The Role of Canadian Public Librarians in Promoting Health Literacy: Potential Programs and Partnerships

Alicia Arding, Shannon McLeod


This paper seeks to explore health literacies with a focus on public libraries and their patrons. The authors’ aim is to extract major themes, challenges, and recommendations for further research and collaboration between health professionals and information professionals in promoting health literacy skills to the public. Major issues will be discussed on the subjects of public service, education, and collaboration between health specialists and information specialists. A major focus of the paper is Canadian health literacy issues, as well as Canadian health information dissemination.

Time constraints and budget cuts in the health care system have caused a major strain on health professionals. Within the system, there is a shortage of doctors, nurses, and time devoted to health literacy. As a result, patients often seek answers to their health concerns on their own and supplement their understanding of individual health issues by searching for information via the Internet. While consumers often seek answers to their health questions online, the lack of quality control on the Internet is problematic. Public librarians should therefore turn their attention to promoting and providing reliable online information. Meeting the needs of any group can be a challenge for information professionals in public libraries, especially when it comes to health literacy. Public libraries tend to be one of the first places of contact for general public inquiries on infectious diseases and emerging illnesses. Public librarians play an important role in their communities in all aspects of information research and therefore should be advocates for promoting proper health information.


health professionals; Canadian health literacy; public libraries, public librarians, Canadian health information

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Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research (ISSN: 1911-9593)