A growing number of communities in New Jersey and across the nation are working with and through libraries to provide residents access to information and other health resources that improve their health and the health of their communities.
To discuss this trend, New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) recently partnered with Healthier Middlesex and the United Way of Central Jersey to host a symposium focused on engaging libraries, community-serving organizations, health professionals and partners in fostering relationships to build healthy communities. As the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NJHI is dedicated to supporting innovations and driving conversations to build healthier New Jersey communities, and exposing our grantees and communities statewide to resources that will help get them there.
One-third of the nearly 100 participants represented libraries—academic health science, hospital and public. The participation of these library staff was “overdue” as they are important and trusted anchors in communities across the Garden State. The library staff made it clear at the event that they are eager to start a new chapter and contribute to community health improvement and population health initiatives. Many library staff are already helping address access issues such as health literacy, transportation, employment, accessibility and language or cultural barriers.
The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), whose team from the Mid Atlantic Region (MAR) galvanized the conversation, is a phenomenal resource that assures that quality health information is available to help all individuals make the best choices. This work has already had great impact in NJ, where the East Brunswick Public Library engaged new partners and the NNLM MAR to meet the changing health needs of its community. Libraries are shelving their original image of just circulating books to offer information and services in new ways.