Avoiding a Public Health Hunger Games: THE ROLE FOR LIBRARIES.

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Author: Amy Affelt
Date: June 2021
From: Information Today(Vol. 38, Issue 5)
Publisher: Information Today, Inc.
Document Type: Column
Length: 2,262 words
Lexile Measure: 1480L

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We all read the headlines and heard the horror stories, such as "Pursuit of Vaccine Devolves Into 'Hunger Games' for Pa. Seniors" from PennLive. "How do I get an appointment?" might have been the first thought that came to mind, but many librarians also wondered, "Shouldn't libraries be involved in this effort?" In the U.S., the vaccine rollout and appointment systems were part of a complex bureaucratic maze--which, in many cases, served only the most patient, persistent, and tech-savvy individuals. Much to our chagrin, the next headlines we started to see were variations on "12-Year-Old Helps Hundreds of Seniors Sign Up to Get COVID-19 Vaccine" from ABC7 News. It made me wonder why a tween had to step in and become familiar with website content, advanced searching skills, and tech tools--which are part and parcel of the librarian skill set--in order to fill a role that would come so naturally to libraries and librarians.

We are now seeing headlines such as "Lessons Learned From the Pandemic" from a variety of sources. What lessons have libraries learned? Specifically, what lessons have libraries learned so that they can leverage not only their expertise, but also their roles in their communities in order to provide integral services to their patrons--and assure that they survive and ultimately thrive, in even the worst of times? Libraries of all types need to prepare a playbook plan now so that they can take the lead in public health emergencies going forward and be seen as an obvious resource--and not just an afterthought.


In the case of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, a two-front perfect storm ensued: Deeply penetrating and widespread misinformation and disinformation surrounding the vaccine became ubiquitous, while a slow and complicated rollout of the shot made it very difficult for willing citizens to get jabs. Borrowing lessons learned from this fiasco, libraries can prepare a four-step game plan that will translate to public health crises faced in the future (hopefully, they are a long way off!).

The fight against misinformation and disinformation is especially critical during public health emergencies, when people may be consuming much more media than they typically do in an effort to stay informed and protect their health. Libraries need to prepare in-the-can informational documents so that they are ready to go with rock-solid scientific information, even when emergencies are in their nascent stages. In preparing basic one-pagers regarding whatever phenomena are being faced, it is important that they look to gold-standard scientific sources such as the WHO, CDC, and National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For vaccine data, Bloomberg's Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker resource contains a plethora of information regarding vaccine distribution and administration worldwide. There is a global total chart that lists the total doses administered, doses per 100 people, the percentage of the population who have had one dose and those who are fully vaccinated, and the daily rate of doses administered, by country and by U.S. state. There is also a timeline that tracks the nine...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A667587885