|Some of our roles were traditional, while others were unique. The competencies and skills of the librarian in each instance played key roles.
A. After 9/11, the NJHA recognized the need for a database to identify the victims. The NJ DOH (Department of Health) was suppose to do it, and in their inability to get it accomplished, our President was able to tell the NJ Commissioner of Health that NJHA could do it for them. I suggested to the executive that we create and post it on the Web site in short order. I wrote up the programming requirements for the database, researched the legal issues, and wrote the disclaimer. The patient victim database was online within a day of getting authorization to do it. We tracked more than a thousand victims through it, and were able to alert family and friends to whether their family member was treated and released or admitted or transferred. I believe the fact that I sat in on all the daily emergency updates, heard the problems, analyzed the needs, and made recommendations to solve the problems was key.
B. I updated the database on a daily basis with the NJ State Epidemiologist, who gave me the excel files. I, in turn, worked with our programmer to get them online each day.
C. I created a new Web area for all of our NJ hospitals as well as the public. It is archived: http://www.njha.com/njresponse/index.aspx
D. For a fund for the victims, I also researched the best way and wording for doing this. An online fund was created and a Web site was set up for donations. The page that is left describes the disposition of the fund: http://www.njha.com/njresponse/ReliefFundDollars.aspx
E. Oddly enough, we in the library found ourselves to be the unofficial hoax busters. In the early days of 9/11 and anthrax, there were so many rumors flying around; people came into the library visibly upset because of the talk or the emails. We researched each rumor and gently corrected or pointed out the hoax to whoever was talking, relating or emailing it.
F. I also found myself in the role of disseminating health or hospital related updates about what was happening with 9/11 to all the libraries in the state via several listservs. I asked the recipients to further distribute the information to their publics. For example, through the listservs, I shared the patient-victim database, the NJHA press releases, the toll free number, the trauma resources, the mental health resources, the blood bank information, the donation fund, etc…
G. We also distributed in the first day or two, when the systems were overloaded, paper copies of the daily updates on the Web to all staff in the building.
H. In the first and second day after 9/11 in particular (and really for the entire two weeks) we answered non-stop phone calls from people looking for family members. We also fielded calls from good Samaritans wanting to help, legislators wanting to help their constituents, etc… None of these interactions were really either reference or research; but, we were there and helped along with the other NJHA staff.
I. I was asked more than once by our PR department to take a reporter’s call to describe the patient victim database for a story they were writing.
J. I also completed several reports for the Governor of New York and the U.S. military about the patient-victim database, which included statistics from the hospitals.
K. For the anthrax issue, I was privy to many confidential communications to emergency personnel via the listservs I manage. Keeping sources confidential, I was able to connect one librarian in my consortia who had told me she had a bizarre patron that concerned her. A physician was sending odd email and using the library computer to check out water reservoirs. Our Emergency Director was able to connect his State Police liaison with her. The library PCs were eventually taken by the police for further investigation.
L. For the Tsunami disaster, I was asked to research charities for our donation of more than 100,000 dollars. Again, I created the Web site and wrote the proper language for it. I got to call and talk to all the potential charities about NJHA and NJ hospitals giving money to them and how it would work and what it would be used for. We eventually gave the large sum of money we collected to Save the Children.
J. I Almost forgot to mention that during Orange Alerts (a terrorist alert level) I would take all the core reference tools into boxes and drive around with them in my car trunk so I would have them handy at home if needed.
K. Also, for Orange Alerts, I would remind and help the Emergency Preparedness and Health Planning departments get back-up files of all their e-mail and listserv contacts and fax numbers etc… so they could work from home if needed.
L. I also participated in preparedness activities by evaluating software and training people to use these technology tools.
M. Countless times, I have had to discuss and cover all the particulars about the Patient Victim database with other state hospital associations and even our internal Emergency Preparedness staff, for their discussion of it with others.
A. The research requests were fast, furious and, at times, highly unusual. Some could only be answered via primary research. We were asked to answer questions about such topics as radiation at the World Trade Center site and the possibility of locating people under the rubble by using their cell phones. One hospital called us and asked if any biological agents were used in the attacks. We felt more like investigative reporters at times! Another example from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina was a request to find a hospital for a displaced physician from Louisiana. We started to get a few more questions like this and, eventually, our Association needed to take a broader look at the issue.
B. We were asked to compile all the mental health clinics into a resource handout. We surveyed and quickly got that online for anyone.
C. We kept links for information sources from the government and news sites up to date on the Web site. It became a huge list. See:
D. Due to the intense need for information, I worked with the Middle Atlantic Region of the NLM and the state organization, The Health Sciences Library Association of N.J., to put together a seminar. It took place on December 5, 2001 and was very well attended. It was called, Thinking the Unthinkable – Biochemical Terrorism and Disasters: Information Resources for Medical Librarians, and is available online at:
I also prepared a checklist for medical libraries that I gave permission to be widely reprinted. The checklist is available at:
E. I wrote an article about disaster preparedness, post 9/11, called, “It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Build the Ark.” It is available at:
F. Along with the article, I also developed and published an online Memorandum of Understanding that allows medical librarians to find buddy libraries and easily create cooperative agreements.
H. Along the cooperative lines, in the second week of 9/11, I called the Robert M. Bird Health Sciences Library at the University of Oklahoma. They cooperated greatly by sharing citations for all the books they had purchased for healthcare professionals on psychosocial and trauma issues Likewise, I asked a medical library colleague to do a resource list of books for children from their consumer health collection as well as one on grief for adults. See:
I. One urgent thing I had to do was buy equipment fast. Within an hour of 9/11 happening I was in Circuit City taking one of the last TVs off the shelf and charging it to my corporate AmEx. Our need for a TV in the building was extreme! We had one on the second floor, but needed one on the first floor.
J. We regularly and extensively assisted the Emergency Preparedness department with the content and organization of their Web sites. See: