Kenyan Librarians Serve Health Workers through Innovative Health Corners

A three year project in 15 public libraries to improve access to health information

Since the 1960′s, Book Aid International and Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) have worked together to improve library services in Kenya. In 2010 with funding from the Elsevier Foundation’s Innovative Libraries in Developing Countries program, they launched a three year project to improve access to health information in 15 public libraries across Kenya. Health sections in the libraries provide books and information for doctors, nurses, traditional birth attendants and healers providing them with the information they need to improve treatment. According to Dr Gutuma in Embu, “The health corner is a dream come true”.

During each of the three project years, Book Aid International works directly with five public libraries, developing the skills of their librarians to assess and fulfil the information needs of health care providers. Librarians are trained at a four-day workshop during which future trainers are identified. Donations from Book Aid International supply the necessary books and librarians are trained to access online health information, covering topical issues such as breastfeeding, malaria, water sanitation, and HIV/AIDS. Not surprisingly, the libraries have reported notable changes in the way they work and significant increases in the numbers using their services.

Led by JamesKimani, Book Aid International’s East Africa representative and health care information specialist, the 2011 workshop built on the training and experience gained during the first year. James noted, “We had learned a lot from the first year and the enthusiasm of librarians and health workers was amazing. It was also great to work with such committed colleagues from KNLS and to get such enthusiastic support from the Director, Richard Atuti”.

Dawn Makena, the KNLS project leader and librarians Farida Mohamed and Miriam Mwangi worked to bring together librarians and health workers during the 2011 workshop to identify and develop the necessary skills and health information resources. Not surprisingly, this approach has yielded important new partnerships between librarians and health professionals. One participant noted, “We all have something in common that we can share despite the difference in profession”. KNLS Director, Richard Atuti, applauded the innovative involvement of health workers and remarked that since the workshop, “It is no longer business as usual, but business unusual.”

Book Aid International is a supporting organisation of the Health Information for All by 2015 campaign (HIFA). Launched in October 2006 by the Global Healthcare Information Network, HIFA 2015 focuses particularly on the information needs of healthcare providers in developing countries. Book Aid International has supplied medical books, many of them donated by Elsevier, to the Kenya National Library Service for many years and aims to ensure that books are effectively used and to work with KNLS to develop staff skills to make the content more accessible. For more information, please visit www.bookaid.org

Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) is a strong, effective and dynamic organisation, with 57 branches located across the country and a range of outreach projects such as camel libraries in nomadic regions. KNLS is Book Aid International’s main partner in Kenya. The library service acquires a wide range of medical and healthcare books every year and plays a key role in the provision of health information to primary healthcare practitioners. KNLS strives to improve its health information service and has recently set up HIV/AIDS information corners in many branch libraries.www.knls.ac.ke

For more information contact: James Kimani, East Africa Representative, Book Aid International, + 254 (0)720052036, james.kimani@bookaid.org / olekimani@gmail.com or Clive Nettleton, Director, Book Aid International, +44 (0)20 7733 3577 clive.nettleton@bookaid.org

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