Researchers look at how libraries can increase health literacy

San José State University professors are trying to improve access to health information for members of our community by researching how public librarians may be able to help in filling the gaps. Their study, “Preparing public librarians for consumer health information services,” has been completed.

Dr. Lili Luo, of the School of Library Information Sciences, and Dr. Van Ta Park, of Health Science and Recreation, set out to answer four main questions with a research grant from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts:

  1. What are the types of health information needs fulfilled by reference services at public libraries?
  2. What are the challenges encountered by public librarians when assisting patrons with health information needs?
  3. What are public librarians’ desired content and delivery options of training on providing consumer health information service?
  4. To elicit thoughts and suggestions from health care professionals about areas of health literacy needs, and ways public librarians can help to improve the public’s health literacy.

According to the Institute of Medicine, nearly half of all American adults, or 90 million people, have difficulty understanding and using health information. The findings from Luo and Park’s research will help in increasing health literacy, or “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

The pair focused on public libraries because they believed them to be a no-cost, convenient way to share health information resources. In their research, they surveyed public librarians to see what inquiries they get from library visitors and how comfortable librarians are with directing people to health information.

Through their study they found people most often seek “factual information about the human body, a medical/health condition, a disease, or a medical concept, questions about fitness/diet/nutrition, and questions about the treatment options/healing process of a medical/health condition or a disease, including complementary and alternative therapies,” according to a summary of the research. But the researchers also found the biggest challenges to librarians in connecting visitors to health-related information was difficulty in interpreting their questions and in persuading patrons to use more up-to-date materials such as those available online versus print materials. They also found some librarians were not comfortable, confident or competent in providing reference service to health information seekers due to concerns such as an inadequate understanding of health literacy, provision of misinformation and possible intrusion on patron privacy.

In addition to the information about the questions they have received and the challenges in getting information to clients, the researchers asked librarians how they would want to receive training to improve their ability to share health information. They found the overwhelming response was to use self-paced, online tutorials.

For the last part of their research, they shared some examples of answers librarians had given to health information inquiries with healthcare professions to get their input on the responses. They found health care professionals thought public libraries should be used as part of the solution in addressing health literacy needs. Some health care professionals noted that librarians should be cautious in their responses so as not to provide medical advice or personal comments. They recommended reputable websites and training as a resource for librarians to improve their own and community member’s health literacy.

To read more on the findings of the study, view the attached PDF: Preparing public librarians for consumer health information service

Library 2.013 Worldwide Virtual Conference

repost from SLIS Library 2.0 Website.

The dates are set for the Library 2.013 Worldwide Virtual Conference. The third annual global conversation about the future of libraries is scheduled for October 18-19, 2013. The conference will once again be held entirely online around the clock in multiple languages and time zones. Everyone is invited to participate in this FREE forum designed to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing among information professionals worldwide.

To be kept informed of the latest conference news and updates, please 
join the Library 2.0 network. You do not need to join this network to attend, but doing so will also allow you to correspond with the presenters and other members, and to comment on sessions and discussions.

NEW for 2013! The Library 2.013 conference will feature two additional themed conference strands: 1) Doctoral Student Research and 2) Library and Information Center “Tours.” We encourage doctoral students to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to present their research and hone their online presentation skills. We also heard that many of you want to “see” libraries from around the globe. Presenters will take conference attendees on virtual tours of their libraries or information centers. We will post more information soon on the format of these tours.

Altogether, there will be eight conference strands covering a wide variety of timely topics, such as, MOOCs, e-books, maker spaces, mobile services, embedded librarians, green libraries, and more! Presenters may also submit presentations that cover LIS-related topics not included in the themed strands. The Library 2.013 Worldwide Virtual Conference is a great opportunity for professional development and networking. View the Conference Strands. (As a reminder, recordings of the Library 2.012 Worldwide Virtual Conference presentations are still available for viewing at your convenience.)

We are looking forward to the third year of this this momentous event, and to your participation!

Thank you,

Dr. Sandra Hirsh, Professor and Director
School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at San José State University
More Information:

Steve Hargadon
Web 2.0 Labs
Phone: 916-283-7901
More Information: and

  • The call for presentation proposals goes out early April.
  • The conference begins: October 18, 2013
  • International Advisory Board: Anyone can apply to be a member of the international advisory board. Advisory board members are recognized on the website and are asked to:
    • Promote both participation and attendance at the conference
    • Help us find additional partner organizations in their region(s)
    • Help support and potentially train presenters in their geographical region and local languages
    • If possible, help moderate sessions during the actual conference

    As a conference that is focused on being “inclusive,” our desire is to have international attendees see this as a truly world-wide and not a North-America-centric event, and to see themselves as full participants and presenters, not just the audience. To sign up for the advisory board, please make sure you have joined the Library 2.0 online network, and then join the advisory board group specifically at

  • Conference Partner Organizations:  Whether you are a small school library or a multi-national organization, we want to encourage you to become a conference partner. You must be non-commercial and primarily or substantively focused on libraries, librarians, librarianship, or library programs to be approved. Once approved, your organization will be listed with a link, logo, and a short description; and you will be provided with a “spotlight” speaker session in the conference.Our goal for the conference is to have it continue to be a milestone event, bringing together organizations and individuals from all over the world. We recognize that much (if not most!) of the outreach for this conference will come from libraries, schools, or organizations who advertise the conference to their memberships, and we want to recognize and “reward” those who do this!

    There are no financial obligations for being a partner organization–all we ask is that you actively promote the conference to your membership and network, and encourage participation as well as presentations and submissions. To apply to be a conference partner organization, please make sure you have joined the Library 2.0 online network, and then join the partner group specifically at

  • We’ll also be looking for volunteers and sponsors. Join the Library 2.0 network to receive updates, or contact Steve Hargadon ( for more information.
  • The San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science is a founding partner of the annual Library 2.0 conference series. Follow SJSU SLIS on Pinterest, including the Library 2.013 board.

Find the original here.