Tribal/Library Health Information Partnerships

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A geographic collaborative effort of four health sciences libraries and three regional medical libraries to provide services to health care providers in the tribal communities has been working together for a number of years. One of the group's subcommittees, “Community-Based Partnerships”, was charged with developing projects in the states that would result in increased access to health information for specific tribal communities. The libraries partnered with community organization(s) in selected communities to develop, implement, and evaluate a program to improve access among health care providers and consumers to knowledge based health information. The libraries obtained commitment from one or more community organizations to work together on improving health information access and came to an agreement on their goal(s) and objective(s).


How can a collaborative of librarians in four different states, from seven different institutions work over geographic and time boundaries to develop effective outreach efforts?


  • Distance from the communities the libraries partnered with was a challenge.
  • Librarians faced challenged due to distance from each other.
  • Funding came along with criteria that was challenging.
  • IRB requirements of funding meant approaching several different institutions – universities and tribal governments all had different requirements. This was challenging and time consuming and caused the projects to be put on hold.
  • Changing staff at libraries and at community organizations meant starting from scratch sometimes.
  • Tribes and universities are understaffed and busy, making it challenging to meet face to face.
  • Challenges in access to healthcare that the populations served faced presented challenges to us as a group: health information is not the first priority.


The librarians met monthly to update each other on the progress of their projects and to share and brainstorm on challenges. Constant email and telephone communication with community partners and amongst the librarians helped move the project(s) along.

Funding was received from a regional medical library for travel, and project(s) costs. Additional internal support allowed for full participation in one of the projects.

Communities designed their own project which fit their communities, using the CBPR model.

Lessons Learned:

  • We need to be clear from the beginning what our goals are.
  • A distinction between outreach and research needs to be clear.
  • Service Projects do not require IRB.
  • Surveys with post and pre tests require IRB – Time is crucial for research groundwork to be done.


Three very different projects were developed

  • One tribe created a Walking Club to bring families together by walking together, learning more about healthier food consumption choices and an initiative to learn more about health issues through reading and reliable health information available online.
  • A second project provided evidence-based, culturally appropriate diabetes and cardiovascular disease education materials and training for the clinic communities in order to increase patient understanding of their disease and improved healthcare in support of the tribal Health System mission.
  • A health sciences library partnered with a hospital serving American Indians to develop a continuing education series on local, medically-relevant, and culturally-focused topics for the professional provider staff. The lectures will be recorded and available for future reference.

Contact: Siobhan Champ-Blackwell Community Outreach Liaison NN/LM MCR Creighton University 2500 California Plz Omaha, NE 68134 [email protected]