In her first week working at the Pima County Public Library, Registered Nurse Emily Pogue helped a newly-homeless woman find safe shelter and access to the medications she needed. She listened to the stories of military veterans, helped them organize a buddy system, and she helped library staff deal sensitively with a child's case of head lice. In just a month, library staff noticed a drop in calls to 911 and experienced far fewer behavioral incidents.
Where people gather in large numbers, public health is always a consideration. But a trained health responder has been missing from the library—until recently.
In January, Pima County Public Library, in partnership with the Pima County Health Department, became the first library in the nation to employ a public health nurse on site. Pogue spends most of her work week circulating through the Joel D. Valdez Main Library and five library branches, a stethoscope around her neck. She listens to the worries of the elderly, the unemployed and the homeless who turn to libraries for help and safety, and directs them to social services when appropriate.
How did this come about? Managing Librarian Karyn Prechtel began thinking about the possibility of a library public health nurse more than two years ago and was encouraged when the San Francisco Public Library hired an on-site social worker.
Pogue says she is blessed to have this chance to provide health care in a non-threatening location like the library. “It takes a nurse to put a gentle hand on theirs and say, "I'm here for you."
Pima County Public Library hires public health nurse [Pima Public Library]
"‐ Posted by Lisa Bunker, Pima County Public Library
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