Stephanie M. Swanberg is the lead author on the article "A health education outreach partnership between an academic medical library and public library: lessons learned before and during a pandemic," which published in the April 2022 issue of JMLA.
What sparked the idea for your article?
I have a personal passion for outreach and had been leading our medical library’s outreach initiatives, mostly within the medical school or the greater university campus. Community engagement was central to our institution’s mission in promoting health in local communities and giving students community service opportunities. The school had an ever-growing list of community partners, but no public libraries. It seemed like such a natural next step to pursue partnerships with public libraries to offer health education events. I just started asking questions from our in-house community engagement experts and started reaching out to a couple of local public libraries with feelers. I never imagined the amazing breadth of programming that we would eventually put together as a team and the response from participants!
What’s one aspect of this project that surprised you or challenged your assumptions about what you thought you knew?
I honestly thought it would be a challenge to find an interested public library partner. I anticipated barriers like lack of time or interest or staffing, but was so surprised when only the second library we contacted agreed to meet and chat further! Our interests and goals aligned so well immediately. I know that isn’t always the case, but I’m so grateful for the wonderful partnership we found together!
Based on your findings, what’s the next thing you’d want to see studied in this area?
A lot of outreach initiatives tend to be small, single institution projects tailored to that particular community’s goals or needs. As such, it’s a challenge to assess the potential impact of these initiatives at a greater level. Developing larger scale projects and mechanisms to correlate the impact of outreach interventions on health and health information seeking behaviors is where I see this area moving. NLM’s All of Us Project is a great example of this on a grand scale and our small project sought to support their goals.
Why is your article important for the membership to read?
With the array of misinformation and disinformation circulating in our local communities, health sciences librarians could play an important role in raising awareness of quality health information and offering education opportunities. Many already do! Our fellow librarians in public libraries are natural collaborators, but it can seem daunting to start those conversations, and I think many libraries wonder if they have the time or resources for such projects. We hope this project inspires others and provides tips and starter resources for pursuing health education outreach projects. We’re planning to add all of our outreach toolkits to a repository, but in the meantime, please contact me if you’re interested in accessing the lesson plans.
Why did you choose to publish this article with JMLA?
JMLA was our first choice journal! We wanted to share this project with a wide readership of fellow medical librarians and it aligned well with the scope of JMLA, particularly as a case study.
What advice do you have for others interested in publishing their research?
Everyone works a little differently, but for me, having a writing group is essential for publishing. Even if you are writing an article as a solo author, having a writing group that meets regularly to just sit and write makes all the difference. It provides dedicated time on my calendar and accountability. If it’s just me, I keep putting the writing off for another day!
Swanberg SM, Bulgarelli N, Jayakumar M, Look E, Shubitowski TB, Wedemeyer R, Yuen EW, Lucia VC. A health education outreach partnership between an academic medical library and public library: lessons learned before and during a pandemic. J Med Libr Assoc. 2022;110(2):212–221. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jmla.2022.1413.
Have a research project of your own you'd like to publish? Check out JMLA's submission guidelines here.