World Journal of AIDS, 2011, 1, 78-87
doi:10.4236/wja.2011.13012 Published Online September 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJA
The Role of Library and Information Science
Education in the Development of Community
Health Information Services for People Living
with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and
Managers of Public Libraries
Bharat Mehra1, Adrienne Dessel2
1School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA; 2The Program on Intergroup Relations, University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
Received July 5th, 2011; revised August 10th, 2011; accepted August 18th, 2011.
This article identifies the role of library and information science (LIS) education in the development of community
health information services for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Preliminary findings are presented from semi-
structured qualitative interviews that were conducted with eleven directors and managers of local branches in the Knox
County Public Library (KCPL) System tha t is located in the East Tennessee region in the United States. Select feedback
reported by research participants is summarized in the article about strategies in LIS education that can help local
public librarians and others in their efforts to become more responsive information providers to PLWHA. Research
findings help better understand the issues and concerns regarding the development of digital and non-digital health
information services fo r PLWHA in local public library institu tions.
Keywords: People Living with HIV/AIDS, PLWHA, Public Library Directors and Managers, Community Health
Information Se r vices
1. Introduction
The service-driven processes of information creation-or-
ganization-management-dissemination to meet the needs
of various individuals and/or user-based communities
(e.g., organizations, institutions, non-profit agencies,
public and private enterprises, amongst others) form the
core missions of the library and information science (LIS)
professions [1,2]. Historically, in the United States their
origins have been traced to the growth and development
of different kinds of libraries (e.g., public, K-12 school,
special, college and university libraries) [3] though their
scope, boundaries, and nature of functionality has ex-
panded with the advent of computers and the subsequent
emergence and integration of information studies since
the 1970s [4,5]. In order to stay relevant in the 21st cen-
tury, LIS educators, practitioners, and researchers have
recognized a need for innovative strategies in teaching,
learning, and use of culturally sensitive information in
traditionally discriminated areas to meet the needs of
underserved populations on the margins of society [6-9].
Development of health information services for people
living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) is one area that is mar-
ginalized in library practice, LIS education, information
resource design, and community engagement efforts ow-
ing to continued cultural prejudice and stigma associated
with the disease [10,11]. This is especially true for the
American South that has the “greatest number of people
estimated to be living with AIDS, AIDS deaths, and new
AIDS diagnoses” [12]. Moreover, recent research shows
that PLWHA in the southern states experience a lack of
access and effective use of health information and pre-
ventive services [13,14], as a result of special needs and
environment/culture-specific factors such as minimal
education, rural isolation, poverty and economic depriva-
tion, racism and discrimination, and religious conserva-
The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information 79
Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries
tism, amongst others [15,16].
In this marginalizing climate for PLWHA in the south-
ern United States, LIS professionals can play a more
proactive role (compared to current practice) in the de-
velopment of community health information services for
this disenfranchised population. Future health informa-
tion service librarians can address various environmental,
social, and cultural barriers to use of information by
PLWHA, conditional upon their receiving adequate edu-
cation and training about these and other issues regarding
the development of health information services for
PLWHA. Based on an awareness and learning about
culturally appropriate knowledge in the digital age,
health information service librarians can also address
specific challenges in the advancement and use of elec-
tronic resources on health information services for
PLWHA such as: aspects of physical and intellectual
access, explosion of information on the Internet and the
subsequent information clutter, information and com-
puter literacy, and lack of authoritative and credible in-
formation resources, to name a few.
This article focuses on the role o f LIS education in the
development of community health information services
for PLWHA based on preliminary findings from semi-
structured interviews with eleven directors and managers
of local branches in the Knox County Public Library
(KCPL) System located in the East Tennessee region.
Select feedback reported by research participants is
summarized in the article about strategies in LIS educa-
tion that can help local public librarians and others in
their efforts to become more responsive information pro-
viders to PLWHA. Research findings help better under-
stand the issues and concerns regarding the development
of digital and non-digital health information services for
PLWHA in local public library institutions. Future pub-
lications will provide a more detailed and complete
analysis of health information services for PLWHA in
other regional and national libraries.
