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A Visit from the Local Library: Bringing the Public Library to Graduate Health Sciences Students


Kristen Sheridan, MLIS 
Education and Information Services Librarian  
Alumni Medical Library 
Boston University 

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a lightning talk presented at the Medical Library Association (MLA) / Special Libraries Association (SLA) Conference in May 2023


How can we provide ebooks, audiobooks, and streaming media to our students to promote wellness and self-care when our institution does not have access to resources like OverDrive? That was one of the many questions in the back of my mind as I made my transition from public librarianship to academic health sciences librarianship. In my previous role as a public librarian, areas like readers’ advisory, collection development, and programming were my bread and butter, and I was looking to find ways to incorporate those strengths into an academic health science-focused setting. I always find inspiration for programs by fueling my personal passions, so I figured I would start with one of the main reasons I became a librarian -- my love for leisure reading. Numerous studies have suggested that leisure reading is a valued self-care activity and beneficial to overall student wellness. However, finding the time to read is challenging and access to preferred formats, such as ebooks and audiobooks, is not as readily available from our academic health sciences library on Boston University’s medical campus. While we offer a robust collection of health sciences ebooks, journals, and other materials, we do not have the capacity to nurture a collection of leisure reading titles. With this in mind, I sought to provide resources that support leisure reading and student wellness that are currently available in our community by bringing our local public library to our graduate health sciences students. 



Our students are in advanced degree programs in medicine, graduate medical sciences, dentistry, and public health. Because of their rigorous programs, they have little time for activities like leisure reading. In order to break the barrier of access to leisure reading, I partnered with the Boston Public Library (BPL) to bring these resources to our students here on campus. We invited librarians from the BPL to join us in signing up our students, faculty, and staff for BPL eCards, which are available to any individual residing, working, or attending school in the state of Massachusetts. The eCard gives patrons access to a variety of online resources such as Libby, Hoopla and Kanopy, magazines, newspapers, and many other valuable materials. 


Once we secured the librarians from the BPL and scheduled a date for them to join our pilot program, the next hurdle was finding a good spot to host this drop-in event. Boston University’s medical campus is across town from our main campus, and since our campus is much smaller, there are limited spaces for students to gather for outreach events and programs. While the library is one of the student-centered spaces, we are not as visible, as we are located on the 12th floor of our building, and do not have a large group space for programming. This meant that I had to get creative by finding a central space to host this program and reach as many patrons as possible. Luckily, the answer to my location woes ended up being the lobby of our building. This location is a popular tabling area and proved to be an advantageous spot to host the program, as we were right by the front door and were able to capture our patrons as they were coming or going. 



Kristen Sheridan and BPL librarians during the eCard pilot program on Boston University’s medical campus 


On the day of the program, we were accompanied by two librarians from the BPL and set up our table with BPL-branded library merchandise like pens, stickers, and bookmarks for patrons to take as they walked by or after they signed up for an eCard. Many patrons stopped by to learn more about resources available to them if they signed up for an eCard and talked to us even if they already had a library card and were actively using online resources like Libby and Hoopla. Since this was a drop-in pilot program, there was not a lot of pressure riding on attendance; we never ran a program like this and had no numbers to compare to. We opted to run the program on a Tuesday morning from 10am-12pm and were pleasantly surprised with the positive response. We were busy for the full two hours and concluded by signing up 42 patrons with an eCard, which was well above what we had hoped for. 


This program was a collaborative and valuable partnership with the BPL, and a great way to strengthen ties within our community. With such a successful pilot program, we hosted the program again in March 2023 and October 2023, and created a library resource guide on leisure reading. This program has been one of our most successful, and since we are recruiting new students, faculty, and staff each semester, our goal is to offer this program once per semester going forward. This collaboration gives us hope for future programs and initiatives that we can work on with the BPL, and offers new and exciting opportunities to expand our reach into the community. This has been a very valuable programming experience for me, and I was able to present this pilot program as a lightning talk during the MLA/SLA Conference in May 2023. As an early career librarian, this was a wonderful professional development opportunity, and it provided a meaningful way to connect with other medical librarians on a unique yet successful wellness program. My goal at the end of the day is to offer new and exciting resources to our patrons on campus, and most importantly, have fun while doing so. This eCard program has been so rewarding, and I am excited to see how the program and collaboration with the BPL evolves and strengthens in the future. 


DCT Featured Article – November 14, 2023 

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