BMC Public Health (May 2024)

How Ohio public library systems respond to opioid-related substance use: a descriptive analysis of survey results

  • Patrick M. Schnell,
  • Ruochen Zhao,
  • Sydney Schoenbeck,
  • Kaleigh Niles,
  • Sarah R. MacEwan,
  • Martin Fried,
  • Janet E. Childerhose

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 24, no. 1
pp. 1 – 11


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Abstract Background Public libraries in the United States have experienced increases in opioid-related substance use in their communities and on their premises. This includes fatal and non-fatal overdose events. Some libraries have adopted response measures in their branches to deter substance use or prevent overdose. A small number of libraries around the nation have decided to stock the opioid antagonist naloxone (Narcan) for staff to administer to patrons who experience overdose. This response measure has generated extensive media attention. Although Ohio ranks fourth in age-adjusted drug mortality rate in the United States, there has been no investigation of whether Ohio libraries are observing opioid-related transactions, consumption, and/or overdose events, or which measures they have adopted in response to these activities. We conducted a multimethod survey with Ohio public library directors to identify the response measures they have adopted. We present descriptive findings from the quantitative and qualitative items in our survey. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional 54-item multimethod survey of public library system directors (one per system) in Ohio. Directors of each of Ohio’s public library systems were invited to participate via email. Results Of 251 library systems, 56 responded (22.3% response rate), with 34 respondents (60.7%) indicating awareness of opioid-related transactions, consumption, and/or overdose on their premises. Most (n = 43, 76.8%) did not stock naloxone in their buildings. Over half (n = 34, 60.7%) reported implementing one or more non-naloxone response measures. These measures focus on improving security for staff and patrons, deterring opioid-related transactions (purchases and exchanges) and consumption, and providing educational events on substance use. Nearly half (n = 25, 47.2%) partner with community organizations to provide opioid response measures. A similar proportion reported adequate funding to respond to opioid-related substance use (n = 23, 45.1%), and most (n = 38, 74.5%) reported adequate support from their boards and communities. Few respondents have implemented evaluations of their response measures. Conclusions Ohio public libraries are responding to evidence of opioid-related transactions, consumption, and/or overdose on their premises with a range of measures that focus on substance use prevention and deterrence. Most Ohio library systems do not stock naloxone. Respondents indicated they prefer to call 911 and let first responders handle overdose events. The majority of respondents indicated their library systems have political capacity to respond to evidence of opioid-related substance use on their premises, but have limited operational and functional capacity. Findings suggest the need to revisit assumptions that public libraries are willing to stock naloxone to respond to overdose events, and that libraries have the resources to respond robustly to opioid-related transactions, consumption, and/or overdose on their premises.