Historically, since the time when AIDS was first
recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in 1981 and its cause, HIV, identified in the
early 1980s [17,18], the disease has drawn some atten-
tion in LIS research and service provision. For example,
Jeffrey T. Huber and Mary L. Gillapsy recognized the
social circumscriptions surrounding the HIV/AIDS body
of knowledge in its pathological dimensions and called
for a controlled vocabulary that would “facilitate know-
ledge organization and access relative to HIV/AIDS” to
“reflect the complexities of this socially constructed
reality” [19]. HIV/AIDS representation, according to
Hanne Albrechtsen and Elin K. Jacob’s non-traditional
classification scheme [20] as a transitional element or
“boundary object” provided a “mediating vocabulary” to
facilitate communication between the different commu-
nities involved with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and inte-
grated interdisciplinary perspectives and research on the
HIV/AIDS lived experience to embody the “social worlds
constituting an information system and the collective
conditions for knowledge production” [21]. Challenges
for LIS professionals in HIV/AIDS information service
delivery have included: 1) Merger of the traditio nal roles
of creators, seekers, and providers of HIV/AIDS-related
information leading to its production and consumption at
multiple intertwined levels (i.e., individual, organiza-
tional, institutional, community, local, regional, national,
and international) [22]; 2) Interweaving of the HIV/AIDS
vernacular language and vocabulary with the technical,
scientific, and biomedical terminology to develop its
very-specific and interdisciplinary lexicon [23,24]; 3)
Exponential growth in the volume of HIV/AIDS infor-
mation and research with the rise in the number of
documented HIV/AIDS cases [25,26] in different parts of
the world such as in Asia and Africa [27,28].
Various conferences, events, and reports on HIV/
AIDS, sponsored by the National Institu tes of Health and
the National Library of Medicine, amongst others, have
been developed to generate dialogue, discussion, and
recommendations for effective provision of HIV/AIDS
information services to people affected by the disease
[29,30]. Subjects and topics have included general HIV/
AIDS information as well as targeted health information
services for special populations including: teens and
adolescents [31], racial and ethnic minorities [32,33],
women of color [34], gay and bisexual men [35], and
other high-risk populations. Additional HIV/AIDS infor-
mation and topics in LIS research and service provision
include access to HIV/AIDS information sources/resour-
ces [36,37], HIV/AIDS information needs of the under-
served facing health information service inequ ities owing
to intersecting variables (e.g., race/ethnicity and sexual
orientation) [38], HIV/AIDS representation in fiction
literature [39], international partnerships in HIV/AIDS
research [40], to name a few. What has been conspicuous
by its absence in the past body of LIS work on HIV/
AIDS is a direct involvement and explicit docu mentation
of LIS education (i.e., educators and students) in incor-
porating HIV/AIDS issues in its teaching agenda and
classroom activities. This article is an exploratory
attempt to fill this missing gap from the point of view of
one group of stakeholders associated with the provision
of HIV/AIDS health information and services, namely,
the directors and managers of local branches in the
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJA
The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information
80 Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries
KCPL System located in the East Tennessee region.
3. The Research Context
Historically, since the nineteenth century public libraries
in the United States have been involved in reaching out
to meet the needs of distressed communities such as im-
migrants, racial and ethnic minorities, low-income fami-
lies, women of color, rural residents, inner-city kids,
people with chronic and life-threatening diseases, amongst
others [41,42]. Hence, the focus of this research to study
directors and managers of public libraries is apt since it
highlights the perspectives of a group that represents an
institution of long-standing history of engagement with
disenfranchised populations [43,44]. Public libraries in
the United States have different policies and practices
regarding requirements of a master’s degree for indi-
viduals in the public library leadership positions in the
different states that has led to their identification as di-
rectors or managers and the importance of this has been
much debated and contested without developing com-
prehensive and uniform practice [45-47]. Tennessee does
not have a requirement of a master’s degree for individu-
als in its public library leadersh ip positions leading to the
selection of both directors and managers as interviewees
in this research.
The KCPL System is embedded in Knoxville, Ten-
nessee, and adjoining areas in the eastern part of the state.
