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Health Literacy and Physical Literacy in Library Practice

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Parachute play for physical literacy at the Tuzzy Consoritum Library in Barrow, Alaska.
Image courtesy Erin Hollingsworth, Public Services Librarian.


Dr. Noah Lenstra, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Project Director, Let’s Move in Libraries (LetsMoveLibraries.org)



This special issue of Open Information Science seeks submissions related to the theme of "Health Literacy and Physical Literacy in Library Practice." We invite case studies focused on services and programs offered in particular libraries, as well as general analyses of how libraries support health and physical literacies. This special issue seeks to deepen our understanding of how libraries support health literacy and physical literacy through their programs, services, and spaces. We also invite submissions on challenges libraries confront, as well as philosophical and theoretical submissions on the place of health literacy or physical literacy within library practice. Finally, submissions focused on professional or continuing education programs focused on enabling library professionals to better support these literacies are invited.

Submissions are invited on library practices in any type of library environment (i.e. academic, school, public). Submissions on public library practices are especially encouraged.

During the past five years, public libraries have been recognized by a diverse array of policy makers and scholars as vital contributors to health and wellness (e.g. Correal, 2018; Morgan et al., 2016; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2017). Since their inception, public libraries have in one form or another attempted to support health (Rubenstein, 2012). There is evidence, however, that the scope of how health happens – or at least the scope of how health is studied – in public libraries is expanding. Part of this trend can be attributed to expanded ideas of what “health” is. For instance, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2018) has said “health” should be defined “in the broadest possible terms,” suggesting that past definitions have been overly narrow. Defining “health” broadly, the American Library Association published in 2018 two practitioner-oriented books on supporting health in public libraries (Carson, 2018; Flaherty, 2018).

One sign of the expanding scope of library services is the growth of physical literacy programming in libraries. In 2014, 22.7% of U.S. public libraries reported offering fitness classes, such as Yoga, Tai Chi, or Zumba (Bertot et al., 2014). More recently, 1,157 public libraries in the U.S. and Canada report offering movement-based programs (Lenstra, 2017).
Health literacy is one of the major factors contributing to the quality of health. According to the World Health Organization (2018) health literacy refers to “the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health,” and the promotion of health literacy “addresses the environmental, political and social factors that determine health.” Physical literacy refers to “the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active for life” and a physically literate person “has the knowledge, skills and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity” (Corbin, 2016).

Bertot, John Carlo, Brian Real, Jean Lee, Abigail J. McDermott, and Paul T. Jaeger. 2015. 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey: Survey Findings and Results. College Park: University of Maryland Information Policy and Access Center. http://www.ala.org/research/digitalinclusion.
Carson, J. (2018). Get your community moving: Physical literacy programs for all ages. Chicago: ALA Editions.
Corbin, Charles B. (2016). "Implications of physical literacy for research and practice: A commentary." Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 87(1), 14-27.
Correal, (2018). Once it was overdue books. Now librarians fight overdoses. New York Times, Feb 28, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/nyregion/librarians-opioid-heroin-overdoses.html.
Flaherty, M.G. (2018). Promoting individual and community health at the library. Chicago: ALA Editions.
Lenstra, N. (2017). Movement-Based Programs in US and Canadian Public Libraries: Evidence of Impacts from an Exploratory Survey. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12(4), 214-232. https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/29267/21458.
Morgan, A. U., Dupuis, R., D’Alonzo, B., Johnson, A., Graves, A., Brooks, K. L., ... & Grande, D. (2016). Beyond books: Public libraries as partners for population health. Health Affairs, 35(11), 2030-2036.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2017). Social and economic environment: Public Libraries. https://www.cultureofhealth.org/en/taking-action/creating-healthier-communities/social-and-economic-environment.html.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2018) 2018 RWJF Culture of Health Prize Finalists Announced. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/news-events/2018-rwjf-culture-of-health-prize-finalists-announced.
Rubenstein, E. (2012). From social hygiene to consumer health: Libraries, health information, and the American public from the late nineteenth century to the 1980s. Library & Information History, 28(3), 202-219.
World Health Organization. (2017). Health promotion: Track 2: Health literacy and health behaviour. http://www.who.int/healthpromotion/conferences/7gchp/track2/en/


Authors are kindly invited to register at our paper processing system at: http://www.editorialmanager.com/opis/ and submit their contribution.
Every manuscript should be clearly marked as intended for this special issue. All papers will go through the Open Information Science’s high standards, quick, fair and comprehensive peer-review procedure. Instructions for authors are available here. In case of any questions, please contact Guest Editor Prof. Noah Lenstra (lenstra@uncg.edu) or Managing Editor (katarzyna.grzegorek@degruyteropen.com).

As an author of Open Information Science you will benefit from:

  • transparent, comprehensive and fast peer review managed by our esteemed Guest Editor;
  • efficient route to fast-track publication and full advantage of De Gruyter e-technology;
  • no publication fees;
  • free language assistance for authors from non-English speaking regions.

The deadline for 500 word abstracts is June 1, 2018. Final versions of accepted abstracts will be required in mid-October.