Gleason Memorial Library Is the Cornerstone of a Healthy Community

GLEASON MEMORIAL LIBRARY 
RINGLING, OKLA.
POPULATION: 1,043
DIRECTOR: RENEE YOCUM

“Our library couldn’t possibly hope to pay any kind of consultant for the advice we get from our state library and for the framework and tools that we get from Edge.”

- Renee Yocum, Director, Gleason Memorial Library

Located in Ringling, Okla., Gleason Memorial Library serves a population of 1,300 people spread out over three towns. Since its founding in the 1990s, the library has looked to serve as a community center for the Ringling area. The library turned to Edge in order to get a better understanding of what they could offer to their patrons. 

“Our library couldn’t possibly hope to pay any kind of consultant for the advice we get from our state library and for the framework and tools that we get from Edge,” said Renee Yocum, director of Gleason Memorial Library.

Yocum had a vision for the library: she wanted it to serve as a trusted community health resource for all of its patrons. Yocum felt the library could better serve the community if it had more data on community needs. The library launched a patron technology survey and discovered that about 50 percent of patrons used the library to access information about health and wellness. The library turned to Edge to act on this discovery.

A Trusted Community Resource

While Gleason Memorial Library had taken the Edge Assessment in 2014, it wasn’t until 2016 that the library really put its Edge data to use. Yocum was applying for a grant that required creating a website and Facebook page for the library. Yocum did not know where to start with the website, so she turned to Edge.  

“Once I started [the website] I wanted it to be useful and not just a place to slap some pictures up and say I completed a grant requirement. I wanted to take it seriously and learn how to do it.”

In order to build a useful website, Yocum added pages relating to Edge benchmarks 3.1, 3.2 and 3.4 — small business, eGovernment and health and wellness resources. Yocum also added a personal touch. “Being very eBook oriented personally, I had to add a page for free and low cost eBooks, audios and other media,” she said.

With the website completed, it might have been easy for Yocum to rest on her laurels, but she decided that she wanted to maintain that website and transform it into an indispensable community health resource. She spoke with someone from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and managed to get Gleason Memorial Library included in an NIH project on health literacy. This allowed the library to greatly improve the types of resources it could offer on its website.  

“Not only did we add many more safe and vetted health resources like MedlinePlus but also sections on specific health conditions,” said Yocum. “The new and improved website has made a difference in how fast I can help people.”

After building the new website, Yocum wanted to continue to build on the resources provided by the website. The library began offering innovative programming like a Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance class and holiday-themed healthy cooking classes.

The most important thing to Yocum is that the library serves as a health resource that the community can trust. 

“I want patrons to be able to go to our website and bypass having to sift through possibly unreliable commercial sites to get what they need.”

Gleason Memorial Library is not pursuing this goal alone, Yocum has made it a priority to enthusiastically pursue partners in the community to achieve health goals. These partners include Ringling Public Schools, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Outback Fitness Center and the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service. 

“One thing I’ve discovered is that most [local organizations] are just as anxious to make partnerships as I am,” said Yocum. 

The Edge Assessment has helped Gleason Memorial Library become what Yocum envisioned when she first became director, a vital health resource for the community. “The Edge Benchmarks have worked as a blueprint for me in many ways,” said Yocum.