Knoxville has a population of nearly 183,000 in the city,
with slightly over 411,000 in the county area. It is the
third largest city in the state and is home to the Univer-
sity of Tennessee (UT) main campus, the Tennessee
Valley Authority, and the nearby Oak Ridge National
Laboratory and Smoky Mountain National Park, both
within a 30 mile radius. Knoxville’s population is nearly
80% white, over 16% African American, and the re-
maining 4% consists of Native American, Asian, and
those of Hispanic or Latino background. The median
household income is over $27,000, and the per capita
residents of Knoxville average $18,171 income per year,
with over 20% of individuals living below poverty level.
Men report higher incomes of just over $29,000 followed
by women at $22,500 [48].
The KCPL System [49] has a long history from 1885
of providing library resources to the people of Knox
County. Today, the collections are delivered via over 20
facilities and contain more than a million volumes, cir-
culating 2,374,152 items per year, to a population of plus
392,995 residents [50]. These facilities are dispersed
across the county and share electronic and references
services as well as some administrative and managerial
responsibilities. From innovative programming and effi-
cient reference and user instruction to the use of latest
technology to meet the needs of various audiences, the
KCPL System provides unique community-based ser-
vices (e.g., Local History and Genealogy, Teen Central,
Sights & Sounds, etc.) that reflect its special position and
role in the East Tennessee region.
The Tennessee Department of Health [51] reported
that the number of people still alive who have an HIV
diagnosis increased dramatically from 2001 to 2005—
9166 to 11,867, as did the number living with AIDS,
from 5021 to 6133. During 2004, Tennessee had an esti-
mated 1108 newly diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS, while
the number of new HIV/AIDS cases in Knox County has
ranged from 55 to 63 each year from 2001-2005 [52].
Based on data provided by the Hope Center [53] in Kno-
xville’s Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, through
December 2006, Tennessee had an estimated 20,685
cases of HIV, of which an estimated 2700 were chil-
dren/young adults under the age of 25 years. In th e South
between 2001-2005 AIDS cases increased by 19% and
deaths decreased in all regions but the South [54].
Women accounted for 23% of the HIV/AIDS cases in
Tennessee during the same period; girls between the ages
13 - 19 years represent 8% of new HIV infections in the
South, which is four times the rate found elsewhere in the
United States. New HIV/AIDS diagnoses among Black,
non-Hispanics continue to be disproportionately high in
the state with 59% of newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases
in 2004 identified from the Black, non-Hispanic popula-
tion [55] .
According to the Tennessee HIV Data [56], there were
691 PLWHA in the Knox consortia region as compared
to the cumulative PLWHA data of 12 ,329 for the state of
Tennessee through March 31, 2004; there were 532 per-
sons diagnosed with AIDS in the Knox consortia region
while the cumulative data statewide was 9631 through
the same time. A seven-part series examining the HIV/
AIDS epidemic in East Tennessee that was published in
the Knoxville News Sen tinel during Aug ust 2005 entitled
“Living Positive: HIV/AIDS in East Tennessee” ad-
dressed issues of health information services for PLWHA
in the light of increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS cases in
the region. Salient highlights from the series included: 1)
Role of religious conservatism and prejudice in creating
negative stigma towards PLWHA who encounter daily
discrimination, bureaucracy, and insensitivity in Knox-
ville’s health-care professions; 2) Alarming spread of the
HIV/AIDS virus amongst ethnic minorities (of both
genders) and the urgency for developing appropriate
health information services to respond to their changing
needs [57]; 3) Rural populations have not remained un-
affected. For example, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention [58] report that two-thirds of those in
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJA
The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information 81
Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries
rural areas in the South are infected locally by the HIV/
AIDS virus, as compared to early days of the epidemic
when most people got the virus from someone outside
their own community; 4) Creating education and aware-
ness is very important, especially among young Ameri-
cans, to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS since this demo-
graphic population is “at persistent risk” of HIV infection;
5) Important contributors to increasing transmission rates
of HIV/AIDS include higher rates of alcohol and drug
abuse, inadequate and limited access to health-care re-
sources, lack of health insurance, and higher rates of
other sexually transmitted diseases (which increase risk
of HIV infection); 6) Low-income and economic depri-
vation, in additio n to changes in co verage terms prov ided
by TennCare, the state health insurance system, have
resulted in swelling numbers of HIV/AIDS patients los-
ing their benefits and in severe trouble once the new
policies began in 2006. A recent cover story entitled
“HIV: On the Homefront” [59] in the Metro Pulse,
Knoxville’s local newsmagazine, highlights that much
has not changed over the past three years in terms of
Knoxville’s “judging and shunning” and discrimination
for PLWHA, in spite of changes in improved life expec-
tancy, institution a l help, and demographics.
