Blue Trunk Libraries
The essential role of training
The WHO Library organizes and carries out a training session in a country when they have received over 20 Blue Trunk Libraries. Training is an essential element of this project, as it is not merely an operation to distribute books.
In the absence of a librarian or documentalist, the Blue Trunk Library is handed over to the BTL assistant whose task will be to manage and publicize it so that the information contained in the collection is disseminated at the district level. Consequently, the training given to these health workers is not intended to transform them into librarians, but into active partners to ensure the transmission of medical and health information.
The training is in two parts: The first part, which lasts for three days, is given by WHO librarians from HQ and the Regional Office and is intended for the project's supervisory team (the WHO/HIP, the national coordinator and the documentalist from the Ministry of Health). They, in turn in the second part, will then help to train the BTL assistants coming from the districts during the next two days.
Who is being trained?
At the site of each Blue Trunk Library, one or more health workers - a nurse, a doctor, a community health worker - is designated (by the community) to "be in charge". This person, seen as the catalyst for improved visibility of information and, in this role, comes for two days group training with others who have taken a similar role in other districts.
Who does the training?
The training workshop is carried out by the National Coordinator, the Health Information and Promotion Officer of the WHO Representative's Office, the documentalist from the ministry of health, any local health librarians (eg from a faculty of Medicine or local NGOs) and a librarian from WHO.
What is the training?
It consists of simple messages to be put across in an informal atmosphere and includes group discussions.
The training component is one which we hope will leave an indelible mark and ensure that maximum use is made of the books in the Blue Trunk Library. An important point to note is that people are NOT being trained to be librarians or documentalists. In health centres or district hospitals in many African countries there are no or few books and no one to organise or disseminate them. The reality is that the number of health staff themselves is often inadequate - a documentalist would be a luxury. We are training people to realise the value of information and use it. By providing a small ready-to-use library in a box, the training priorities are geared towards helping health workers to understand the importance of appropriate and up to date information in their daily work.
Many health workers have had little contact with printed information since their initial training but perhaps then libraries were not easily accessible or well-stocked. So the first part of the training tackles the question: what is health information, why do workers need it and how can the community benefit from better informed health workers? How does one promote its use? Group discussions give participants in similar professional situations, but who don't know each other, the opportunity to compare and talk about common problems in this area.
At the practical session the contents and organisation of the box are shown and handled by each participant who uses the publications to answer the type of questions that they have to face in their work environment. An exchange of ideas elicits ways on how the material can be rendered more appropriate for community health agents or the local population by translating or adapting it to their needs.
Decisions pertaining to "librarianship" give rise to heated debate on whether books will be loaned, for how long, etc. What do you do when a no-loan decision has been made and then "an important person" insists that the rule be changed for him? Where will the library be housed (not in the chief medical officer's office so he/she is not disturbed by its use). How to enrich its contents with local publications, etc. Lastly, proposals are made for evaluation of the use of the Blue Trunk Library by the community and how information can be collected which will help us to improve on different aspects of the project.
The training workshops generate much enthusiasm and motivation which we hope will continue when participants return home. Feedback from visits to the districts by the national coordinating teams in the next few months should give us an idea on the success and/or problems encountered which will need to be tackled.