University of South Florida

College of Arts & Sciences



research group at library

Researchers from the School of Information at the University of South Florida (USF) have established a pediatric library at the Morton Plant North Bay Hospital Recovery Center, a 72-bed, co-ed facility and the only freestanding psychiatric hospital in Pasco County, FL. The project is led by Dr. Natalie Taylor, Dr. Peter Cannon, and Denise Shereff, MLIS, AHIP, who are currently assisted by four graduate students, Brittany Baum, Janet Chan, Erin Jacobs, and Kati Scanlon.

The library combines research and practice by exploring how reading and information literacy can assist with mental health therapies. The behavioral health pediatric library project aims to develop a model for delivering mental health literacy services through a variety of media as, well as adopting new procedures for the delivery of these services through mobile technologies.

Through readers’ advisory with the patrons of the library and collection development of the resources, the research team is building a model of responsive librarianship in practice. Beyond circulation, the behavioral health pediatric library project also includes four additional research and practical contributions. These include:

  • The expansion of the Decision Support System Catalog (DeSSCat), first developed by the research team for an earlier project at the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office, Inc. (DACCO) in Tampa, FL.
  • The DeSSCat is an integrated, web-based bibliotherapy discovery tool that helps the librarians and residents find the information they need to choose the right book for their treatment plans. For this project, the tool has been adapted to meet the needs of the pediatric population. It not only tracks circulation statistics (while ensuring patrons are anonymous), it also encompasses an extensive tagging system developed to help librarians find the right resource for a pediatric resident’s bibliotherapy needs. This database is designed to be more useful than traditional bibliographies and existing databases, using a controlled language and taxonomy developed specifically for this project and population.
  • Bibliotherapy Subject Finding Aids, which have been developed by the team for use by the residents to help them choose a text to read.
  • Survey instruments, which have been developed for use by the team in evaluating the library's services. These surveys are for both the pediatric residents and the mental health professionals employed by the facility and again work within strict privacy parameters to ensure that the collection is the object of research not the patrons.
  • A model pediatric mental health literacy (MHL) program, that has been developed by the team to address the needs of this special population. This MHL program targets the skills needed by the pediatric residents of an acute crisis facility. Group sessions have included online health information literacy training, demonstrations of the therapeutic possibilities of graphic novels and creative writing, and instruction in book review technique to help patrons discover deeper meaning in the books they read.

As mentioned, these library services build on the prior work at the DACCO library, which was spearheaded by Cannon and Shereff and funded by American Library Association, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and LSTA grants.

DACCO is distinguishable from the pediatric library for its work with adult female residents over much longer periods of time. That project along with other research led Dr. Peter Cannon to develop the framework of responsive librarianship which is a data-driven research scheme dedicated to the delivery of personalized library services in response to an individual's mental health concern.

Our next project, building on the findings from DACCO, the pediatric behavioral health library, and the tenants of responsive librarianship, involves the development of library programming using graphic novels as a tool to help those with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental issues improve their social skills, including constructing a stronger sense of empathy. With the acute need for better access to mental health care in the state (per the Florida Behavioral Health Association in Florida, the ratio of population to mental health providers is 750:1, as compared to 350:1 in California and 420:1 in New York), we are ideally demonstrating how research can respond to the needs of communities and assist with better service delivery. 

Return to article listing

About CAS

The College of Arts and Sciences is the intellectual heart of the University of South Florida. We are a community of teachers and scholars united in the belief that broadly educated people are the basis of a just, free, and prosperous society. By focusing on the big questions facing all of humanity, we prepare students for successful, socially responsible personal and professional lives. By conducting innovative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship, we advance knowledge in ways that prepare us to address complex social and scientific problems and enhance the quality of life for people and communities.