4. Methodology
The methods and procedures adopted in this research
were initially developed in a related project in its first
phase that explored HIV/AIDS information services
available within the local community of Knoxville from
the perspectives of nine academic library and information
professionals about the awareness and use of these ser-
vices by PLWHA [60]. The current article reports find-
ings from the project’s second phase of documenting
perspectives of eleven public library br anch di rec tors an d
managers in the KCPL System about existing HIV/AIDS
information services, users of these services, barriers and
challenges to effective use, and the role of LIS educator s
in the context of developing ideal information support
services for PLWHA. Research participants are repre-
sentative directors and managers in the KCPL System
and were selected based on size and location of their li-
brary branch, community service profile of their library
branch, availability and convenience, and their willing-
ness to participate in the study.
The semi-structured interview method adopted in this
research provided a focused and in-depth dataset from a
limited set of select p articipants located in one city in the
conservative “buckle of the bible-belt” about issues and
concerns related to the availability (o r lack of availab ility)
of HIV/AIDS information services in local public librar-
ies. Research interviews lasted for 1.5 - 2.0 hours and
were conducted at the participant’s branch library. Con-
sent forms were distributed to research participants prior
to the interviews and the interviews were audio-taped to
maintain accurate documentation of participant’s feed-
back. The two researchers also took notes during the in-
terviews. Only the researchers were involved in the tran-
scription of data collected during th e interviews to main-
tain strict confidentiality of the research participants.
Grounded theory p rinciples [61,62] were used to iden tify
themes via content analysis of the qualitative data gath-
ered during the interviews. As a token of appreciation for
allowing their directors and managers to participate in
the study, the KCPL System was provided a $200 gift to
purchase information materials on HIV/AIDS for their
collection. Following the interviews, ongoing conversa-
tions about the information support services offered at
the KCPL System was maintained with select partici-
pants over the period since.
5. Research Findings
The study yields significant findings about the role of
LIS educators and students in the development of a
community health information system for PLWHA in
terms of: what would be useful, who can help this
population, what resources are available, how can public
library information providers and LIS educators collabo-
rate to bring about change and become more effective in
reaching out to PLWHA, and what role can information
technology play in bringing about effective change in
public library environments. The results from the inter-
views are summarized and presented below under each
of the topical questions that were asked during the
interview. The semi-structured questions were developed
by the researchers in advance of the interviews to guide
the process of collecting feedback from the research
participants. The questions were designed to identify
information services in the area that provided assistance
to PLWHA. They were designed to elicit particular feed-
back about the information services in the community.
Each question yielded much more data than presented in
this article; here the focus of analysis is on participant
feedback about the role of LIS education in the deve-
lopment of community health information services for
5.1. Question One: Identify Your Public Library
and Work Responsibilities
All the research participants were directors or managers
of local branches in the KCPL System. Some research
participants had master’s degrees in library science (or
information science) while others did not. In order to
maintain participant anonymity the article does not pro-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJA
The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information
82 Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries
vide additional feedback about the specific number of
research participants with/without master’s degrees since
the participant pool was small and can be easily identifi-
able. An important note, however, made by at least three
research participants was the need for a potential col-
laboration between th e UT’s LIS prog ram (i.e., School of
Information Sciences) and the KCPL System to support
degree attainment by managers who were not master’s
graduates. It was believed that such an effort would al-
low for professional development of individual managers
who did not have a master’s degree, and also improve
service provision (including health information services
for PLWHA) in their branch libraries.
