User/Patron, Community Health Issues and Librarian Roles and Responsibilities

From ALA President Julie Todaro

“This past year I have had ongoing questions about public health crises including the opiate crises and the public library role in these difficult times. The issue has been looked at by a number of groups for several years (for example librarians being trained to provide information/educate in NY state since 2013) Interviews for me (obviously) began a year ago and q and a included:

 –specific articles on Illinois and public library deaths
–libraries partnering with health services for professionals to regularly visit the library to assess clientele
–libraries hiring health professionals to assist community members directly and identify health services for them
–libraries ramping up training on best practices for managing elements of the opiate crises in libraries such as identifying distress signals, notifying appropriate community support, etc.
–libraries accessing furniture, layout, signage, etc. re: changing clientele
and the latest
–libraries stepping up to stock Narcan (Denver, Philly already…SFP considering, Mass. considering, NY considering and so on)
–librarians storing and some storing and administering Narcan (one story you might have seen this past week is about the librarian who has saved 7-8 lives by administering Narcan to patrons AND to people in the park next to the library)
Obviously, this is a very serious issue and the last interview (two discussions with CNN) was particularly eye-opening as to the q and a on the role of the librarian. So – based on this past month and my beginning-level research on this issue I am going to having a Board discussion in Chicago on how best for ALA to proceed. It may be a simple as tasking an office to pull together reps from Committees, Divisions, Round Tables, etc. but the products I think we need include – at the very least – a guide on what questions to ask as all issues – especially in this area (much like sanctuary issues) begin with local definitions. At the most I see the profession needing:
–aspects of a best practice or guide for this growing situation (From the list above you see where some libraries are significantly involved while we can say “all libraries have been in the education role” regarding this.)
–questions to ask (I have been told library leaders are already talking to each other to find out what levels and roles there are)
–questions for insurance/risk issues (ex. Good Samaritan states/locations vs. non Good Samaritan states/locations and are these the overarching guidelines, laws, rules that apply)
–lists of issues behind training for use (should a library choose to get involved….spray only? spray and CPR? certification required? if so, where? etc. again – focusing on what happens locally and I can assure you this debate is national as well – but we won’t “recommend” national, rather focus on local)
–cost issues – who pays (upwards of 75$ per use)
–tracking related medical situations (the nasal spray unit recall in 2016, etc.)
If any members wish to share examples or links to these issues, please send to me. Thank you all for the service you provide every day on the front lines…this issue illustrates the changing roles and responsibilities we have and their magnitude!
Dr. Julie Beth Todaro
2016-2017 President
American Library Association
Dean, Library Services
Austin Community College