Health and well-being are influenced by a variety of factors including one's physical health, relationships, intellect, occupation, finances, environment, sexuality, and spirituality. Libraries of all types have the ability to provide information, resources, and programs to support and improve all these aspects of our lives.
- The American Psychological Association recently reported that for the first time in over a decade American's overall stress is on the rise.
- The number of homeless families in Massachusetts has more than doubled in the past decade.
- 1 in 4 persons experiences a mental health condition in a given year.
- 1 in 12 US adults lives with a substance use disorder.
- In December of 2017, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that US life expectancy fell for a second year for the first time in half a century, due to the opioid epidemic.
How can librarians help?
- Keep your collections up-to-date to support the social services needs of your community.
- Plan community awareness events such as forums on topics like homelessness, diversity, senior health, backpack/winter supply drives, and suicide prevention.
- Host programs that support civility, cultural awareness, financial literacy, socialization, mindfulness, and the social determinants of health.
- Create resource guides to connect patrons with local social services resources.
- Partner with social service providers, social workers, homelessness engagement coordinators, health sciences librarians, public health staff, and health care providers.
- Improve your deescalation and communication skills through trainings and reading books, such as the Librarians Guide to Homelessness (available in the MLS Professional Collection).
- Have a "Who to Call" information sheet ready to provide to patrons in-crisis such as the number for an emergency hotline, the location of the local food pantry and shelter, or a directory to local a therapist.
Explore this guide to learn about ways that your library can provide responsive services to your patrons' social services needs.
Remember, librarians are not health care providers and should not offer medical advice. Refer to the ALA RUSA's Health and Medical Reference Guidelines for more information. Check out the Public Library Association Healthy Community Tools for Public Libraries to equip your library with tools, resources, training, and databases to provide health information as public librarians are critical to our nation's public health.