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Library serves college community in time of crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of patient care, training, research, learning and community engagement across academic medicine. In March, the physical spaces of Harrell Health Sciences Library closed, but the work did not cease.

The virtual library, an extension of the physical library, remained open, and librarians and staff worked to deliver services remotely. Most of the library resources and services were able to go on uninterrupted, as there was and is an increase in research and information needs.

Information has been needed to deal with COVID-19, and the library created an information portal with a curated selection of sources and search strategies regarding coronavirus research, COVID-19 prevention and testing. Librarians are providing rapid evidence searching to support the treatment of high-risk patients and specialty care areas, and providing comprehensive searching for evidence-based information on topics such as personal protective equipment.

Three members of the library staff worked closely with the College of Medicine University Park Curriculum over spring break in order to help faculty, staff and students to develop a Zoom-based workflow and facilitate Zoom breakout rooms for the active-learning-based curriculum. Library staff and faculty are part of a newly created Educational Technology Team that assists with training on using Zoom and other remote teaching questions, and the group created an Online Teaching FAQs resource in conjunction with the Woodward Center for Excellence in Health Sciences Education.

Some medical students took on new research projects and performed systematic reviews under library faculty guidance. All of the librarians have liaison assignments with education and research responsibilities, and have stayed in contact with faculty, students, residents and staff throughout this time.

The librarians continue to provide patrons with research help via teleconferencing and e-mail. Librarians meet with users via Zoom and share their desktops to guide them through EndNote and Mendeley questions, and how to locate and navigate needed resources. They have used Zoom to create and record step-by-step tutorials to answer research needs.

Medical residents needed more online education opportunities, and librarians were able to quickly create an information portal for them to make access to the resources easier. A set of virtual learning modules was created to introduce new students, residents and fellows to library services and resources as the new academic year gets underway.

Regularly scheduled library workshops continue to take place via Zoom, and new workshops have been created to address work-from-home-specific needs.

As the world creates new 3D-printed PPE, the library has kept up on the news, new research, licensing and other issues, such as who is liable if someone gets injured or contracts COVID-19 while wearing 3D-printed PPE. It’s important to stay up to date in order to help others stay informed.

While physical items have not been available to check out, interlibrary loan requests for electronic items continue to be filled promptly. Recently, a partnership with the Sim Center has allowed the library to provide the ACLS recertification class materials for checkout. For the duration of the crisis, late fees for items that remain checked out to individuals from before the library physical space closed have been waived.

Not only have library staff been busy helping out the local community, but they have reached out and reached far. One librarian has joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recently formed Librarian Reserve Corps (LRC). The LRC, which consists of medical librarians and public health professionals, reviews COVID-19 literature in support of the mission of WHO. This librarian was also invited to speak at a Pennsylvania Library Association webinar about how libraries are responding to the pandemic, along with assisting University Libraries with developing the Ask-A-Librarian COVID-19 FAQs.

Librarians also play roles in disaster preparedness. One librarian recently completed the National Library of Medicine’s Disaster Health Information Specialist program, learning how to plan for, respond to and recover from emergency and disaster situations. Another librarian is the in process of completing the Medical Library Association’s Consumer Health Information Specialist program, in order to better provide consumer health information services to the general public.

In addition to staying in contact with students, faculty and staff, the library team members continued to stay in contact with one another to ensure that everyone working for the library had the most current information and strategies to best serve users in any aspect.

The library has now reopened with adjusted hours and guidelines.

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