Penn Libraries

STEM Libraries Staff Embarks on Community Health Outreach Initiatives and Partnerships


While attending an undergraduate curriculum committee meeting at the School of Nursing in 2015, Penn STEM Libraries Director, Barbara Cavanaugh, learned something interesting. Several students taking Nursing 380 – Nursing in the Community – did their clinical rotation at three West Philly branches of the Free Library. Barbara saw this as an opportunity for engagement between her libraries, her constituents, and the greater Philadelphia community. Several months later, in partnership with the School of Nursing and the Free Library of Philadelphia, Barbara and Nursing liaison librarian Sherry Morgan, applied for and received an award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Mid-Atlantic Region to establish Health Corners, physical spaces dedicated to consumer health information, in three branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia to support the work of Penn nursing students on clinical rotation there.

The award supplied computers and teaching tools for the nursing students’ use in these spaces, as well as some desired books for the Free Library of Philadelphia branch collections. The Health Corners computers are readily available for walk-in use at any time by library patrons who are seeking reliable health information from reliable online resources like National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus ( In addition to assisting library users with health information, the nursing students also provide free blood pressure screenings, lead health programs, tutor children after school, and even conduct community clean-ups.

In 2016, the Philadelphia Chapter of the Medical Library Association presented the Randy Brenner Consumer Health award to member of the Health Corners team from the Biomedical Library, the School of Nursing, and the Free Library.

Today, Richard James, the new undergraduate nursing liaison librarian, continues to provide consumer health literacy training to students who staff the Health Corners on their clinical rotation. Richard has facilitated the placement of two nursing students at the Philadelphia FIGHT AIDS Library, the world’s only lending library with a specialized collection on HIV/AIDS. .

Richard and Community Health and Engineering Librarian, Aman Kaur, developed lesson plans for a health literacy workshop series geared towards adult evening students at West Philadelphia High School through the Netter Center’s University-Assisted Community Schools Nights program.

This semester, in partnership with the Sayre Health Center and the Free Library of Philadelphia, Aman will provide a monthly “Evaluating Heath Websites & Apps” workshop at the Blanche A. Nixon Cobbs Creek Branch. Workshop dates and times are listed in the “Events” section of the Blanche A. Nixon Cobbs Creek Branch Facebook page.

Throughout the year, Richard and Aman along with Barbara and Community Outreach Librarian, Ancil George, visited the Philadelphia FIGHT AIDS Library, the CHOP Connelly Resource Center, and several Free Library of Philadelphia branches to further understand the needs of the community and colleagues. Most recently, Richard, Aman, and Barbara met with faculty who are a part of the Penn’s Healthy Library Initiative (HLI) to discuss future collaborations. Both the HLI and the Biomedical Library understand that health information is one of the top reasons people visit public libraries, and together we can offer health literacy support to public library staff.

The STEM Libraries continue to support the Philadelphia residents, nursing students, librarians, and health care professionals in the area of health information and continues to expand its community health outreach initiatives. Learn about the STEM Libraries’ Community Health Outreach Initiatives by visiting

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