Research participants reported on their management
and supervision role in their branch libraries. Their em-
ployees ranged from 3 - 21 full time staff members, in-
cluding 11 reference librarians in the main library. Other
library staff included part time workers, paraprofession-
als, and volunteers. Three research participants referred
to the high quality and value provided by LIS students
when they joined the KCPL System’s workforce and
called for more student involvement in developing health
information services in the KCPL’s branch libraries via
independent study, practicum, and course work. Research
participants also described their service roles in system-
wide library committees (e.g., ordering, purchasing, and
selection committee; efficiency committee; planning and
coordinating committee for special programs; children’s
development committee, etc.). None mentioned evidence
to suggest any system-wide committee participation to
develop health information services for PLWHA.
5.2. Question Two: What Are the Existing
HIV/AIDS Information Services for
PLWHA in the KCPL System and in the
Greater Knoxville Community?
There was a consensus among research participants that
the KCPL System provided few and outdated materials on
HIV/AIDS. For example, one research participant stated
that the latest work on HIV/AIDS in the collection dated
from 2003. Two branch directors or managers stated that
items in their collection varied for adults and children, in
both fiction and non-fiction, though all research partici-
pants called for more authoritative materials on HIV/
AIDS. Four research participants suggested sharing of
resources/services with the University’s library network
to address this limitation in their collection. Three re-
search participants stated that they sometimes called the
Preston Medical Library at UT’s Medical Center for
health-related reference questions.
Research participants’ knowledge and awareness of
available health information services varied based on thei r
subject expertise, searching skill level, work load and
responsibilities, enthusiasm for their job and profession,
significance of the topic to their patrons in the locality,
interest level, and attainment of master’s degree. For
example, one research participant identified 300 items
while another stated that she had 26 titles available in the
KCPL System. A third research participant said that there
were 12 items in her collection though she could make
avail of the collections provided at other branch libraries
when there was a patron request for a particular title.
According to one participant, such variation in know-
ledge and perceptio n might illuminate two in ternal issues
at the KCPL (issues that exist in other multi-service point
libraries as well) in terms of data collection: 1) Possibly,
the branch managers providing such varied feedback are
answering the question about their branch only and not
about the system-wide resources that are available to them .
2) There might also be a tendency to think in terms of
books, and to forget about journal articles and online
resources. Two research participants suggested a need for
them to participate in training workshops on available
HIV/AIDS inform ation services and possible involvement
of LIS faculty in implementing such an activity.
Research participants stated that items in their collec-
tion varied from print materials (e.g., books, magazines)
to electronic sources and authoritative websites on the
subject. Seven research participants suggested that it
would be extremely helpful for them if interested LIS
students developed a “best list” of websites and print
resources on HIV/AIDS as part of their course assign-
ments. Research participants relied on the reference da-
tabases available via the Tennessee Electronic Library
(TEL) and the health a nd wellness resource s ection to find
general or encyclopedia-like information on HIV/AIDS,
though sever al pointed to a lack of focused and technical
or medical sources in the collection.
5.3. Question Three: Who Uses These Services?
Research participants mentioned that they did not moni-
tor their patrons’ behavior in the library so it was diffi-
cult for them to provide a specific response beyond a
speculation. Yet, they believed that there were a signifi-
cant number of audiences who used health information
services on HIV/AIDS. These included: PLWHA, pa-
tients’ family members, people in the community inter-
ested in the social/medical dimensions of the disease,
students and teens, and others.
5.4. Question Four: How Often Do You
Encounter People Using Services
Related to HIV/AIDS?
Most of the research participants reported that they had
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The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information 83
Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries
rarely encountered a patron who asked questions about
HIV/AIDS. One research participant, however, explained
that though she never had an adult ask HIV/AIDS-related
questions, she did occasionally (i.e., five or six times a
year) have high school students inquire about HIV/AIDS
for class reports. In comparison, eight research partici-
pants pointed out that a number of library patrons asked
for books or magazines on other health-related concerns
(e.g., bi polar, women’s health, repr oductive health, autism,
cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, and medication issues),
just not HIV/AIDS.
5.5. Question Five: Why Are Patrons Not Asking
about HIV/AIDS Information Services in the
KCPL System?
