Librarians to the health care/insurance literacy rescue


I suspect many readers know, but I was a reference librarian. It’s a funny job where people wonder why you got a Master’s Degree in Library Science when they learned the alphabet in kindergarten. They also wonder why you have to look things up as if an MLIS is going to help you know the population Chicago in 1956. It’s a fun job – people come and ask all sorts of great questions. Even when I was a librarian 15 years ago, people came to the librarian to learn how to use technology and for basic information literacy skills. So I wasn’t surprised to see that the libraries and librarians are getting involved in helping people understand implications and applications of the new health care options. According to Minnesota Public Radio

The nation’s librarians will be recruited to help people get signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law.

As the article points out, people already go to the library for information…

Libraries equipped with public computers and Internet access already serve as a bridge across the digital divide, so it made sense to get them involved, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Libraries are a tremendous resource for people in their communities,” Bataille said. “They’re already a destination many individuals go to when they’re seeking out information and understanding on a variety of issues.”

I think it’s a great idea – but the last time I checked many libraries had a 30-minue time limit on computers, which is often enforced strictly because of the waiting list to use computers. Also many libraries are closed on Sundays and other odd hours. To really position the libraries and librarians to support the effort, I think it might be time to invest in computers, broadband and hours for the libraries!