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Wednesday, February 7 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Session 2.1B - Juried Paper: Health Literacy and Physical Literacy: Public Library Practices, Challenges, and Opportunities.

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This paper will discuss recent research focused on understanding how public libraries support health literacy and physical literacy in the communities they serve. Three studies, one in Oklahoma, one in North Carolina, and another spanning the U.S. and Canada, found that movement and other health-related activities and services are being implemented in libraries to varying degrees, although library personnel also report multiple challenges. This research looks at what public libraries are doing, what dilemmas they are encountering, and how they are strategizing to nurture healthy communities. Furthermore, at a theoretical level, this paper will introduce and discuss the concepts of health literacy and physical literacy , illustrating how they are intertwined in the practices of many public librarians.
According to the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative (n.d.), health literacy and physical literacy are distinct ideas. The Institute’s Project Play defines physical literacy as “the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active for life” (para. 1); however, other definitions expand on this, stating that physical literacy encompasses “the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life” (Whitehead, 2016, para. 3) and that “these skills enable individuals to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of their whole self, others, and their environment” (Physical and Health Education Canada, 2017, para. 2).
The most commonly used definition of health literacy describes it as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d., para. 1), whereas the World Health Organization (2017) also speaks to the environmental, political, and social aspects that play a role in health literacy. Thus, although the ideas of physical literacy and health literacy have seemingly different emphases, with the former focusing more on healthy physical activity and the latter focusing more on health decision-making, our work indicates that their overlapping elements are being enacted through the work of public librarians as they provide opportunities that contribute to public health and wellness.
To discuss how these literacies are supported by public library practices, this paper will first report on a qualitative study (Rubenstein, 2016) examining the practices of 38 public library staff in 18 libraries in Oklahoma, highlighting their experiences and perceptions about providing health information, and thus supporting health literacy. The results indicated that many staff were unsure of the overall health needs of their communities, and found fielding health information questions to be challenging, including issues related to understanding questions, providing online resources, and the need for more training.
The study also found that many strides were being made throughout the state, with the support of several partner organizations interested in promoting health in one of the unhealthiest states in the nation.
The paper will then discuss a parallel study (Lenstra, in progress) that examined the practices of 39 public library staff in North Carolina who have experience developing and implementing movement-based programs that contribute to increasing physical literacy (e.g. yoga and tai chi classes, StoryWalk initiatives, Music and Movement Storytimes). The results indicated that public library staff nurture physical activity in diverse ways, often based on their personal interests. These programs also emerge as a result of partnerships, particularly with entities like public health and parks & recreation departments, but also with community groups like yoga or tai chi clubs. Common challenges reported by staff relate to space and the identity of the library. Some staff reported struggling to justify this type of programming to their directors; others reported struggling with spaces that were not created with physical activity in mind.
Finally, to extend this analysis, in spring 2017, a convenience sample of 1622 public library staff from throughout North America completed a survey about movement-based programming in their libraries (Lenstra, 2017). The results from this survey show that, at a minimum, 1574 public libraries in the United States of America and Canada have offered movement-based programs, or intend to do so in the future. In addition, the results from this survey suggest that these types of programs are being offered for all ages, in that libraries reported approximately as many movement-based programs being offered for adults as being offered for youth. 
This paper will conclude by discussing what these different studies tell us about public library practices, challenges, and opportunities related to community health, and how the concepts of health and physical literacy are intertwined in the practices and programs of many public libraries. The results from these three studies show that in many places public library staff, in collaboration with partners, are creating opportunities for members of their communities both to learn more about and to enact healthy, active lives. By better understanding how these processes work, this research will better enable library and information science educators to prepare future public librarians (as well as partners in health science and medical libraries, e.g. Engeszer et al., 2016) to support community health.
Aspen Institute. Project Play. (n.d.) The definition . http://plreport.projectplay.us/the-definition/
Engeszer, R. J., W. Olmstadt, J. Daley, M. Norfolk, K. Krekeler, M. Rogers, G. Colditz et al. 2016. Evolution of an academic–public library partnership. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA 104(1), 62-66. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4722645/pdf/mlab-104-01-62.pdf
Lenstra, N. (2017). Yoga at the Public Library: An Exploratory Survey of Canadian and American Libraries. Journal of Library Administration , 57(7).
Lenstra, N. (in progress). Developing Movement-Based Programming: Experiences of North Carolina Public Librarians.
Physical and Health Education Canada. (2017). What is physical literacy? http://www.phecanada.ca/programs/physical-literacy/what-physical-literacy
Rubenstein, E. (2016). Knowing How to Help: Providing Health Information in Public Libraries. Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet , 20(3), 114-129.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Quick guide to health literacy. https://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm
Whitehead, M. (2016). Definition of physical literacy and clarification of related issues. ICSSPE Bulletin 65 (1), 1.2. http://www.icsspe.org/sites/default/files/bulletin65_0.pdf#page=29
World Health Organization. (2017). Health promotion. http://www.who.int/healthpromotion/conferences/7gchp/track2/en/


Wednesday February 7, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Meadowbrook I

Attendees (4)