Olivia Whitt

Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

Sonya Jones


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) is a federally funded grant program that helps SNAP-eligible populations make healthy choices, like those outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Together with implementation agencies (IAs) and local sites, SNAP-Ed provides direct nutrition education and facilitates policy, systems, and environmental strategies (PSEs) such as farmers markets and community gardens. This qualitative research investigated two specific aims: 1.) Understand the elements of organization capacity that influence a public library’s ability to implement obesity prevention programs and 2.) Evaluate the need for library staff public health knowledge when implementing obesity prevention programs at public libraries.

This study included twenty-one in-depth interviews with librarians or library staff

that offer nutrition-related obesity prevention programming at their public library branch or library system. The researcher implemented the constant comparison method to determine emerging themes and phenomena. Themes were coded in all transcripts, narratives that describe the theme content developed, and exemplary vignettes selected.

Aim 1 the researcher found that librarians and library staff were motivated to offer obesity prevention programs, but there are several organizational capacity

challenges that must be addressed to provide these types of programs for users. Librarians and library staff cited limited funding and reliance on volunteers as program partners as frequent barriers. However, they believed these barriers could be overcome with their organizational capacity strength - internal support for the program.

The researcher also found that many obesity prevention programs at public libraries are organized so that community partners answer most health and nutrition program participant questions. However, librarians and library staff receive health and nutrition questions from users in general. Librarians felt more confident directing users to printed health resources compared to non-printed health resources. Several librarians believed that more educational opportunities about helping users with their health and nutrition questions could help future librarians, especially those that serve low-income areas.

This research can help SNAP-Ed and implementing agencies as they continue to work with public libraries. SNAP-Ed implementers can recognize partnerships as a likely limiting organizational capacity at public libraries and work to develop that capacity when implementing SNAP-ed strategies.


© 2020, Olivia Whitt