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OCLC receives IMLS grant to support libraries responding to the opioid crisis

Development of free online resources will help library staff determine how to address opioid use disorder in their communities

logo: Institute of Museum and Library Services

DUBLIN, Ohio, 5 August 2021OCLC has been awarded an IMLS National Leadership Grant to develop a set of free online resources that staff at public libraries can use to determine how their library can address opioid use disorder in their local communities.

The resources will include pragmatic strategies, tools, and other content to help guide libraries—particularly those in rural areas—as they determine their specific communities' needs and define the roles and activities their library is most suited to carry out. These resources will help libraries assess their staff strengths and capacity, identify key local partners with whom to collaborate or coordinate, and plan and implement an initiative that contributes to ending the opioid crisis.

"While our primary focus has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic continues to devastate families, neighbors, and entire communities," said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. "The resources created by this project are intended to help individual libraries determine the best course of action to help those in need."

The Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) is a key supporter of the project and will promote opportunities to participate, webinars, and other resources created during the project.

"Many of our more than 1,900 members serve communities that have been uniquely impacted by this epidemic. Rural communities often struggle with issues of access surrounding health care, including mental health care, and public libraries are well-positioned to serve as trusted information sources on these sensitive topics for the people they serve. We recognize the importance of raising awareness and reducing stigma around the topic of opioid use disorder and its impact on our workplaces and our communities," stated Kate Laughlin, Executive Director of ARSL.

This initiative builds on OCLC's IMLS-funded study, Public Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis with Their Communities (2018-20), and will provide libraries with resources that align with five recommended areas for action that emerged from that project:

  • Evaluate local health data
  • Seek community partners
  • Educate staff and community members on the issue
  • Consider staff care needs
  • Offer programs and services that support local needs

The opioid epidemic was declared a national public health emergency in the fall of 2017, the impacts of which have been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020. In March 2021, the American Medical Association reported that more than 40 states indicated recent increases in opioid-related deaths and, as before the pandemic, rural areas continue to be impacted heavily. Recent CDC provisional drug overdose death counts show that 2020 deaths were nearly 30 percent higher than in 2019.

This initiative will help strengthen and support libraries—and, more broadly, the communities they serve—as the nation continues to struggle with the opioid crisis.

The project will launch in September 2021, and all resources created for this project will be made available through OCLC's WebJunction, a free continuing education resource for libraries of all types and sizes.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America's museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About OCLC

OCLC is a nonprofit global library organization providing shared technology services, original research and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research and innovation. Through OCLC, member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. Libraries gain efficiencies through OCLC's WorldShare, a complete set of library management applications and services built on an open, cloud-based platform. It is through collaboration and sharing of the world's collected knowledge that libraries can help people find answers they need to solve problems. Together as OCLC, member libraries, staff and partners make breakthroughs possible.

OCLC, WorldCat, WorldCat.org and WorldShare are trademarks and/or service marks of OCLC, Inc. Third-party product, service and business names are trademarks and/or service marks of their respective owners.


  • Bob Murphy

    Manager, Media Relations

    O: +1-614-761-5136

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