A health education outreach partnership between an academic medical library and public library: lessons learned before and during a pandemic


  • Stephanie M. Swanberg User Services Librarian, Moustakas Johnson Library, Michigan School of Psychology, Farmington Hills, MI. Previously, Associate Professor, Information Literacy & eLearning Librarian, Medical Library, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI (start of study) https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0553-8339
  • Nancy Bulgarelli Associate Professor, Oakland University Libraries, Rochester, MI. Previously, Associate Professor and Director, Medical Library, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI (start of study) https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6297-1564
  • Mithya Jayakumar Medical Student, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI
  • Erin Look Youth Services Coordinator, Auburn Hills Public Library, Auburn Hills, MI
  • Tyler B. Shubitowski Medical Student, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI
  • Rose Wedemeyer Director of Education Training, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI
  • Emily W. Yuen Medical Student, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI
  • Victoria C. Lucia Associate Professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI




outreach, community engagement, health education, health literacy, public library, academic medical library


Background: Public libraries serve as community centers for accessing free, trustworthy health information. As such, they provide an ideal setting to teach the local community about health and health literacy, particularly during public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2018, an outreach partnership between an academic medical library and public library has developed, delivered, and continuously evaluated a health education program targeting public library users.

Case Presentation: Health education activities were integrated into three existing public library programs: adult workshops, child and family programming, and circulating family activity kits. Prior to COVID-19, events were held at the public library, which then pivoted online during the pandemic. An interprofessional team approach combined the expertise of academic medical and public librarians, medical school faculty and staff, and medical students in developing the educational programs. Twelve in-person and five virtual programs were offered, and five circulating health education family kits were launched. Activities were assessed using program evaluation surveys of the adult and children’s programs and circulation statistics of the kits.

Conclusions: This case report showcases the lessons learned from implementing a longitudinal outreach partnership between an academic medical library and public library before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The interprofessional team approach and flexibility in program design and delivery in both the in-person and virtual environments proved critical to the success of the partnership. This partnership could serve as a model for other libraries interested in pursuing interprofessional collaborations in educating local communities on healthy behavior and health information–seeking practices.


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Case Report