As trusted institutions, libraries play a significant role in providing information and access to reliable health and wellness resources.
According to data from a nationally representative sample of libraries that participated in Edge, less than 50 percent of libraries are providing adequate health and wellness information to their communities.
Oregon City Public Library is an exception to this trend, providing a comprehensive set of health and wellness resources and programs to the people it serves. Thanks to the support of the State Library of Oregon, the library has achieved a significant improvement in this critical area since it first participated in Edge in 2014.
“Edge has opened our eyes to realizing that it is important for our website to be viewed and used as a resource,” said Aaron Novinger, technology and library promotion librarian for OCPL. “We knew this topic was a more difficult area for us to target, but we’ve made some great improvements.”
Like many libraries, OCPL has access to a diverse catalog that includes many health and wellness resources — but how can the library effectively convey this information to its community?
“The Edge Benchmarks helped me work with our internal library teams about transitioning our website from only focusing on programming to becoming more of a resource for users,” said Novinger.
In addition to providing information and access to federal and statewide resources, the library wanted to include information about local resources for its community. “We provide information about several programs and clinics in the area that serve everyone, including low-cost options,” said Novinger.
For example, the library offers information on how to access The Founders Clinic, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing quality health care to low-income, uninsured residents in the community. In fact, it is the only clinic in the area that offers medical services at no cost to patients.
Other examples of useful resources include information and access to health databases, community and health centers and even hotlines — including suicide prevention hotlines.
“Edge guided us during our website transition with what content we should be providing for our patrons as resources,” said Novinger. “At first, we didn’t even have a web page on our website with this type of information, but now we are always looking for ways to improve how we use technology in relation to health and wellness in the community.”
The success of the library’s improved efforts to better meet its community’s health and wellness priorities are also supported by an uptick in partnerships and the programs it offers.
“Many different health and wellness organizations and nonprofits are approaching the library to partner with us to host meetings and classes,” said Novinger.
For example, the library partners with the Alzheimer’s Association of Oregon and the American Red Cross on certain projects, allowing the latter organization to use the library’s community room for events such as blood drives.
“We’ve also been focusing more on mental health issues and working to formalize partnerships around them,” said Novinger. “We have been sending our staff to Mental Health First Aid trainings hosted by the county’s Health, Housing and Human Services Department, and our youth services staff has attended some training sessions focusing on teen suicide prevention.”
The library recently partnered with The Art of Living, an organization that travels from Portland to the library for a monthly wellness program.
“We wanted to offer more wellness resources and programs, so we reached out to The Art of Living to do a mindfulness workshop,” said Novinger. “It has picked up a lot of steam, so our goal is to host it at least once a month at the library.”
While it uses the information from Edge as a guide to develop policies around partnerships for improving these programs, the library also maintains a close relationship with local leaders.
“We work closely with our city manager, members of the police and fire departments and other leaders from the local hospital and school district,” said Novinger. “We’ve collaborated with some of these leaders on programs and are always looking for more opportunities to partner with them.”
With improved resources and new programming, OCPL continues using Edge to improve how it serves the community.
“We are currently updating our strategic plan for the library and the information that we have learned from participating in Edge has come at a perfect time for us to show our growth since 2014,” said Novinger. “Edge gives libraries a way to assess themselves and see how they grow, but allows them to do it at their own pace and with their own deadlines.”