Health information on a stick: outreach at the Health Sciences Libraries

by Erinn Aspinall

It’s 9:00 on a Friday morning and the Health Sciences Libraries’ Outreach Librarian is ready to begin her day.  But Anne Beschnett is not in her office.  She is staffing at a table in the U of M building at the Minnesota State Fair. 

Sitting on the table is a poster that comically reads, “Does finding good information have you STUCK?” next to a picture of a hypodermic needle.  Goldy Gopher is by her side giving a thumbs up. 

The Health Sciences Libraries can help, and it won’t hurt a bit 

Goldy Gopher and Anne Beschnett at the Minnesota State Fair.
Goldy Gopher and Anne Beschnett at the Minnesota State Fair.

Visitors to Beschnett’s table will see that her poster goes on to state that she can help finding health information, and that it won’t hurt a bit. 

This is because it is Beschnett’s job to know the where to find the most informative, reliable, and trustworthy online health information.  

She knows the resources available from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and how the information contained in these resources can be applied to answer health-related questions. 

She has developed the Libraries’ Resources for Personal Health web page to direct individuals to trusted information on topics such as specific diseases, prescription drugs, medical procedures, mental health, and alternative and complementary medicine.

The power of good information

Health information comes at us through many sources in a typical day: news coverage highlights recent study findings, magazines advertise prescription drugs, and the Internet provides a steady stream of health-related content. 

Seventy-two percent of us become “online health seekers” actively looking for information on the Internet.  Thirty-five percent of us become “online diagnosers” searching for an explanation for particular symptoms (1). 

Each of us will be impacted by a health concern at some point in our lives.  Access to reliable health information is important to everyone.

A mission of outreach

Academic health sciences libraries take a unique perspective on outreach as compared to other academic libraries.  This is because their definition of outreach extends beyond their primary users to include health providers and health consumers from around their region. 

The Health Sciences Libraries actively contribute to this mission of outreach.  They have been designated by the NLM to serve as one of two Resource Libraries in Minnesota, a title shared with the Mayo Clinic Libraries. 

The Health Sciences Libraries have also been identified by the NLM as Minnesota’s only Outreach Library, providing health information and related services to the state.  Beschnett’s role as the Outreach Librarian supports this mission throughout the year. 

Making Minnesota a healthy Minnesota

In a typical year, Beschnett travels throughout Minnesota to bring reliable health information directly into the hands of over 550 individuals. 

She exhibits at nearly a dozen events in venues such as the Hmong Resource Fair and the Minnesota Rural Health Conference. 

She also provides training on health information resources and health literacy skills to high school students, community organizations, and health providers. 

While Beschnett does not deliver health information a stick, this metaphor serves as an appropriate description of her outreach efforts.  It is through her work that trusted health information becomes more accessible and easier to use. 

 

References

  1. Fox S, Duggan M. (January, 2013) Health Online 2013.  Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.  Available from: http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/PIP_HealthOnline.pdf.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here