• English
Reinforcing Public Libraries

Health Happens in Libraries

Kendra Morgan /

Recently, OCLC’s WebJunction and ZeroDivide launched a new project to provide information to public libraries that will help them prepare for and respond to patron requests for information related to the U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA). The project team will work with state and public libraries to devise free webinars and published content, and connect libraries to relevant consumer health information resources. This project is supported through an agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

A recent IMLS study shows that each year an estimated 28 million people in the U.S. use library services to seek health and wellness information, including learning about medical conditions, finding healthcare  providers and assessing health insurance options. Public libraries are likely to see an increased demand for these services with the establishment of ACA-mandated federal and state-run Health Insurance  Marketplaces, which opened for consumer enrollment in October 2013. Planning for how to respond to these information needs and requests will be an important local decision for libraries.

The Waukegan Public Library in Illinois presents an example of how strong partnerships and a clear mission are helping define the library’s role in supporting community needs. The library is one of 27 partner  organizations participating in Enroll Lake County, which aims to increase access to healthcare for county residents. As part of this initiative, the library selected staff to receive training and certification to serve as qualified in-person counselors (IPCs). They plan to offer bilingual one-on-one and drop-in group sessions at the library to help patrons determine their healthcare eligibility and enroll in a health insurance plan.

Coordinated referral and data sharing between partner organizations is intended to ensure that, regardless of where in the community individuals go to receive enrollment support, they will have access to consistent and reliable information.

The open enrollment period for the ACA runs from 1 October 2013 to 31 March 2014. During that time, new information and resources will be developed and made available to the library community. Get involved and learn more by visiting the Health Happens in Libraries website.

Sign up to receive e-mail updates from WebJunction. When new content is added or a new webinar is scheduled, you will be notified.

Review the basics of the Health Insurance Marketplace that became available for insurance enrollment beginning 1 October. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and find out what type of Marketplace is being offered in your state.

Identify a staff member who can champion library-related resources and supports for health information at your library, and keep staff informed of new information as it becomes available.

If you use Twitter, the #libs4health hashtag can be used to highlight library posts about health-related information.

Connecting communities to reliable health-care information is a powerful opportunity to reinforce the valuable role that libraries play. WebJunction looks forward to sharing your stories.

About the Author

  • Kendra Morgan

    Kendra Morgan

    Kendra is Senior Program Manager and oversees WebJunction’s grant-funded programs. Prior to joining WebJunction in 2007, she provided training and technology support as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Libraries Program, and as a technology consultant at The Library of Virginia.