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Widespread problems with health literacy significantly limit effective dissemination and understanding of health information, particularly among vulnerable populations. As libraries are re-envisioned as community centers and resource providers, librarians are well positioned to help patrons overcome health literacy challenges by helping them to search for and use health information. Librarians often have not had health reference training, and some are unsure of the appropriateness of their role in patrons’ health. This study presents the results of a health needs assessment done in collaboration between the Teen Services Department of a major urban library and faculty from a state university. Using survey and focus group data, the research team sought to uncover the most common health-related needs among community teens as perceived by teen services librarians and staff, preparedness to respond to these needs, and interventions in addressing these needs. Findings confirm that some teens do turn to branch libraries for health information. Additional results revealed which types of health-related questions participants felt most equipped to answer (social health) and least equipped (substance abuse) and indicate staff have had altogether little formal training to address patrons’ health questions. This needs assessment presents replicable tools and questions for libraries aiming to improve health literacy in their local communities.


The article available for download here is the publisher version.

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The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults

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Public Health Commons