Public Libraries and Health Promotion Partnerships: Needs and Opportunities
Objective – Across North America, public libraries have increasingly served their communities by working with partners to connect patrons to essential healthcare services, including preventative. However, little is known about the extent of these partnerships, or the need for them, as seen from the perspective of public library workers. In this study, we set out to address the following research question: What needs and opportunities are associated with health promotion partnerships involving public libraries?
Methods – Using snowball sampling techniques, in September 2021, 123 library workers from across the state of South Carolina in the United States (US) completed an online survey about their health partnerships and health-related continuing education needs; an additional 19 completed a portion of the survey.
Results – Key findings included that library capacity is limited, but the desire to support health via partnerships is strong. There is a need for health partnerships to increase library capacity to support health. Public libraries already offer a range of health-related services. Finally, disparities exist across regions and between urban and rural communities.
Conclusion – As an exploratory study based on a self-selecting sample of public library workers in a particular state of the US, this study has some limitations. Nonetheless, this article highlights implications for a variety of stakeholder groups, including library workers and administrators, funders, and policy makers, and researchers. For researchers, the primary implication is the need to better understand, both from the public library worker’s perspective and from the (actual or potential) health partner’s perspective, needs and opportunities associated with this form of partnership work.
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