Being diagnosed with an illness is like taking on a new job.
You have to learn a lot in a very short time, and under a lot of stress.
Today, almost everyone turns to the Internet.
With a simple Web search, you can find more information than we ever dreamed of reading in the encyclopedia. But that can be overwhelming, too.
If you're not adept at the computer or want a little guidance, Charlotte has two medical libraries – at Presbyterian Hospital Matthews and Levine Children's Hospital – that are open to the public.
Each has friendly librarians willing to share their expertise and make free copies.
Darlene Byrd has been head librarian at Presbyterian's library since it opened in 1995.
The library, in 483 square feet behind a curved wall of glass bricks off the hospital lobby, has five computers in addition to shelves of journals, magazines and books. A second fulltime librarian, Shannon Caddell, has been on staff since 2001.
They assist medical staff, make appointments or work with drop-in visitors during regular hours, and also take appointments in the evening.
“We can pull a packet of information within just a few minutes,” Byrd said. “We give them the best resources and Web sites that are reliable, accurate and safe.
“We make sure they don't go away or sit at home feeling lost and frightened. We make sure they're not overwhelmed with information.”
Levine Children's Hospital
A newer medical library is at Levine Children's Hospital, which opened adjacent to Carolinas Medical Center last fall.
Librarian Angela Jones oversees the Junior League of Charlotte Family Resource Center, a 2,000-square-foot space.
The resource center is 20 times bigger than the previous pediatric library. Although it's geared toward parents wanting information about their children's illnesses, it's open to anyone.
Four computers are available, as well as books and pamphlets on subjects ranging from premature babies to spina bifida. There is also a lounge where library users can bring a snack or a meal and help themselves to free coffee.
Jones will help users identify trustworthy Internet sources. For example, Web sites created by parents of sick children might be “great for support and hearing how someone else copes,” Jones said, “but I always encourage people to get their hard-core facts somewhere else.”
Carolinas Medical Center has another medical library, which is part of the Charlotte Area Health Education Center. It's open to the public, but is geared more toward health-care professionals.
The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and libraries at UNC Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College also provide medical information.