Pandemic Planning Page

The Toolkit has a new page to assist libraries taking part in pandemic planning.  The page (click here to view) contains links to the CDC’s H1N1 site (including a link to follow the CDC Twitter content), as well as to several Word documents that contain information about pandemic planning, some service continuity issues that libraries may need to address, and a sample table-top exercise that can be used to assist in pandemic planning.

The focus of some of the content of the page is on academic health sciences libraries, but the content can be adapted to suit the needs of other types of libraries or institutions.  We will continue to develop the page, adding relevant content as it emerges.

Advancing the Standard for Service Continuity

Recently, Dan has made two presentations, as an invited speaker, that featured the importance of service continuity planning for libraries, and in both cases he used the scenario of social distancing in response to the H1N1 influenza virus (see info from the CDC) as a basis.  Some experts are warning that H1N1 may re-surge in the northern hemisphere early this fall, well before the tradional flu season, so it’s important that we remain aware of the potential risks from a more widespread epidemic than we have seen so far, and that we keep the banner of service continuity moving forward.

On July 9, Dan addressed the monthly conference call hosted by NLM’s Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC), giving an overview of this year’s activities of the NN/LM’s emergency preparedness initiative, and featuring the Hospital Librarians Summit which was held in Chicago in April (click here to see the posting about this).  Other highlights of this year have been conducting training meetings with NN/LM staff and state coordinators in the PNR, SCR, GMR, PSR and SE/A regions, enhancing the Toolkit, and developing promotional materials.  Several participants on the call confirmed that the training has been very effective so far, and “buy-in” from NN/LM members has been excellent.

On July 17, Dan addressed the annual Interlibrary Loan Forum of the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) at Sweet Briar College in Lynchburg, VA.  Working from the NN/LM’s emergency preparedness plan, which emphasizes service continuity, especially for Interlibrary Loan services, Dan presented the procedures that have been established through a partnership between the Health Sciences Libraries at the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for providing back-up ILL services for each other in an emergency, and which are transparent to library users.  While the audience represented all types of academic libraries in Virginia, it included several who are NN/LM members.  Click ILL Backup Plan VIVA to see Dan’s slides from the VIVA Forum.

If you would like more information about the ILL backup plan between the two libraries or about training for service continuity, please contact one of us (see the “About Us” tab at the top of the page).

Pandemic planning exercise

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 5, we convened a meeting at our library to review our pandemic plans and conduct a brief table-top exercise.  The meeting produced some excellent observations and insights, both for successes and things we need to work out.  The first half of the meeting was a review of our procedures, based the table (see below in the “Planning for Service Continuity During a Pandemic” post) from our library’s emergency preparedness plan.  All the “key players” attended, including:  the library’s emergency response coordinator, the library Director, IT manager, web development manager, business manager, head of reference services, collection development manager, database coordinator, ILL supervisor, and Circulation supervisor.  All these positions played roles in the planning and in the response exercise.  The scenario we used for the table-top exercise:  it is 3 PM on a Sunday afternoon, when the University decides to close all the libraries on campus to enact social-distancing measures.  The closure is intended to prevent the spread of influenza resulting from a pandemic.  What is done immediately?  What is done Monday morning?  Before beginning the discussion of procedures for this scenario, participants drew slips of paper from a bowl, which designated them as “sick” or “well.”  One-third of the participants were designated “sick,” and therefore did not play a role in the exercise.  This pointed out the need for back-up in certain key positions.

Some questions arose that might be helpful to others in the planning process, among them:

  • can you change the voice mail message on your library’s main phone from your home?  who has the authority and the access needed to do this?  who is the backup for that person?
  • who has current staff home phone number information?  is someone responsible for keeping the list upddated, and for distributing it?  should lists be given to everyone, or to select people?
  • do the appropriate library staff have access to the “Ask a Librarian” chat function from home?
  • do you need an official “voice” for providing information about the status of the library?  if so, will that person have access to communication channels, such as announcements on your web site?
  • can the person responsible for ILL/Document Delivery access resources needed to provide ILL requests to your patrons from home, i.e. is the required software installed on the home computer/laptop?
  • is there a provision for emergency access to print materials for affiliated patrons in the event of a patient-care emergency while the library is closed?
  • is there an institutional need for designating a way to account for time worked at home by library staff?  

Besides refining our procedures and identifying a few areas to be improved, everyone agreed that the meeting/exercise was an excellent way to keep emergency preparedness, and pandemic planning particularly, in our corporate awareness.

Planning for Service Continuity During a Pandemic

This would be a good time to review your pandemic planning procedures and perform a table-top drill.  For instance, are you ready to continue access to your resources and core services if your library is closed for, say, one week?  Click on the link below to view  a table from the University of Virginia’s Health Sciences Library’s Emergency Preparedness & Response Plan detailing the assignment of responsibilities in the event of a pandemic.  Feel free to borrow.

Pandemic Planning Responsibilities

Also, if you would like more information on the interlibrary loan backup plan developed by the University of Virginia Health Sciences Library and the Health Sciences Library at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, please see the article in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association.

CDC Info on Swine Flu

The CDC is updating this site http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ frequently at this point, in order to help everyone stay current with the swine flu situation.  See the “CDC Health Advisory” on this page for the most current information.  I heard on NPR today that Mexico has closed churches, schools, concert halls, and other public spaces to try and slow the spread of the disease.  Should these social-distancing measures be enacted for public spaces, including libraries in the U.S., be aware of measures that libraries can take to keep resources and core services available to their patrons even if their buildings are closed.  Have an alternate home page ready, to show altered hours, to highlight online resources, and to offer online chat services to patrons who need help.  Also remember to change the voice mail message on your library’s main telephone to reflect changed hours and availability of online resources and services.

Here is more information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, available on their Pandemic Flu web site:  http://www.pandemicflu.gov/  The Swine Flu Info widget from HHS is available there to be copied into web pages–this will provide quick access to “Information,” “Investigation,” and “What you can do” sources.

Historical Perspective on Response to a Pandemic

The Historical Collections department at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia, has posted a fascinating look back at what dealing with a pandemic was like “back in the day.” Have a look at the online exihibit of “The Plague Book,” to see a variety of methodologies for preventing plague and for treating it (if you failed to prevent it). I’m sure we’ve come a long way toward both efforts when it comes to anticipating a pandemic of influenza, but you can’t help wondering if taking “two hand-ful of Valerian, three roots of Danewort, a handful of Smallage, or Lovage, if you can get it, seethe them all in butter and water, & a few crumbs of bread, and make a poultice thereof” might be as helpful as anything in the event of a vaccine shortage!

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