Library opens health section

Magazines, DVDs, Web link offered in comfortable spot

January 19, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter

The Howard County Central Library unveiled a new health information collection this week that offers health-related books, journals, magazines and other resources in one visible - and comfortable - location.

"What we wanted to do is create a kind of friendly environment where people could feel comfortable perusing the health collection and relax while doing it," said Deborah Barlow, reference supervisor for the central library.

The library condensed its reference area and moved it to one end of the second floor to create a roomy, open area for the new collection. The area has soft couches and chairs and a central bank of shelves for books, tapes and digital video discs about topics such as specific illnesses, weight loss and exercise. Nearby, a wall of periodicals - including scholarly journals such as The Lancet and more popular magazines such as Men's Health - includes two years' worth of issues alongside a collection of pamphlets and information from local health organizations.

The final component is a link on the library Web site ( that connects users to databases, help finding a doctor, evaluations of health care facilities and information on illnesses.

The project started with a collection of cancer resources compiled about two years ago with support from the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, said Ann Gilligan, associate director of the library system.

"It met a lot of needs," she said, but with so many other prevalent health issues out there, "we thought maybe we should expand the scope."

She said the library conducted surveys and looked at statistics and concluded, "This could be a pressing need, especially with an aging population."

A grant of approximately $30,000 from the Horizon Foundation and support from several other local health and human services groups enabled the library to pull together old and new items.

"We took the collection we had and did a lot of weeding," Barlow said. "And we did a lot of new purchasing."

The health collection is at the Central Library, but people can have materials shipped to branch libraries.

Health organizations are often seeking ways to reach larger audiences, Gilligan said, and the library is an ideal place to catch the attention of many visitors.

Gilligan said library staff members hope the new arrangement of health information will "sort of give it some prime real estate and make it a little more open and visible."

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