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A Health Education Outreach Partnership Between an Academic Medical Library and Public Library: Lessons Learned Before and During a Pandemic


Stephanie M. Swanberg, MSI, AHIP
User Services Librarian, Moustakas Johnson Library, Michigan School of Psychology
Previously, Associate Professor, Information Literacy & eLearning Librarian, Medical Library, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (start of study)

Nancy Bulgarelli, MSLS
Associate Professor, Oakland University Libraries
Previously, Associate Professor and Director, Medical Library, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (start of study)

Mithya Jayakumar
Medical Student, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

Erin Look, MLIS
Youth Services Coordinator, Auburn Hills Public Library

Tyler B. Shubitowski
Medical Student, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

Rose Wedemeyer, PhD
Director of Education Training, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

Emily W. Yuen, MPH
Medical Student, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

Victoria C. Lucia, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine


Editor’s Note: This article is based on a case report that was originally published in the April 2022 issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association. It is presented here with the permission of all the authors and the publisher. To read the full article, click here.

This case study reports on the lessons learned from implementing a longitudinal outreach partnership between the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) Medical Library and the Auburn Hills Public Library (AHPL). This was an interprofessional collaboration of academic medical librarians, public librarians, medical school faculty and staff, and medical students to educate the local community on positive health behaviors and health information-seeking practices. The interprofessional team approach and flexibility in program design and delivery proved critical to the success of the partnership both before and during the pandemic.

Outreach to the local community raises awareness of free, authoritative resources and promotes health and health information literacy [1]. The importance of outreach has become more pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which an overwhelming amount of information has made it difficult for the public to differentiate between reliable information and misinformation [2, 3]. Partnerships between academic medical libraries and public libraries provide opportunities to share expertise and resources in addressing consumer health information needs [4-8].

Our collaboration began in August of 2018 when the OUWB Medical Library approached AHPL about their interest in health information literacy. The libraries shared a mutual interest in increasing health programming, promoting healthy behaviors, and raising awareness of free, reliable health information resources. A pilot program evolved into a partnership that integrated health education into three existing public library programs: adult workshops, child and family programming, and circulating family activity kits, all of which pivoted online during the COVID-19 pandemic. We later received a National Network of Libraries of Medicine “All of Us” Public Library Partnership Award to fund supplies and develop additional programs [9].

  • Adult Workshops – Incorporated into the existing AHPL weekend workshops, these were originally hour-long presentations on popular health topics by a medical school faculty member, followed by a demonstration of related online health resources by a medical librarian. During the pandemic, sessions pivoted to virtual asynchronous offerings embedded on the AHPL website. In-person programs were evaluated with an anonymous survey.
  • Children & Family Programs – Health programming for children was incorporated into the AHPL’s existing family story time for preschoolers and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) programming for school-aged children. Pre-COVID-19, each program featured a youth services librarian book reading on the health topic followed by activities led by medical students. With the onset of the pandemic, sessions converted to instructional videos with take-home activity kits. In-person sessions were evaluated using an emotion scale of smiley faces [10, 11]. A modified Teach-back Observation Tool was used to provide feedback to medical students [12, 13].
  • Circulating Health Kits – Health-themed circulating activity backpacks were added to the children’s collection. Developed by a medical student, youth services librarian, and medical librarian, each included books, activity sheets, resource links, and educational toys. Circulation stats are being monitored.


Collaboration, both within and outside librarianship, proved invaluable to the success of this outreach partnership. Without the interprofessional collaboration of the medical library, public library, and medical school, we would not have been able to successfully develop and deliver as many programs. The public librarians had a solid knowledge of patron interests and popular circulating item topics to guide the team. Having an established audience allowed us to leverage existing opportunities for health education activities. The participation of medical school faculty and staff provided additional resources. Finally, collaborating with leaders from a medical student interest group allowed efficient recruitment of engaged volunteers.

The mode of delivery required a flexible approach and basic understanding of various accessible online delivery platforms. Pre-COVID-19, the partnership was steadily growing with all in-person programming. As COVID-19 closed both the university and public library, planned sessions were canceled. We learned from the experiences of the public librarians as they experimented in offering virtual programs through different platforms. Our health education activities resumed by following their lead and integrating into AHPL’s virtual programs. This included developing asynchronous videos and posting them on YouTube, hosting Zoom sessions simultaneously live streamed to Facebook, and offering take-home kits. This approach allowed health education activities to continue even with the challenges presented by the pandemic. In many cases we reached larger audiences virtually than with in-person sessions, suggesting that post-pandemic outreach programming should continue incorporating hybrid or fully virtual options.



1. Duhon L, Jameson J. Health information outreach: a survey of U.S. academic libraries, highlighting a Midwestern university’s experience. Health Info Libr J. 2013;30(2):121–137. DOI:

2. Naeem S Bin, Bhatti R. The COVID-19 “infodemic”: a new front for information professionals. Heal Inf Libr J. 2020 Sep;37(3):233–9. DOI:

3. Badell-Grau RA, Cuff JP, Kelly BP, Waller-Evans H, Lloyd-Evans E. Investigating the prevalence of reactive online searching in the COVID-19 pandemic: infoveillance study. J Med Internet Res. 2020 Oct 1;22(10). DOI:

4. DeRosa AP, Jedlicka C, Mages KC, Stribling JC. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge: a health literacy training partnership before and during COVID-19. J Med Libr Assoc. 2021 Jan;109(1):90–6. DOI:

5. Koos JA, Saragossi J, Stevens GA, Filosa S. A partnership between academic and public librarians: “What the Health” workshop series. J Med Libr Assoc. 2019 Apr;107(2):232–7. DOI:

6. Luo L. Health information programming in public libraries: a content analysis. Public Libr Q. 2018 Jul;37(3):233–47. DOI:

7. Murray S. Consumer health information services in public libraries in Canada and the US. J Can Heal Libr Assoc. 2008;29(4):141–3. DOI:

8. Eastwood EJ, Goldman B. Help Your Health! Establishing a consumer health program in a small public library. J Hosp Librariansh. 2007 Mar;7(2):57–65. DOI:

9. National Institutes of Health. NIH’s All of Us Research Program partners with the National Library of Medicine to reach communities through local libraries [Internet]. 2017. [cited 22 Nov 2021]. <>.

10. Massey S. Using emojis and drawings in surveys to measure children’s attitudes to mathematics. Int J Soc Res Methodol. 2021 Jun 17;1–13. DOI:

11. Fane J, MacDougall C, Jovanovic J, Redmond G, Gibbs L. Exploring the use of emoji as a visual research method for eliciting young children’s voices in childhood research. Early Child Dev Care. 2018 Mar 4;188(3):359–74. DOI:

12. Bulgarelli N, Look E, Swanberg SM, Yuen EW, Jayakumar M, Shubitowski T, Wedemeyer R, Lucia V. Datasets for submitted article titled "A Health Education Partnership Between an Academic Medical Library and Public Library: Lessons Learned Before & During a Pandemic" [dataset]. OUR@Oakland [2021; cited 22 Nov 2021]. <>.

Institute for Healthcare Advancement. Using the Teach-back Toolkit [Internet]. The Institute; 2021 [cited 21 Jul 2021]. <>

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