Technology and Libraries: Creating a Mobile Classroom
Increasingly health sciences librarians are finding a need to move outside the library to provide small group instruction. Technology facilitates the process and in 2009 the cost of outfitting the mobile classroom has been reduced significantly. In a hospital setting providing instruction in the patient care setting ensures that your customers, hospital staff and physicians, are familiar with the extensive array of online medical resources that you work hard to create and for which you dedicate a considerable amount of funds. By bringing instruction to the point of need there is a greater likelihood that hospital staff will learn how to use the library’s online resources and will actually use the tools.
If your hospital is wired to the Internet the first and most important step has been completed. If the hospital is not yet wired this is an essential component to tackle and the best way to begin the process is to get to know the head of information technology (IT) at your institution. However, let’s assume that the hospital is fully hardwired.
The next step would be to investigate installation of wireless Internet access. At Kaleida Health in Buffalo, New York, the four hospital libraries (Buffalo General Hospital, Millard Fillmore Gates Circle, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, and Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo) were among the first departments to provide wireless access to the Internet. We achieved this milestone with a grant from MAR in 2005. We partnered with the health system’s IT department who supported the additional related costs because they wanted to test the use of wireless Internet connectivity and saw the libraries as a good test bed. Having wireless access in the library gave the staff the ability to move around the library to provide instruction, one-on-one, to library users at their individual laptop computers. Since 2005 wireless access to the Internet has been installed in many areas of our hospitals. The expanded wireless access provides an opportunity to move instructional activities from the library to other areas of the hospital.
RESOURCES FOR THE MOBILE CLASSROOM
In late 2008 we received a new laptop computer, a gift from a hospital physician. A second grant from MAR in 2008 was used to purchase a Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector. The laptop computer coupled with the DLP projector were the resources needed to roll-out our mobile classroom. Because we wanted a full compliment of hospital software programs on the laptop the cost was approximately $1,000, which is a bit higher than standard retail cost. We sought funds from MAR to cover the cost of the DLP projector and a replacement bulb, which came to just under $1,000. Thus with $2,000 the Kaleida Health Library’s mobile classroom became a reality.
Using the Mobile Classroom
We have used the mobile classroom to train undergraduate college students serving as interns in an area public school to use MedlinePlus to access authoritative, understandable, reliable health information. The interns are working with elementary school teachers in a train the trainer model to instruct the teachers how to use MedlinePlus and other NLM and NIH health information resources to teach school children about living a healthy lifestyle. Many of the students are refugees from third world countries such as Somalia and Myanamar. This project is a follow-up to the Somali-Bantu health education project completed in late 2008.
Currently planning is underway to offer an in-service health information training program for Buffalo city public school nurses. The training session is planned for early May. Many Buffalo City school nurses are Kaleida Health employees and we have a commitment to ensure that the nurses have access to the full spectrum of library services and resources as staff located in one of our hospitals. Thus, we are working with the lead school nurse for Kaleida Health and the Director of Health Services for Buffalo City schools to offer the in-service program. The program’s focus will include use of MedlinePlus to educate students about healthy lifestyle issues such as nutrition, infections, immunizations, safety and the like. We will use both the DLP projector and the laptop to instruct the school nurses, thus taking full advantage of our mobile classroom. We hope that this will be the first in a series of training programs for the school nurses.
By using the mobile classroom we will bring knowledge and information to an important new group of library users. Without the technological resources described above this training program would not have become a reality. It is our expectation that by introducing the school nurses to the myriad of resources available via MedlinePlus, and services available from Kaleida Health Libraries that the nurses will be empowered to use both more effectively and more frequently. We also hope that the school nurses will view the libraries as a resource available to support their professional information needs.
Diane G. Schwartz, MLS, AHIP, FMLA
Director of Libraries
100 High Street
Buffalo, NY 14203