Nurses work in libraries too? This is true at the Pima County Public Library in Tucson, Arizona. According to a recent Library Journal article1, the “library nurse” program, which began in January 2012, has served almost 3,000 patrons. Hiring a library nurse is an ingenious idea for several reasons. First, libraries function to serve the needs of their users. Patrons will eventually need health information. While librarians can locate other resources, they are not necessarily trained to handle serious health inquiries. Having a qualified nurse on staff would solve this issue. Secondly, providing this kind of public service to patrons goes to the heart of librarianship (and nursing). Schwartz notes that most of the patrons served are “insured or underinsured”2. Lastly, safety is a real concern for public libraries. Again, having a medically trained professional on staff benefits everyone. In times of crisis, he or she could evaluate what needs to be done quickly and accurately. Indeed, I would feel safer at my public library if a nurse was on hand.
There is no doubt planning this type of program takes work. In this case, the library partnered with the local health care agency to understand the needs of its community3. At a time of shrinking library budgets, this program may sound like a dream. I commend Pima County Public Library for taking initiative, drawing up a plan with another public organization, and executing it regardless of the obstacles. While every library and community is different, this proves that unique programs can be successful. The availability of such programs is the perfect way to prove the worth of the library and its dedication to service. It also allows librarians to collaborate with members of a different profession that has similar ideals. Schwartz points out that “nurses are a great fit with librarianship’s…focus on privacy”4. Also, given the current economic difficulties, patrons have access to an alternative, low-cost resource. Services like these can really make a difference. My hope is more public libraries across the United States find ways to implement a similar program.
1. Schwartz, Meredith. “In the Library, With the Stethoscope.” In Library Journal, November 19, 2012. http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/11/library-services/in-the-library-with-the-stethoscope/
For further reading: Arizona Daily Star.