University of Arizona

Pima County/University of Arizona

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Overview of Innovation

An exciting partnership between the Pima County Public Library and the Pima County Health Department has created opportunities for public health nursing in the Tucson, Ariz., public library system.  This partnership was created to provide more help to library patrons seeking information about health and health care services, address the increasing numbers of behavioral health issues in the library, and to reduce the number of 911 calls related to behaviors.  Frequently, patrons required more help and support than the librarians alone could provide, so the library system approached the county health department for assistance.  One FTE of a public health nurse position from the Pima County Health Department was assigned to the library.  The cost of this position is shared between the library and the county health department.  The public health nurse provides health information, referral services, health screening, and follow-up to ensure that patrons are able to find needed services.  For the homeless library patrons, the nurse is a source of help, information, and support to get connected to services.  The public health nurse also advocates for patrons in need of help who might not be able to afford to pay for services.  The University of Arizona sends nursing students to the library for their community health rotation.  These students have worked with the public health nurses to conduct community assessments, health education classes, and targeted community interventions such as a falls prevention program. The nursing students also developed a project to address hunger in the community.  Staff involved in the library community health program says that good planning, clear goals, and the use of a planning model are building blocks that lead to program success.  Since the program began, there has been a decrease in 911 calls from the library for behavioral health issues; at the same time, there has been an increase in 911 calls for urgent health problems that might have been missed without the public health nurse’s intervention.  There is a great deal of community support for the program, which successfully addresses critical community needs.


Amber Mathewson
Deputy Director
Pima County Public Library

Kathleen Malkin
Public Health Administrator
Nursing Services, Pima County Health Department