After taking the pulse of its community, the Free Library of Philadelphia plans to venture into a new area: providing health information with some hands-on medical services.
A recent Pew research study revealed over 30 percent of library patrons visit to research health information.
Library officials are partnering with health providers from all over the city (Drexel University, Temple, Penn, Einstein, and Jefferson, just to name a few) to provide services that are informational as well as practical.
“The free library will focus on building collections, building data bases on a particular subject area,” explained Siobhan Reardon, Free Library president. Topics will range from obesity and substance abuse to mental illness. “Then we’ll have the advisory part of it with the real healthcare partner — good information with the practice,” added Reardon.
“The reason I think this is right, the right place for us, is that the library is really considered a very trusted place.” Reardon says these services are especially important to the library’s low-income, homeless, and immigrant clients.
Princeton Public Library has been offering health-related workshops and panel discussions for some time with good success, says program associate Shelly Hawk
“We have Raiki masters come in and talk about what they do and do some demos on people,” she offered as an example. She says these workshops attract good crowds. The Princeton library also offers free CPR courses.
Library professionals say this is a way for libraries to remain relevant as people’s reading and researching habits continue to change.
The Free Library of Philadelphia will begin to pilot health programs at their branch near Temple University within six months.