Resources for Public Libraries

How to Use this Guide

The content of this guide is not meant to be comprehensive but a good starting point. Items are primarily for library staff to use in their work but you may find many of these resources are appropriate and useful to offer your patrons. Consider ways to incorporate into programs and services that best benefit your communities.

Below are just a few examples.

  • Include some of the resources into subjects guides (e.g. disease outbreaks, nutrition, natural disasters, misinformation)
  • Provide MedlinePlus brochures at a health programming event 
  • Highlight national health observances by highlighting health topics from MedlinePlus 

Consumer Health

Health information written for the consumer, or the members of the general public who are not health professionals is referred to as “consumer health information”. Although you probably will not hear the general public refer to consumer health or consumer health information. “Consumer health” is an industry term referring to a wide variety of things related to the health of the consumer or the user of health services. This includes services, issues, and the industry itself.

The rise of the internet and the wellness industry has empowered people to make decisions about their own health. People are consumers of health information in ways that were not possible 50 years ago.

Health Literacy

Healthy People 2030 has redefined health literacy to include both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy. 

  • Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. Examples of personal health literacy are being able to evaluate the health information they find online or knowing how to take medication.
  • Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. Examples of organizational health literacy are providing evidence-based health information that is easy to find or using social media toolkits to provide awareness of health conditions and to reduce stigma.

People with limited health literacy often struggle to or are less likely to:

  • Access health care services
  • Adopt healthy behaviors
  • Communicate with health care providers
  • Evaluate information for credibility and quality
  • Locate health information
  • Use preventative services
  • Understand prescription labels or instructions
  • This can lead to poorer health, a lower quality of life, and more expensive health costs, including more emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

By providing health information and programs, your library can help improve your community’s health literacy and health.

Learn more about health literacy at MedlinePlus.


NNLM provides classes and webinars focusing on health related topics including consumer health.

Check the list of scheduled classes (including on-demand) and recordings. Many are eligible for the Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) offered through the Medical Library Association.

CHIS On Demand includes 5 independent 1-hour learning modules cover the basics of providing consumer health information in libraries and organizations. These 5 classes cover the core competencies required to obtain Level 1 of CHIS.

Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) Sponsorship

The Medical Library Association Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) offers training in providing health information services to consumers and recognition for the accomplishment of acquiring new health information skills.

CHIS courses are offered by the NNLM at no cost. It is easy to meet the requirements for both levels with NNLM courses. There is a cost for earning your CHIS, but currently the NNLM is covering that cost. Learn more about how you can obtain CHIS through the NNLM.

Membership for your Library

NNLM provides resources to help enrich your programs. Join our free membership network to take advantage of all that we have to offer. Membership is institutional, not individual.

Members are eligible to take advantage of services that include:

  • Your organization will be listed in the NNLM Membership Directory where you can connect with organizations to network and partner
  • Training on NLM Resources with classes customized to meet the needs of your organization (check our class catalog for ideas and options)
  • Free informational materials for order and download on National Library of Medicine (NLM) resources
  • Provide free informational materials featuring National Library of Medicine (NLM) resources to exhibit at conferences and health fairs in your communities
  • Funding opportunities for consumer health outreach and for traveling exhibits
  • Grant and proposal writing information
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