The Public Library as Health Information Resource? by Mary Grace Flaherty

November 9, 2012

The Public Library as Health Information Resource?

Please join us for a special presentation by Mary Grace Flaherty, public library director in Sidney, NY on November 26, 2012 at 11 a.m. in Manning Hall room 208.  

The Public Library as Health Information Resource?
Public libraries have approached the role of health information provider in a variety of ways. Some subscribe to health databases and sponsor access to patrons. There are some that simply provide a link on their homepage to a recognized consumer health resource such as MedlinePlus. Some have gone so far as to establish consumer health information centers. Others have created outreach programs to serve their communities’ health information needs. Yet some are reluctant to take on the role of health information resource provider. In addition, even though public library staff are regularly responding to patrons’ health queries, there are few who are trained in finding and evaluating medical information. Using institutional theory as a framework and employing a mixed methods approach, an analysis of consumer health information provision in public libraries was undertaken. The research found a wide range of service provision, uneven diffusion and differing levels of staff knowledge of health information resources, and that the physical materials on library shelves had a profound influence on quality of health information provision. These findings have implications for library practice, training, and instruction and point to a need for further understanding of the role of public libraries in providing health information.

About Mary Grace Flaherty

Mary Grace FlahertyMary Grace Flaherty has over 20 years of experience working in a variety of library settings, including academic, medical research and public libraries. Flaherty’s most recent experience was as a public library director in Sidney, NY. She received her MLS from the University of Maryland, and her MS in Applied Behavioral Science from Johns Hopkins University. Currently, Flaherty is a doctoral candidate and IMLS fellow at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. Her research interests include the role of public libraries in society and health information.