I’ve written before about how public libraries are a vitally important resource for teaching health literacy skills, providing health-related programs and services, and offering access to reliable health information for the general public. The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) offers public libraries a number of resources to help them fulfill this role, such as free online classes for library staff on consumer health topics and a fantastic guide to health information resources and programming ideas (created with California State Library), Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library: A Consumer Health Toolkit for Library Staff (2nd ed). Back in September, I learned about a new toolkit created by NNLM and the American Library Association (ALA) for promoting health literacy at libraries that I wanted to take a closer look at.
This Health Literacy Toolkit is part of the broader Libraries Transform campaign from ALA, which is “designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals.” The toolkit offers simple, catchy “Because Statements” highlighting how libraries benefit individual and community health (like “Because quality information helps you make better decisions”).
Each Because Statement can be printed as a poster, postcard, bookmark, or table tent or shared on social media (graphics sized for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook). The toolkit also offers key messages, activity suggestions, and resource links related to each Because Statement. Access to the toolkit materials is free, but users must register to access the materials. The toolkit isn’t made specifically for public libraries and can also be used in school, academic, and special libraries to promote health resources.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the elegantly simple and unifying promotional messages offered by the Health Literacy Toolkit. I spend a lot of time on social media in my current job, and I understand the importance of bold, simple statements that will hook the audience and stick in their mind. Libraries are such amazingly valuable resources for offering equal access to high quality information and services, but unfortunately some people may view libraries as obsolete due to changing technology and user needs. The Because Statements in this toolkit act as sharp, quick explanations about why libraries are still relevant and important for community health. I also appreciate that the Because Statements can be downloaded in a wide variety of formats, so libraries can use them for both print and social media promotion.
The toolkit has a few areas where it could potentially be improved to increase promotional value and also direct library staff to additional useful health resources. The text of the Because Statements is very catchy, but some sort of imagery added below the Because Statements could make the graphics much more eye-catching and appealing to a wider range of library patrons. Translation of the Because Statements into other languages (especially Spanish) could also help to reach a broader population of patrons. Finally, I’d love to see some sort of integration between this new toolkit and the Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit.
The Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit offers a much broader list of health resources and programming ideas, while the Health Literacy Toolkit offers the graphics and promotional messages needed to promote these health resources and programs. The Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit does seem to be in need of an update (with the second edition published in 2013). Hopefully if the Health and Wellness toolkit is updated in the near future, it will be more closely linked to the new Health Literacy Toolkit. Both toolkits offer important and complementary tools for creating and promoting health resources and programs within libraries.