Get out from behind the stacks: sharing health information with online communities
Medical librarians often play a key role in the patient information continuum, and yet they remain “unsung”. Kathy Kastner and I are confident social networking can help change that. So when we were invited to present to medical librarians from the Consumer Health Information Providers Interest Group (CHIPIG), we jumped at the chance.
Present? Forget it! We wanted to learn, so we made it an interactive workshop. We started by asking “Why do you want to engage with people online?” and they fired back:
- we can be a GPS to relevant and reliable resources
- we can encourage participatory medicine
- we can help guide e-patients
- we can educate healthcare professionals to become e-providers
- we want to help interpret health information
- we want to reach a more diverse demographic
- because more and more physical resource centres are closing
Tellingly, the question “What social networking tools can you use?” became a comparison of hospitals’ restrictions and blocking of social media sites. Sadly, many librarians have never been able to access their hospital’s Facebook page from their workplace. Luckily, some hospitals and organizations subscribe to free flow of information – St. Mike’s, CHEO and UHN to name a few. Are there others?
We wrapped up the workshop with a challenge: Think about how you can use existing social networks to engage, build, inform and learn from online communities. For example:
- join Twitter
- create a health librarian’s hashtag
- search and participate in health discussions and forums
- post on blogs
- start your own blog
- participate on your hospital’s Facebook page
How do you think medical librarians can use social networks to help them get out from behind the stacks?