Research participants attributed the main reason for a lack
of patron q uestions o n HIV/A IDS to the per vadin g stigm a
and prejudice associated with the disease. Other reasons
included: reluctance to address the topic in public, con-
servative nature of the embedded community, patron’s
fear to disclose that they were a HIV/AIDS patient, pa-
tron’s reliance on their own information seeking, avail-
ability of information on the Internet, patrons’ high per-
ception of their searching skills, provision of information
from health care providers, and complacency owing to
improved health treatments.
5.6. Question Six: What Are the Barriers and
Challenges That Public Library Information
Professionals Face in Providing These
Services for PLWHA?
There were many barriers and challenges that research
participants identified regarding the provision of HIV/
AIDS information services in their public library envi-
ronments. Top amongst them were the cultural and po-
litical climate of embarrassment and stigma regarding
information on HIV/AIDS and a “reluctance to ask in a
public environment.” Research participants encountered
this reluctance in patron’s behavior to talk about HIV/
AIDS and discuss what information they needed. Re-
search participants also experienced the reluctance of the
administration and management in their inability to rec-
ognize HIV/AIDS as an important topic for adequate
budget allocation and resource allotment. An important
point to note here is that though it is true that some
branches are not receiving as many new books because
their use statistics do not warrant it, however, their li-
brary catalog accesses all the material in the KCPL Sys-
tem, and items can be borrowed from another point of
service. Other identified barriers included: lack of aware-
ness and access to accurate and authoritative information,
consistent and current information about HIV/AIDS, less
available materials published on HIV/AIDS and lack of
financial resources to develop adequate collections, com-
plaints from the public about HIV/AIDS information on
the bookshelves, finding age appropriate HIV/AIDS ma-
terials for children, and poor public perception and nega-
tive stereotypes of librarians (e.g., not willing to help, no
relevant health information in the library, etc.). Several
research participants identified multiple times the role of
LIS education and academic libraries to develop and
share collections, services, resources, and facilities to
help public libraries address the identified barriers and
challenges they faced in providing HIV/AIDS informa-
tion to their local co nstituencies.
5.7. Question Seven: What Would Be an Ideal
HIV/AIDS Information Service (Based on
Challenges Identified by the Research
Research participants were asked to identify what an
ideal HIV/AIDS information service would look like in a
public library environment, given the limitations they
had just identified. They answered this question in rela-
tion to what would be useful for the library and informa-
tion professionals to know, who could help them, and
what resources are (or should be) available. The result
was a “laundry list” presented in Table 1.
6. Discussion
The public librarians who participated in this research
identified the need for building inter-professional and
intra-professional ties, as well as other community col-
laborations, to address the challenges they faced in pro-
viding effective health information services for PLWHA
in their local communities. Inter-professional communi-
cation and interactions with local health care service pro-
viders, medical practitioners, and general and specialized
physicians, were considered significant for developing:
Lists of high quality, up-to-date materials to purchase
for library collections;
A consolidated “umbrella website” that brings toge-
ther recommended resources;
A memorandum distributed from the county health
services department with an updated list of authorita-
tive sources on HIV/AIDS;
Ongoing feedback from health care professionals
about the needs, wants, and information-related be-
haviors of their HIV/AIDS clients;
Compilations of community health information servi-
ces for PLWHA for referral purposes based on dif-
ferent agency’s varied policies, costs, facilities, ex-
pectations, criteria of patient selection, etc.;
Information on current HIV/AIDS research and pos-
sibilities in the future.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJA
The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information
Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJA
Table 1. Components of an “ideal” HIV/AIDS information service in public libraries.
Brochure on general health information with a special section on
HIV/AIDS Referral to local hospitals, clinics, and support groups
Reference source for people to self-examine Workshops and educational seminars
Current books and print materi al s Local media programming on HIV/AIDS
“Best list” of websites K-12 schools and colleges to promote education
Discrete handouts and flyers with HIV/AIDS fac tual information LIS educators, students, and academic libraries for sharing
informatio n resources
Internet-based resources/services Collaborations with churches to dispel ignorance and hate
Database containing current and updated materials Community partnerships with non-profits working on HIV/AIDS
Medical information and ma terials to address psychological/social mattersMedical practitioners and psychologists to provide current
information a n d s up p o rt
Research participants also called for intra-professional
connections with different LIS educators, students, me-
dical and academic librarians, and others, in order to col-
laborate in areas such as resource sharing, access de-
livery mechanisms, collection development, conducting
needs assessment of various audiences, and management
of personnel distribution to achieve mutually identified
goals towards improved health information services for
PLWHA. Developing intra-professional ties were also
considered important to facilitate the inter-professional
collaborations identified above. LIS educators and stu-
dents were identified as possible facilitators to develop
interactions between public librarians, medical profes-
sionals, and others from vari ous health-related professions.
