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Cooperation in the Commonwealth: perceptions of partnership initiatives between Virginia’s academic health sciences libraries and select (contiguous) public library systems for the provision of consumer health information services

Jessica L. Waugh
Major Professor: 
Suzie Allard
December 2009

Abstract: Increasing numbers of Americans are seeking information about health and medicine. The advent of the Internet has ushered in an explosion of resources, but no mediating device to help lay people discern between authoritative current data, opinion pieces or unsubstantiated anecdotes. The field of consumer health is ripe with programs and initiatives designed to address the issue of access and education, but those are often scattered, spottily coordinated, poorly advertised and, in some cases, needlessly duplicated. The formation of robust partnerships between two major entities attempting to provide consumer health information (public libraries and academic health sciences libraries) seems logical and timely, especially during this time of increased focus on all aspects of American healthcare. This thesis examines what, if any, partnership activities exist between the three academic health science libraries and three contiguous public library systems in the Commonwealth of Virginia to provide consumer health information services to the community. Partnership experiences with any entity are discussed as well as specific partnership initiatives to provide consumer health information. Brief electronic survey results and follow-up telephone interviews revealed that all six libraries embraced various partnerships with other entities to reach different audiences and experienced largely positive results; however, when consumer health partnerships were examined, the research indicated only one formalized program with tenuous partnership features that originated at an academic health sciences library. Based on these results, the recommendation to shift the coordination of consumer health information partnership activity to an overseeing state entity familiar with both types of libraries is discussed.