By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
NAHANT — The Nahant Public Library is among 132 Massachusetts libraries to join in the fight for Lyme disease prevention.
About a third of Massachusetts libraries have teamed up with health care entities in a project called Stop Lyme: Information for Tick-Borne Disease Identification, Prevention and Patient Care. The initiative provided the libraries with a textbook on the basics of Lyme disease. Information booklets are available near the reference desk.
“Mass Department of Health estimates as many as 50,000 new cases of Lyme disease in Massachusetts every year and new tick diseases are still being discovered,” said Library Director Sharon Hawkes. “The database will help people find information and articles that are timely, trustworthy and relevant. Armed with solid information, people are better able to decide what to do when it comes to identifying, treating and preventing disease.”
The project will conclude Sunday at 4 p.m. with a forum on tick-borne illnesses called Ick, a Tick at Nahant Town Hall.
But the resources will still be available to patrons. A collection of six books on various aspects of tick-borne disease, clinical textbooks, and a children’s book have been added to the statewide e-book platform, Axis360, and can now be accessed by anyone in Massachusetts.
A database of research articles called the Lymebrary is available to residents.
The program supports the idea that libraries can be used as information centers, rather than just a place to house books, a sentiment Hawkes has brought to fruition in the almost two years since her move to Nahant.
Hawkes is working to catalog and preserve the art, furnishings and artifacts of the library, thanks to a $21,000 historic grant. She’s also preserving the 300 remaining books from the library’s original 1819, 1,000-piece collection.
A telescope was purchased last year from the Aldrich Astronomical Society, one of the oldest astronomy clubs in New England, and is available for lending. Last summer, a program for children encouraged them to take their books to the beach. Community events have been sponsored by the library including Nahant Reads Together, a townwide book group that features library-sponsored lectures and activities related to a common book that residents choose to read together.
The library has also partnered with community organizations to bring in speakers on hot topics and political problems. Last year there was a lecture on women’s issues and how Muslims are treated in the United States. More recently Hawkes held forums for self-publishing authors and informational meetings on how to spot so-called fake news. The Mass Memories Road Show passed through to collect a bit of the town’s culture through residents’ family photographs and stories.
The Lyme Disease prevention project was awarded federal funding from the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health under a cooperative agreement with University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.
“It is imperative that we put sound information in the hands of every family to help prevent tick-borne diseases such as Lyme and reduce their severity through early diagnosis and treatment,” said Deputy State Epidemiologist Catherine Brown, who will attend Sunday’s forum. “I am interested in this opportunity to see how we can work together with libraries to inform the public about health concerns such as tick-borne diseases.”
Dr. Sam Donta of the Infectious Disease Society of America, Margot Malachowski of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and Lawrence Dapsis of Cape Cod Cooperative Extension will also attend.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and the Town of Nahant partnered in the project with additional assistance from Cape Cod Cooperative Extension and the Department of Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.