Prepare to document your library’s value

The initial health insurance open enrollment period, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the meaningful role public libraries serve in their communities. By documenting the work your public library undertakes on behalf of assisting its community in connecting to the information and access points they need related to the Affordable Care Act, you can build the profile of public libraries in general as well as become more visible as a local community resource.

To collect quantitative data that displays this value, your library should take some steps before the enrollment period begins on October 1:

  • During the week before enrollment opens, document the number of uses made of public access computers; you can use this figure later to contrast with use during the weeks of the enrollment period, through March 31.
  • If you have a public computer lab or classroom, be sure to reserve it for about two-hour periods of time for weekly online enrollment opportunities; these hours are also quantitative and you can record the numbers of community members who visit the lab or classroom to enroll on a weekly basis.
  • If your library has a publicly accessible TTY connection, be sure staff understand its use and communicate the parameters under which your library will make it available to community members who need its support to reach telephone assistance from Covered California. The numbers who do can also be documented.
  • If your library itself doesn’t subscribe to Language Line, the professional service through which community members who need interpretive assistance in order to enroll in the insurance marketplace, find out which city or county office does. Be sure to communicate with that agency about the library’s likely need to understand its use during the enrollment period and be sure that appropriate library staff receive the little training its use requires. Such occasions become yet another quantitative detail to track during the enrollment period.

Making these counts and arrangements now will put you in a good position to show the amount of assistance (value) you deliver during the initial open enrollment period. Like almost every challenge, this period of open enrollment provides a great opportunity–in this case, to collect hard data to use in future advocacy.