ACRL OnPoint Chat Archive October 20, 2009: H1N1 and the Library Response

(10:00 a.m. Pacific | 11:00 a.m. Mountain | 12:00 p.m. Central | 1:00 p.m. Eastern)
This discussion will focus on how libraries are responding to the threat of the H1N1 virus and other similar viruses. Questions to be asked will include: Does the library have a role on campus in helping to prevent viral epidemics? What are current practices for preventing the spread of the H1N1 virus in libraries? How might the library play an educational role in H1N1 and other virus awareness? This month’s chat is convened by: Marcia Thomas, Director of Collections & Technical Services, Illinois Wesleyan University and Meg Miner, University Archivist & Special Collections Librarian, Illinois Wesleyan University.

Chat Log Archive

09:58 MarciaAtAmes Hi everyone. My name is Marcia Thomas. My colleague, Meg Miner, and I will help get this chat going in just a couple minutes.

10:03 MarciaAtAmes Have any of you already experienced an H1N1 outbreak?

10:04 fanslerc yes-on our campus

10:04 kstanwicks We have only had two cases at SUNY Albany, but I'm not certain if those were confirmed.

10:04 guest1906751 Not really -- in S. Florida

10:05 KrisWileySTC we have had two cases at our school in Central FL

10:05 MarciaAtAmes Those of you who have: can you tell us a bit about wh

10:05 susanmurray We've only had one staff member diagnosed but several staff out with similar symptoms but they didn't go to the MD

10:05 MarciaAtAmes what's going on there?

10:05 fanslerc we've begun development of a plan in case we shut down-how we'd deiver library services in case of that

10:06 MarciaAtAmes Does your campus have a plan?

10:06 guest1906751 The university here has put up a special website off the home page

10:06 kstanwicks Our university has a web site for students to self-report flu. We have started discussing how to handle a potential outbreak in the library.

10:07 fanslerc my uninveristy has an H1N1 site too

10:07 guest1906751 Today they ran out of regular flu shots that the Nursing program was doing for staff

10:07 guest1906751 They said they had a very high response rate for even those shots

10:07 MarciaAtAmes Do you all have campus-wide plans?

10:08 susanmurray We have a plan for self-reporting, but are still concerned with sick students and staff coming in anyway.

10:08 MarciaAtAmes If so, was someone from the library involved in planning for H1N1?

10:08 susanmurray Not here...

10:08 fanslerc we do-but it's not been implemented as it is still in development. Our library decided to go rogue and develop our own continuity of operations plan.

10:09 kstanwicks Yes, we have a campus-wide plan, but I don't know if we';ve rolled all of the information out yet.

10:09 NJQ No -- it was our Health Professions who did the planning

10:09 algallaher There's been campus-wide communication about how to behave if sick, but the planning committee has not included the library. We went rogue too!

10:09 susanmurray Part of the college plan is for staff to be cross trained to cover other people's jobs, but we did that anyway, so it wasn't really a new plan for us.

10:09 kstanwicks Our campus planning didn't include the library either, but we're developing a plan now.

10:09 MarciaAtAmes Are your library plans (rogue included!) available on your website? If so, can you provide links?

10:10 fanslerc yes- our disaster plan is up-the continuity of operations plan is still being developed

10:10 guest233055 we have a university plan, and last spring during the first scare we made plans for how to handle library staffing depending on how many people were sick.

10:11 MarciaAtAmes I'd like to do a roll call of sorts: Please let us know what university/college you are associated with -

10:11 algallaher Oberlin College

10:11 NJQ Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

10:11 kstanwicks SUNY Albany

10:11 fanslerc Wake Forest University-Z. Smith Reynolds Library

10:11 Allison University of South Florida - Tampa

10:11 susanmurray Valencia Community College - Orlando FL

10:11 KrisWileySTC Southern Technical College - Sanford FL

10:12 guest233055 University of NOrth Texas

10:12 MarciaAtAmes Thanks! That way we can visit each other's websites or contact someone at your library.

10:12 MarciaAtAmes Wow, lots of FLorida. Do I remember correctly that Florida has had a big flu outbreak?

10:12 KrisWileySTC yes it has

10:13 NJQ Stephanie Race did an email blast to us

10:13 MarciaAtAmes What kinds of preventative measures are you taking in your library(ies)?

10:14 fanslerc hand sanitizer on public service desks, extra cleaning-that includes me!

10:14 susanmurray hand sanitizer, cleaning more often, sneeze and coughing protocols

10:14 KrisWileySTC lots of hand sanitizer and more cleaning here as well

10:14 NJQ disinfectants and wipes, tissues at the desk. Staff encouraged to wash hands. Patrons with colds offered wipes and tissues

10:14 kstanwicks We sent a message to staff about proper flu prevention, and we are posting signs in staff areas. We have hand sanitizer at our library entrances and staff areas. We also have posters hanging in the libraries.

