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COVID-19 and Librarian Reserve Corps

Librarian Reserve Corps

Stacy Brody is a Master of Information. Literally. That’s what it says on her degree from Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, at least. And she is using her skills to contribute to the fight against the COVID-19 infodemic.

 

Stacy was warmly welcomed to the Himmelfarb Library team three months ago. Like many of you, she isn’t sure whether those are short or long months - her perception of time seems to have been affected by the pandemic.

As a member of the Himmelfarb team, she supports the work of clinicians and researchers by conducting literature searches, compiling resources for the weekly Intelligence Reports, and maintaining the COVID-19 Research Guide.

Keeping up-to-date with, and searching for, COVID-19 literature requires some creativity. The research is coming out in torrents. New publications are posted on preprint servers and publisher websites, then picked up on Twitter and by the news media before the research community has had the opportunity to evaluate them. The quality of research described in scholarly articles is variable. Original research is showing up in Commentaries and Editorials for rapid dissemination. The delay between publication and appearance on PubMed and other databases is becoming more apparent and more critical.  The norms of scholarly communication and publishing are being challenged in a big way.

Finding and evaluating the evidence to support evidence-based medicine is more difficult when it comes to COVID.

Which is why, when Stacy saw the call on the Medical Library Association’s listserv to support the global response by indexing COVID-19 research publications, she signed up. She hoped that, by applying topic tags to articles, she, in her small way, could make the evidence more findable and usable to the global audience of responders, clinicians, and researchers.

As she hit the Reply button, she didn’t know that she would become co-lead of the Librarian Reserve Corps. She hadn’t yet met her Librarian Reserve Corps co-lead Sara Loree, a medical librarian at St. Luke’s Health System in Idaho, or the visionary Librarian Reserve Corps founder Elaine Hicks, Research, Education and Public Health Librarian at Tulane University. Hicks, reflecting on her own professional experience in public health and emergency preparedness, recognized that the need of Tulane University epidemiologist and GOARN (Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network)-Research lead Dr. Lina Moses, was one no librarian could meet alone. Members of GOARN, a WHO network of 250-plus agencies, institutes, and universities organized to respond to outbreaks, need the literature to support evidence-based public health response efforts. As described above, that evidence is hard to find in an infodemic. For evidence-finding at a global scale, you need an international army of librarians. Hicks, seeing this and dreaming of just such an army, put out a call to the Medical Library Association listserv. The newly formed Librarian Reserve Corps, modeled after the Medical Reserve Corps, supports evidence-based response efforts by providing resources for evidence-based public health.

The initial efforts to tag articles quickly grew - not only because the number of COVID-19 research articles has grown but also because we have learned more about the skills and expertise of our volunteers and the needs of GOARN-Research! Librarian Reserve Corps volunteers continue to index articles on a daily basis and have since expanded their services. Volunteers now conduct literature searches and monitor the media. They work to connect groups working on systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Librarians have the skills needed to fight the infodemic and help our public health and medical professionals fight the pandemic.

Stacy recognizes that many of the Librarian Reserve Corps’s volunteers contribute to the infodemic-pandemic response at this global level and at the local level. They provide search support for clinicians and researchers. They help students and faculty access the library resources they need to continue their work virtually. They help professors transition to online instruction. As librarians, Stacy acknowledges, we are often in behind-the-scenes roles. She is honored to be part of this amazing, talented, dedicated team of volunteers making librarians famous.

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