New Patient Health Library Seeks to Inform and Empower

Deborah Sommer, right, the medical librarian at the new UCSF Patient Health Library, discusses the facility with diabetes researcher Betty Maddux at a Dec. 16 open house.

The UCSF Patient Health Library is a cozy, somewhat unassuming place tucked away along a corridor in Mount Zion’s A Building.

But despite its small size, the library opened its doors in December with some very large goals: to offer comprehensive information about a wide range of medical conditions, and to empower patients and their loved ones as they seek to educate themselves about their health.

“Searching for information on your own can be overwhelming,” said Deborah Sommer, the medical librarian hired to assist the new library’s visitors. “I’m here to help teach people where to find high-quality, credible information so they can go back and do it from home without feeling lost.”

The library includes three computer stations with access to Internet health resources such as the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus service and UCSF Medical Center’s online library — resources that can also be accessed from home through the library’s website. In addition, patients can browse through a variety of medical books and journals.

“We offer information on all kinds of diseases, procedures and lab tests, but also on wellness, for people interested in prevention and staying healthy,” Sommer said.

The library is still making its presence known, even within its own campus, and most of the visitors at a Dec. 16 open house were seeing the room for the first time.

“We had to come check it out, and hopefully our patients will come over here as well,” said Sheila Gleeson, administrative director of the UCSF Pain Management Center, located just across the street from the library. “It’s a great resource.”

The UCSF Patient Health Library offers comprehensive information on a wide range of medical conditions.

Sommer said she had also received positive initial feedback from the library’s most important critics: patients and their families.

“They’re very happy to be able to come here while they are waiting for an appointment or for a loved one who is receiving treatment,” she said. “We’re providing a space where they feel welcomed and empowered to find the information they’re looking for.”

The Patient Health Library is an extension of the H.M. Fishbon Memorial Library at the UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion. Over the years, patient demand for lay health information exceeded Fishbon Library’s capacity, and in 2008 plans were developed to create a separate patient-oriented library.

The project was funded by the Mount Zion Health Fund, and a donation from longtime UCSF clinical professor Leonard Rosenman, MD, paid for the hiring of a medical librarian.

The library is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 1600 Divisadero St., on the first floor of the A Building.

Photos by Robin Hindery

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UCSF Patient Health Library