Additionally, research participants identified different
community constituencies who could potentially help
them locally improve their services for PLWHA such as:
people from HIV/AIDS support groups, social workers
and community activists working on HIV/AIDS issues,
community service providers in hospitals, religious lead-
ers and pastors, schools and teachers to educate the chil-
dren on HIV/AIDS, funders for development of HIV/
AIDS information resources, book reviewers and pub-
lishers selling HIV/AIDS materials, public in helping to
educate consumers, and others who could offer relevant
and free (or low-cost) information materials and services
Moreover, research participants called for tapping into
existing resources available to address the identified
challenges in providing health information services for
PLWHA. Existing efforts included: distribution of HIV/
AIDS pamphlets from the UT’s medical and health de-
partments, role of the county health department as a pro-
vider of information services on HIV/AIDS, reference
department in the KCPL’s downtown branch, local
bookstores, authoritative websites on HIV/AIDS infor-
mation, researchers doing studies on HIV/AIDS, support
groups, and select community agencies providing HIV/
AIDS materials.
7. Conclusions
The focus of this research was on the perspectives of
local library branch directors/managers in the KCPL
System about available health information services for
PLWHA and the role of LIS education in the develop-
ment of culturally appropriate community health infor-
mation services for the disenfranchised population.
Feedback provided by research participants identifies
potential partnerships between local public libraries and
LIS educators and students as a significant step in de-
veloping inter-professional and intra-professional ties, as
well as nurturing community collaborations, to achieve
the ideal service and become more effective in reaching
out to PLWHA. Strengthening of professional ties with
LIS education were believed to improve existing HIV/
AIDS information services in public libraries in areas of:
current and updated collection development, information
dissemination and marketing in local communities (e.g.,
development and distribution of flyers on HIV/AIDS),
addressing negative public p erception about libraries and
the LIS professions, developing referrals to community
information services, providing multiple modes and for-
mats of information delivery, writing collaborative grant
projects to provide financial support in developing HIV/
AIDS information services, and implementing HIV/
AIDS workshops for different populations (e.g., teens,
seniors, and ethnic minorities). Such information-related
work can be undertaken by LIS educators and students in
required and elective course assignments, independent
studies, practica, participation in community activities,
involvement in externally funded projects, etc. LIS edu-
cation and information technology were believed to play
The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information 85
Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries
an important role in bringing about positive changes in
public libraries for PLWHA in terms of: developing a
consolidated information resource (e.g., HIV/AIDS health
and wellness database), organizing more current and up-
dated online information on the library websites, helping
in computer training to empower PLWHA to find their
own relevant information, and, advertising and marketing
of the KCPL’s health information and services for
Next research steps will involve sharing of a more de-
tailed framework to develop health information services
for PLWHA in Knoxville’s public libraries. Feedback
collected from a larger pool of public librarians in Ten-
nessee will also be reported. Follow-up efforts will ex-
amine the provision of health information services for
PLWHA from the perspective of other stakeholders in-
cluding local PLWHA, health care service providers,
community leaders and activists, and faith-based organi-
zations, amongst others. Gathering feedback from dif-
ferent constituencies involved in the provision of health
information services for PLWHA will insure acknow-
ledgement of diverse realities and exp eriences in order to
make real progress and bring progressive social changes
that are meaningful to all concerned.
8. Acknowledgements
The authors are thankful to the library directors/managers
who participated in this research for sharing their ex-
periences and perspectiv es about existin g health informa-
tion services for PLWHA in their branch libraries. We
also thank the Deans Summer Grant from the UT’s Col-
lege of Communication and Information for financial
support while conducting this research. The authors ap-
preciate the feedback received from the online partici-
pants and on-site audience for the juried paper session
that was presented at the Association for Library and
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