County library system to help with vaccination effort

The Johnson County Public Library will begin assisting callers with vaccination appointments today, as part of an effort with the Johnson County Health Department and Johnson Memorial Health to get some of the most vulnerable county residents protected from COVID-19.

Vaccine appointments are open to Hoosiers who are at least 70 years old, as well as healthcare workers and first responders, which include firefighters, law enforcement, EMS workers, reserve military members and volunteers who interact with the public, according to the state’s vaccination registration website.

Making sure every eligible resident has access to the vaccine is an important motivation for library workers, said Sarah Taylor, assistant director.

“I think this is really important for the community and right now we’re trying to make it a priority. It’s really helpful for the public who may need a little help. We’ll see how it goes with the demand and adjust as necessary. We’ll take calls over the phone and get back to people and get them scheduled as quickly as we can,” Taylor said.

“Helping people work through barriers is important to us. We want to make sure it’s accessible for everyone in the community and not let a lack of internet stand in the way of getting an appointment.”

Amber Turner, the library’s human resources director, and Betsy Swearingen, director of the Johnson County Health Department, met to discuss ways the library could assist in vaccination efforts. They decided having library personnel help senior citizens in setting up vaccination appointments would be the best path forward, said Jody Veldkamp, the library’s marketing and communications manager.

The Indiana Department of Health has a 2-1-1 phone line for reserving vaccination times, but callers often have long wait times, he said.

“There’s a lot of hold times, people are having trouble getting through,” Veldkamp said. “We have a population that is not comfortable using a computer. The library would be able to take phone calls and schedule appointments using the same portal as the Johnson County Health Department.”

Indiana residents who don’t live in Johnson County can call the library as well. While library personnel will mostly be focused on setting up appointments through Johnson Memorial Health, they can also help callers set up vaccine appointments at other hospitals and clinics through the Indiana COVID-19 vaccine registration website, Veldkamp said in an email.

As of Tuesday, 11,781 Johnson County residents had received their first vaccine shot, and 2,282 of those residents had also received their second shot and were fully vaccinated, according to data from the Indiana State Department of Health.

The vaccination is free of cost, meaning no one will be turned away as long as they have an appointment scheduled, Swearingen said.

“Absolutely no one will be turned away,” she said. “I think the population we’re servicing right now is comfortable with the public library. They feel welcome and safe. If (library employees) can help them get the vaccine, with the hoops they have to go through with the computer technology, I think it will be really great for people. It’s a great service the library is providing.”

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Andy Bell-Baltaci is the Daily Journal’s education reporter, along with part-time sports writer, focusing on the county’s six public school districts, private schools, Franklin College and University of Indianapolis. He has a cat named Lucas after Lucas Oil Stadium, so the next one is bound to be named Gainbridge. He orders a pineapple pizza from Greek’s every Wednesday. He can be reached at or 317-736-2718. Follow him on Twitter: @andybbjournali1.