigator system and be able to, I he didn’t have any had very little computer skills and found out that you could only apply for apartments online. You no longer have a piece of paper to apply to rent an apartment. You have to do it online. You have to upload your paycheck. You have to upload. It was, you know, I was like, “okay, take a picture send it to my email, upload this document onto the computer.” I mean, he had all the pieces of paper with him but he couldn’t apply for an apartment without computer skills. And so I was I really feel there’s a segment of our population that is being left behind.
Angie Doyle Scar: And correct me if I’m wrong, libraries really have become kind of an IT hub for the communities and populations that may not have that at home. So that would be another way that the local libraries could actually help a local health department. And some of the programs that are eligibility criteria that the local library can help those individuals who do not have computers at home take advantage and I don’t mean that word, but to use their computers to get the desired outcomes.
Mary Murphy: You’re correct. It was fortunate that we were the only ones in the library and I had him sit five feet away from me and I was inputting the information. That it’s hard. It’s very hard because, you know and when I talked to Abigail about hooking him up with our or connecting him with the health navigators to actually find him a place to sleep so.
Angie Doyle Scar: A great job, Mary and you made an impact, a significant impact on his life by the time you sat there and the shorter amount of time to help him. So that is again, strengthening your local community.
Trish Hull: As this project comes to a close, how do you see a way forward in continuing the great work that started as a result of this project?
Angie Doyle Scar: This funding is about to end. So we are always looking for ways that we can, you know make this sustainable or even spread it statewide. We do have a collaboration with the state library now established a relationship where we are venturing and how, you know, we have a local pilot doing it on the ground level, but it also helps when on a state level that we can offer tools and resources to help even if the funding at this point is not available. So we’re working with the state library right now to make various webinars and resources available through the state library down to the local libraries. So we hope with the outreach down on a local level and then on state level that we can start to meet the needs that are in the middle. And one of the other things that Abby and I are working on from the screen as a toolkit that we hope to have available and we will continue even after this grant is over to work on the toolkit to make it timely and useful because right now we’re really creating this off to pilots but to make it available to other libraries who could be interested in it. So we hope that even beyond these two pilots that this work will continue to grow beyond our local commute, that handful of local communities.
Mary Murphy: If I may, the fresh fruit and vegetable recovery Dallas County Public Health had an intern and she wrote a toolkit how to implement it. It has from the ground up how to implement it. And you really have to be a certain size community to take advantage. You have to have a grocery store in your community. So it has to be of a certain size, but I was amazed at the amount of fruit and vegetables that we channeled through the library to people. And it’s, you know, it’s that it would have been in a dumpster if it hadn’t been used that is the good feeling inside you that you’re actually, you know, lessening our landfills and our trash and putting it to good use. So I would say yes, that there are, there is a tool kit out out there.
Todd Simonson: And I’ll say, we’re, we’ll continue our partnership. I think I’ve said this several times and it’s been shared but I think the important takeaway from us was or really it’s that I don’t want to say forced us but it really put us in a great spot to make a better relationship with a community partner. And really the benefit is that better serves our community. So we’ll maintain that partnership. We’ll maintain the projects that we started but I guess my takeaway to anyone listening would be make that first step connection. It doesn’t have to be a support service navigator position like Cedar Rapids had because every community has different needs. But if you make the time, make the connection it’s only going to be bring good things to your library, to your communities.
Mary Murphy: I would concur with Todd that partnering with anybody in your community showcases them and showcases you. And I’ve had such great results in partnering with the school, with the hospital, with businesses, and now with public health. I partnered with the story walk. I actually partnered with public works and the parks and rec department. And it was a win for everybody because I publicized it. And I said, “we’re working together to bring you something.” So it was, you know, a video of them pouring the cement, a video of the parks and rec path. So the more that you can bring into your partnerships and it just celebrates all of us.
Angie Doyle Scar: And the biggest winner out of all of it is the people who live in communities. So that is I mean, that’s, you know, gold star to you guys.
Trish Hull: That wraps up today’s episode of Shared Public Health and our mini series highlighting the benefits of strong partnerships between public health departments and public libraries.
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 U G four L M zero one two three four six. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the national institutes of health.