Data bases become more popular than books at library's health program HOWARD COUNTY HEALTH

June 22, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Since starting its health program five years ago, the Howard County Library has expanded from books and magazines to five health data bases that range from questions and answers on general medical advice to an electronic version of the Physician's Desk Reference.

zTC "We're really attempting to provide information to people so they can deal with the information they're getting from their doctors," said Joyce Demmitt, head of Information Services at Howard County Library.

Because they are updated regularly, the data bases have become more popular than books, librarians said.

"Indeed, technology is where it's at," said Donna Matthews, Savage branch manager.

From October to May, county librarians fielded more than 1,100 health-related questions, Ms. Demmitt said.

"We have information about how to buy a microwave, and now we have information about how to extend your life," she said.

In addition to data bases, Howard County Library offers videocassettes in English and Spanish.

The library also works with the county health department to provide parenting kits, books and toys to participants in Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a federal nutrition program for low-income women and babies.

The Savage Branch Library offers the largest health information collection. Located next to the South Eastern Health Center, the branch features three data bases: Family Doctor, Health Reference Center, and the Physician's Desk Reference.

Family Doctor allows computer users to ask questions about general medical advice and includes information on prescription and nonprescription drugs and health-related associations.

The Health Reference Center includes monthly articles from Health Index, another data base, and information from reference books and pamphlets.

Central Library and the Miller Branch both have wide selections. Central Library features the Health Reference Center, the Physician's Desk Reference, and Medline, an in-depth index and abstracts of most indexed articles to medical literature for the three most current years.

The Miller Branch Library has the Health Index, which features subjects and sources indexed along with article abstracts from 300 health-related magazines, newspapers, and newsletters.

A limited selection of books and magazines are available at the Elkridge and Lisbon Community Libraries.

Since April, the library has included a free book designed for children up to 3 years old and a coupon for a second, free book in baby wellness packets offered by the county health department.

The library also provides the county health department's three health centers with a collection of 50 health-related titles "to share information about health and encourage parents to read to children," Ms. Demmitt said.

"We've heard the clinics are a little quieter because parents are reading to their children," she said.

Parenting kits are also available at the three health centers. The kits cover 20 topics ranging from visiting the doctor and dentist to toilet training and sexual abuse. The kits are equipped with baby books, cassettes, and toys that represent the kit's theme.

County health employees said the library's resources are invaluable. "It's been a resource for our staff," said Cynthia Lipsitz, head of the county's Personal Health Bureau, referring to the Savage Branch Library. "They're able to go over there and get educational materials."

Caren Klein, a child and adolescent teen social worker at Howard County Community Mental Health, said one of the library's most valuable outreach services is showing parents how to read to their children.

"It's not so much looking up things but making parents feel comfortable reading to their children," Ms. Klein said.

The data bases, books and materials for WIC participants were funded through two Library Services and Construction Act grants, totaling about $110,000.

The Health Information Project grant, which finances programs for WIC participants, expires at the end of this month but will continue with money from the library's general operating fund.

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