Couple Walking Together

Our mission & organization

PlaneTree Health Library is an independent, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Our mission is to provide the public with free access to trustworthy health and medical information. We believe that being well-informed enables people to take better care of their health and partner more effectively with their health care professionals.

We provide information to consumers via our e-newsletter, website, and Facebook, and also manage specialized book collections for patients and family members at Good Samaritan Hospital. The work of our part-time staff members and volunteers is directed by a board of community members.

We appreciate your trust in us as an independent resource for reliable health and medical information. Our free services are funded by community members who value the information they access through our online resources. Please help support our work by making a tax-deductible donation and/or by participating in the AmazonSmile program.

Our history

PlaneTree services in the South Bay are affiliated with the international Planetree Alliance, which first began in San Francisco in the late 1970’s. Planetree’s patient-centered, patient-empowering approach to care was a remarkably maverick idea at that time. Now over 375 health care organizations in 14 countries partner or are affiliated with the PlaneTree Alliance.

Initially sponsored by San Jose Medical Center, the second affiliate of the Planetree  Alliance consisted of our library and a hospital unit. Housed in a lovely Eastlake Victorian near downtown San Jose, we began serving the public in 1989. Our compassionate, personalized assistance was offered in Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as English. Patrons researched their medical concerns in a collection that soon became quite extensive in both breadth and depth.

For nearly two decades, we relied extensively upon support from sponsors and various government and corporate grants, in addition to donations from patrons. PlaneTree was a program of The Health Trust from 1996 to 2002. The following year, our new sponsor, Good Samaritan Hospital, relocated our services to the hospital’s Mission Oaks campus in Los Gatos.

Our first home in San Jose

Our library’s first home in San Jose, CA

We have been an independent nonprofit relying on community support since 2007. Although Good Sam no longer sponsors our services, they generously provide our administrative office space for a nominal fee.

In 2008 a grant from the California State Library funded an initial partnership with the Santa Clara County Library District. In October 2011, our library reference services moved to a member library of the District, the Cupertino Library. The PlaneTree Health Information Center was managed by us during its first two years, followed by District management until the Center’s collection was incorporated into the Cupertino Library in 2017.

Cupertino Library

Cupertino Library

Our patient libraries at Good Samaritan Hospital

In addition to providing the services described on our homepage, we also maintain small book collections for patients and families at Good Samaritan Hospital. We invite you to make use of these resources if you or a loved one is ever a patient there.

On Good Sam’s oncology unit, an airy room with comfortable chairs and tables, two computers, and oodles of books await patients and visitors. One large bookcase is devoted to a cancer collection specially selected by PlaneTree Health Library staff.

Pregnant women on bedrest in the antepartum unit are visited weekly by our knowledgeable, dedicated volunteer. Susan’s book cart is stocked with reading material on having twins (or triplets!) and other topics of interest to women experiencing complicated pregnancies.

Our name

Planetree Leaves

European relatives of American sycamore trees are called plane trees. In ancient Greece, the father of Western medicine would take his students outside on pleasant days to study under the shade of one. To honor Hippocrates and nature’s healing influence, founder Angelica Thieriot named the organization “Planetree.”