According to an article published by the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and intensified disparities in access to information and health disparities between various populations. One of the core factors underlying these health disparities are the varying degrees of accessibility of health information for various populations. Accessibility encompasses both physical and intellectual accessibility. While physical accessibility refers to whether information is physically obtainable, intellectual accessibility refers to whether information is understandable.
Information and information professionals (such as librarians) are instrumental in ensuring that every individual has access to the resources and opportunities that will enable them to optimize their ability to live a long and healthy life. Many different types of information-related factors influence this ability, including an individual’s awareness of, and access to, trustworthy health information; their awareness of, and their ability to articulate, their health-related information needs; their health literacy levels (which encompasses their ability to obtain, understand, and act on health information); and the strategies they use to seek out, evaluate, and benefit from health information.
All of these factors influence the individual’s potential and actual health outcomes. Fortunately, these factors can be influenced by information professionals, who have both an opportunity and a responsibility to help to shape these factors in such a way that they optimize each individual’s capability to be healthy and to flourish in all facets of their lives.
One of the central institutions serving the information needs of all populations – libraries – are facing the need to close in unprecedented numbers due to the risks posed by COVID-19. However, many public, academic, and K-12 school librarians are finding ways for their libraries to continue to serve the public.
Libraries are continuing to offer electronic access to their digital resources, and many are still offering internet access that people (some of whom would otherwise have no internet access) can use from outside the library. Additionally, numerous libraries are collecting and curating collections of COVID-19 resources on their websites.
Read the full story on the University of Maryland iSchool website, including examples of action taken by libraries across the US.