By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
DETROIT – Who set up the first public computer at the Detroit Public Library and created the first-ever Web page at Wayne State University?
It wasn’t Comcast, Bill Gates or even Al Gore. Instead, it was the workers and volunteers who came together to form the Detroit Community AIDS Library, a community service staffed by Wayne State University’s Shiffman Medical Library.
DCAL Coordinator Linda Draper, who has been with the library since 1995, said the project began around 1994 with funding originally provided by the National Library of Medicine. Four libraries — the Detroit Public, Shiffman, and both Children’s and Harper Hospitals — joined Community Health Awareness Group, Friends Alliance, and the now-defunct Project Survival to make the library a reality.
While DCAL’s collection of books and journals is housed among the participating libraries, the DCAL staff works to pull the resources together and make information on HIV/AIDS readily available to both health professionals and the community at large, Draper said.
“Primarily we do most of our work for the CBOs — even the public health departments; we did a lot of our original work with them because they didn’t always have access to good computers, so we worked a lot with some of the early training,” Draper said. DCAL currently offers trainings on HIV/AIDS and other topics of interest to public health departments, research assistance, and public computers and training to both individuals and non-profit groups.
Mark Peterson, technical assistance coordinator for the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, called DCAL “sort of an information warehouse.”
“I think it’s one of those places that we can go as community providers to find updated resources instead of trying to find those resources one-by-one,” he said.
In addition, Peterson said that the DCAL staff is as helpful to individuals who are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS as they are to HIV/AIDS service professionals.
“I also send my friends who are HIV positive to that site to get more information,” he said.
Valuable free resource for the HIV community
In addition to the personal service DCAL offers, the library has put together “2005 User Friendly Manual: For Persons Living With HIV/AIDS,” a free resource which covers everything from a definition of the disease to what case management is and how it benefits patients. The Manual also has up-to-date listings of over 200 local organizations serving the HIV community’s needs for everything from case management to pet care in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Lapeer and St. Clair counties. In other words, the manual is a “one-stop shopping” resource for the HIV-affected community.
The Manual is updated regularly and distributed at no charge, online and in print, with Ryan White funding through a contract with the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion.
To download and read a copy of the User Friendly Manual, visit http://www.lib.wayne.edu/dcal. For more information about DCAL’s other services visit their web site or contact the library at 313-577-1094.