“I’m not sure if that’s what their job is”: consumer health information and emerging “healthwork” roles in the public library


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Harris, Roma, Henwood, Flis, Marshall, Audrey and Burdett, Samantha (2010) “I’m not sure if that’s what their job is”: consumer health information and emerging “healthwork” roles in the public library Reference and User Services Quarterly, 49 (3). pp. 239-252. ISSN 1094-9054

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Members of the public are expected to assume increasing responsibility for their own health and keep themselves informed about health issues. Here we describe a study of library users’ and staff members’ expectations about the public library’s role in supporting citizens’ “healthwork.” We conducted our research in a public library in the United Kingdom that operates on a model of patron self-service. Data were gathered through in-depth interviews with library patrons and staff members as well as a written survey of patrons who had visited the library because of a health concern. Our findings suggest that the library’s users regard the public library as a highly trusted source of health information. The majority of surveyed users were in search of books relevant to their health concern, and more than half were able to locate what they needed on their own. While generally self-sufficient, some of the survey respondents as well as those who took part in the interviews indicated that they had consulted library staff for help, although they appeared uncertain about the level of reference support they should expect. Members of the library’s reference desk staff who took part in the interviews expressed frustration over policies that limit the time available to support patron’s inquiries, and many lacked training, particularly in online health information resources. The results raise important questions about the emerging “geography of responsibilities” in health-informing work arising from changing information technology and new emphases in health policy

Item Type: Journal article
Additional Information: © 2010 The author(s) & American Library Association
Uncontrolled Keywords: Health information; public libraries; health intermediaries; health information seeking; ‘health work’
Subjects: L000 Social Sciences > L400 Social Policy
L000 Social Sciences
Faculties: Faculty of Health and Social Sciences > School of Applied Social Science > Health and Social Policy Research Centre
Depositing User: editor sass
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2010 09:39
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2015 14:17
URI: http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/id/eprint/7660

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