Assistant Professor Charles Senteio, Part-Time Lecturer and Co-Principal Investigator Nancy Kranich, and current Master of Information (MI) student Kristen Matteucci partnered with the East Brunswick Public Library (EBPL), a library that is nationally recognized for its work on providing health information and programming, to hold “Community Conversations” to gather information for a new research project, titled “Investigation of Library Engagement.” Their research is being funded through a grant from the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE).
The “Community Conversations” were held at the EPBL on October 12 and 14 for adult residents of East Brunswick. During the conversations, participants shared their thoughts about what a healthy community means to them, where they find their health information, and ways the library can become more active in addressing the community's health and wellness needs. In addition to the conversations at the EPBL, they held two other “Community Conversations” at the Franklin Township Public Library and the New Brunswick Public Library.
Senteio and his team state in their proposal, “This project aims to describe practical and sustainable approaches libraries can use with diverse populations – many of whom experience persistent disparate health outcomes across various chronic diseases. Focusing on empirical practices of community engagement, we will start with community members and the organizations focused on providing direct services.”
Kranich has taken the lead on the “Community Conversations” project. In the past, Kranich has worked on similar community engagement projects, in order to give community members the opportunity to come to the libraries for news, information, and a listening ear for those who have comments and concerns in their community. Kranich said, “What we want to reveal is how important it is to start with the community to provide health literacy services rather than starting by just offering a service. When you start with the community you have a much better way to align what you do in a meaningful and relevant way.”
The participants answered questions such as, “When it comes to health and wellness, what do you want for you, your family and your community?” and “What kinds of things are keeping us from having the kind of health and wellness that we want for ourselves, our families and our communities?” Kranich explains that this is one of the only opportunities that community members have to share their feelings on these issues and are listened to. Participants were compensated with food and beverages during their conversation and a $20 “thank-you” gift at the end.
Senteio says, “It’s been a wonderful learning experience to connect with local library leaders to coordinate our ‘Community Conversations.’ Facilitating the health and wellness discussions with community members have been very illuminating, and Nancy, Kristen, and I look forward to sharing what we heard with the library leaders so we can help support community members.”