Health Strategies for Public Libraries: How the Free Library of Philadelphia addresses health barriers to literacies

REARDON, Siobhan A. and MCCLINTOCK, Autumn and MORAN, Sara S. and NICHOLS, Joel A. (2015) Health Strategies for Public Libraries: How the Free Library of Philadelphia addresses health barriers to literacies. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2015 - Cape Town, South Africa in Session 140 - Metropolitan Libraries.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/1131
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Language: English (Original)
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Abstract

Health Strategies for Public Libraries: How the Free Library of Philadelphia addresses health barriers to literacies

In 2012 the Free Library of Philadelphia learned that more than one-third of its customers were seeking health information. In response, it launched several non-traditional services that provide opportunities for overcoming health-related barriers to literacy. The work is largely experimental and leads to new ways of delivering services and a broadened definition of literacy. A sampling of these undertakings includes: • In 2013, the United States began mandating health insurance. The Free Library became certified to enroll patrons in insurance plans, a significant undertaking for the large proportions of our population who live in poverty and have low literacy skills. • Currently under construction is a city campus that will include a library, a new site for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a public health clinic, and a city recreation center. This new health services public library will be entirely unique. • The Culinary Literacy Center is a professional grade kitchen used to address health concerns and teach literacy: the first of its kind in the US. • The Free Library is leading a campaign to increase the number of children reading on grade-level. School absenteeism is a formidable barrier to this work, and the primary cause is chronic asthma. Strategies to reduce asthma triggers in schools so that children are able to attend school and learn to read are being explored. • Our libraries are a refuge for citizens struggling with a wide range of mental and behavioral illnesses. To address these challenges, we have installed social workers in our libraries. Exploring innovations and emerging trends for libraries and finding the best ways to serve the public are among the Free Library’s top priorities. This paper will share the investigative approach to non-traditional services which provide opportunities for overcoming health-related barriers to literacy.

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