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Previous studies indicated inadequate health literacy of American adults as one of the biggest challenges for consumer health information services provided in public libraries. Little attention, however, has been paid to public users' health literacy and health information behaviors. In order to bridge the research gap, the study aims to investigate users' self-perceived health information behavior according to their health literacy abilities. The proficiency levels of health literacy were determined by the scores of the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy Ability (S-TOFHLA). The study applied Sense-Making theory and self-perception theory for understanding users' self-perceived ability to find, evaluate, and use health information. The study employed self-administered surveys as a principal quantitative method and semi-structured in-depth interviews as the follow-up qualitative method. The study used non-parametric tests and descriptive statistics to analyze the data from surveys, and content analysis using open-coding, axial-coding, and theory notes to analyze the data from interviews. According to the findings of surveys, 98.5 percent of study participants had proficient levels of health literacy, and most of them perceived their abilities to find, evaluate, and use health information as high. There were some significant associations between health literacy and user demographic characteristics such as gender and the level of education. In comparison with a majority of the study participants' proficient health literacy and perception of their abilities, most of the interviewees encountered considerable barriers to using health information services in public libraries. Since users do not have sufficient knowledge about assessing the quality of health information, and have difficulty in making a treatment decision based on the health information they found, public libraries need to promote user education or health literacy workshops, particularly by collaboration with health-related organizations in a community. The study suggests that public libraries can contribute to public health of their communities by enhancing the health literacy of users and overcoming challenges of health information services by better understanding their health information behavior.
consumer health information, health information behavior, information behavior, mixed methods, public library
Date of Defense
February 17, 2012.
A Dissertation submitted to the School of Library & Information Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Don Latham, Professor Directing Dissertation; Robert Glueckauf, University Representative; Besiki Stvilia, Committee Member; Lorri Mon, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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