In a recent Fox News Health report, UPenn PRC Community Engagement Core Lead Carolyn Cannuscio ScD, shed light on the role modern-day libraries can play as multi-faceted community resource centers. “Some people would argue that libraries are old-fashioned, outmoded institutions that are irrelevant in the digital age,” said Cannuscio, a social epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Our work shows very clearly that libraries are vital, dynamic organizations that know their patrons well and respond creatively to community needs.”
Through the Healthy Library Initiative, Cannuscio and fellow PRC Researchers David Grande, MD, MPA, and Heather Klusaritz, PhD, MSW identified ten programs aligned with the Free Library of Philadelphia which address social determinants of health within the Philadelphia community. After conducting interviews, the researchers found that libraries provided a safe space, for especially vulnerable populations which include “homeless people, people with mental illness and substance use, recent immigrants, and children and families suffering from trauma.”
In this new model, librarians assist with employment searches, applications for health insurance, and support other helpful programs such as classes on nutrition and youth leadership. The 54 libraries across the city of Philadelphia see 5.8 million in-person and 9.9 million online visits annually. Cannuscio emphasizes the importance of having a space that provides shelter and services without any charge.
Read more about the study in Health Affairs.