Impact of a consumer health information specialization (CHIS) sponsorship program on the ability of public library staff to provide consumer health information

Elizabeth Kiscaden, Michele Spatz, Susan Wolfe, Molly Knapp, Erica Lake


Objective: In 2018, the Network of the National Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) launched a sponsorship program to support public library staff in completing the Medical Library Association’s Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS). The objectives of our study were to: (1) determine whether completion of the sponsored specialization improved ability to provide consumer health information; (2) identify new health information services, programming, and outreach activities at public libraries; (3) investigate benefits of the specialization; and (4) determine the impact of sponsorship on obtaining and continuing the specialization.

Methods: We used REDCap to administer a 16-question survey in August 2019 to 224 public library staff who were sponsored during the first year of the program. We measured competence in providing consumer health information aligned with the eight Core Competencies for Providing Consumer Health Information Services [1] as well as new activities at public libraries, benefits of the specialization to public library staff, career gains, and the likelihood of continuing the specialization based on funding.

Results: More than 80% of 136 participants reported an increase in core consumer health competencies, with a statistically significant improvement in mean competency scores after completing the specialization. Ninety percent of participants have continued their engagement with NNLM, and more than half offered new health information programs and services. While more than half planned to renew the specialization or obtain the Level II specialization, 72% indicated they would not continue without NNLM sponsorship.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that NNLM sponsorship of the CHIS specialization was successful in increasing the capacity of public library staff to provide health information to their communities. 


consumer health; public libraries; continuing education

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