Library Advocacy: a Wisconsin example

Session 17 – Eileen Severson, Mary Bayorgeon

I have to admit, I was inspired by this session.  Next week I’ll be doing some advocacy for my senator before the November election, but I’m really considering it practice for sticking up for medical & hospital libraries for the rest of my life.

Eileen and Mary gave an excellent presentation that began with some background info on the requirement for hospital libraries: at one point, New York State threw out the library requirement for hospitals, but as a result, the famous Rochester Study came out.  On the other hand, we’re fortunate here, as there is a Wisconsin Administrative Code for regulating hospitals that requires a health sciences library: DHS 124.09.  Sadly, it hasn’t been enforced.

Some additional info: Wisconin’s COLAND (Library council) advises the state superintendent of public instruction on library issues affecting all types of state libraries.  When hospital library closures prompted Mary to do something, this was the body she was able to approach (she is, in fact, a current member).  In order to be the most persuasive when approaching the superintendent, it was decided that a survey should be sent out.  And while Code 124.09 specified only a requirement for a library and not for staff (124 as a whole deals with all hospital services), the survey asked hospital libraries for information on both.  The survey showed that, I believe, 6 libraries had been closed since 2005.

The survey results were used at a meeting with the relevant administrative bodies last year; attendees also included WHSLA and COLAND representatives along with other various health agencies Mary organized.  In addition to the survey, the meeting preparation included a prepared letter to director of the bureau of health services, division of quality assurance, statements of concern about closures, and references to studies that showed the impact of hospital libraries.  They emphasized how the services provided by a professional librarian save money and argued that hospitals with closed libraries lacked important patient services.

The response was positive and certainly raised awareness…but they found out that the agency enforces federal regulations, and is paid by the federal government.  In addition, it’s a complaint based department, and there had been no complaints, so they hadn’t heard of closures.  They also learned that Code 124 is under revision and was accepting comments.  The trend is less prescriptive in favor of outcome-based requirements

The main outcome of meeting was that the closings were officially recorded as complaints.  And now there is lots of work to do!  They are currently promoting revisions for the code that include a hospital library staffed by a professional librarian.  But the success of this is questionable, especially since the requirements won’t be prescriptive.  What’s needed is an outcome-based requirement that shows a library role.  The public hearing hasn’t happened yet, and Mary/COLAND will get a draft of the proposal beforehand which they’ll use to develop a response.

And so sounds the call for advocacy!  This was a common theme of this meeting, which I’m excited about!

(I apologize for the choppiness of this entry; I think I’m missing some key details about the bodies involved.  Please add any knowledge you might have in the comments!  I’d also love to see Mary’s slides posted…)

About Amy Donahue

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