Roosevelt Weeks, director of the Austin Public Library (the largest library system in the State of Texas), describes the library as “the most public of public spaces.” The public library is a place where the varied needs, diverse members, and distinctive nature of a local community converge in space and time. Public libraries are important anchor institutions in communities, providing stasis and rootedness amid the constant flux of economic and social life.
American public libraries are visited over 1.5 billion times a year (>4 million times a day!), compared with collective doctors’ offices that are visited less than a billion times. This reflects positively on the accessibility of, and trust placed in, public libraries as sites of community trust, places to build social capital, and sources for new civic services, and inclusion activities.
The purpose and functions of libraries are changing. From 2009 -2014, library usage decreased 12%Further, pandemic disruptions have altered library priorities to align with a suggested motto for future libraries: “Come for the computers, stay for the books.” High value assets — such as books and physical resources — are decreasing in use, while resources providing the availability of internet, computers, and computer literacy training are becoming dominant reasons for visiting a public library.
As part of the IC² Institute digital literacy team working with the Texas Archives and State Library Council (2021-22), I witnessed the transition of libraries from a reading resource to a multi-faceted place helping patrons navigate health needs. Many programs grew out of needs associated with the pandemic; however, several of those functions — such as helping patrons access health information, or delivering key social or health-related services — have become standard operating procedure in some libraries.
As the “place” for delivering health care expands beyond traditional clinics and hospitals, it is important to acknowledge the well-being and health services currently being integrated into traditional library offerings. These changes are happening across the U.S.
At the IC² Institute, we have developed a multi-dimensional model termed the “well-being hub” describing the confluence of our observations and the opportunities to expand healthcare literacy, education, and service provision. The well-being hub model is well suited for integration into the future offerings of libraries. Well-being hubs are trusted community anchor institutions that facilitate authentic engagement with the communities they serve. Hubs have the capacity to facilitate resource navigation, deliver life-enhancing services addressing salient needs directly in communities, and leverage existing community services and assets to meet individual and public health needs.
So how does a well-being hub function and what is its potential? I have put together three resources that can be rapidly viewed, read or browsed to further elucidate our model and promote more discussion. I invite you to review and comment on the fit, offerings, and challenges associated with this model.
Please contact me, Greg Pogue (firstname.lastname@example.org), with your thoughts.
VIDEO – Lightening Talk – Well-Being Hub Model: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXdiWi0VHeY&t=13s
2-PAGE SUMMARY – Libraries as Well-Being Hubs: https://utexas.box.com/s/kmdptym9lgmu0dv7kyzdhb3a7vf973tk
POWER POINT – Need and opportunities for Well-Being Hubs: https://utexas.box.com/s/keos2qisa0o2zte4v8jc09ypwyygqflc