10:14 KrisWileySTC I've seen a few places offering masks but that seems a bit extreme for library purposes...?

10:15 guest233055 We installed foaming soap dispensers with antibacterial soap in the restrooms and have hand sanitizer bottles all over the library

10:15 NJQ Masks are not very functional

10:15 guest233055 We have posters too. The student workers wipe down the keyboards on the public terminals a few times each day

10:16 MarciaAtAmes Have you observed any changes in student behaviors?

10:16 susanmurray The masks that would do the best job are expensive. I've heard that the ones you buy at the drug store are not very effective.

10:17 guest233055 We were talking this morning about people using the paper towels they washed their hands with to open door knobs

10:17 susanmurray Yes, lots more use of hand sanitizer and more students are asking for the wipes to clean off the computer keyboards before they use them.

10:17 fanslerc not really

10:17 kstanwicks We have noticed the students using the hand sanitizer that has been provided to them.

10:17 KrisWileySTC students here are much less apt to share casually than before with someone they don't know - pen or food or whatever - not that they are stingy if asked but they don't offer as easily as before

10:18 MarciaAtAmes Have you ever approached a student who appears to be ill - to refer to health services, or even to be sure to use the wipes or....

10:19 algallaher I see people being more careful about coughing and sneezing, and using hand sanitizer. There's also a fair amount of skepticism that anything will protect us if/when the flu hits campus though. We've sent student workers home when they're clearly ill.

10:20 susanmurray We've been told that we can take the student aside and mention that it doesn't look like they feel well, and offer them tissues and wipes, but that we can't really ask them to leave. What do the rest of you do?

10:20 NJQ It would be difficult to tell a user they are sick -- privacy -- but we do offer tissues and wipes when we see them sneezing and coughing -- they are aporeciative

10:20 KrisWileySTC pretty much the same here - offer wipes, suggest they visit a doctor if it seems really bad

10:21 MarciaAtAmes One of you mentioned library student workers - sending them home if they're ill. Do others do that?

10:21 susanmurray and then really clean any surfaces they have been using when they leave...

10:21 kstanwicks We do that in some departments here.

10:21 susanmurray We have sent students home in the past, but haven't had to this term.

10:22 KrisWileySTC we have only had one student worker illness and he volunteered to stay away from work just in case

10:22 KrisWileySTC in the past he might have muddled through but it was thoughtful of him to stay home

10:22 MarciaAtAmes How do you balance health concerns for the spread of disease against the need of students to earn their wages?

10:23 fanslerc let them decide

10:24 KrisWileySTC It's true - I can recommend to a dean that a student be compensated if out for a while but in the long run I can't pay the missing wage for him myself. Luckily it was a minor flu this student had and he returned fairly quickly.

10:25 kstanwicks our students can make up shifts during the same pay period, but we can't do much for them beyond offering that.

10:25 susanmurray most students seem quite aware of the risks these days, so we'll hope they'll make the right decision. We've sent students home before for regular, but serious, cold symptoms and no one has complained. We can sometimes offer comp time later on.

10:27 MarciaAtAmes Any other thoughts about specific library procedures for dealing with H1N1 or similar epidemic situations?

10:27 MarciaAtAmes Back to earlier discussion about the library's role on campus: do you think libraries should have a role in establish campus-wide policies for dealing with emergencies and other situations like this?

10:27 guest233055 we do offer to let student workers make up hours when they are well

10:28 NJQ Alternative service options, expansion of virtual services, offering telecommuting options

10:28 guest233055 I think since we deal with so many students we should be part of the discussion

10:28 fanslerc libraries are a central part of scholarship and so-yes we should be part of the discussion and planning

10:28 MarciaAtAmes NJQ: are you talking about staff?

10:28 kstanwicks I think so. If the university needs to close down, the library will probably play an instrumental role in delivery of research material, offering electronic course reserves so that instructors can continue teaching from a distance, etc.

10:28 NJQ Marcia -- dependes of the politics of the institution -- we have the capability to reach audiences, provide info better sometimes

10:28 KrisWileySTC I like the idea of putting together some kind of informational link about the virus itself - a lot of people are unnecessarily scared about H1N1 when in fact they are sometimes suffering a cold.

10:28 shellymc17 Yes, discussion involving the library lately is whether is it an "essential" service and should be kept open for a "refuge's; for students who can't go home when classes are canceled

10:29 susanmurray It would be nice to be part of the discussion, but these policies are often made at the top levels of administration to avoid potential lawsuits.

10:30 MarciaAtAmes Shellymc, could you give us more about what's going on?

10:31 MarciaAtAmes Any thoughts on how the library can engage with administration when it comes to setting policies?

10:31 NJQ People came to us to find out where they could get help, find access to technology and even plug in their cellphones to recharge!

10:32 shellymc17 Well, the library is just trying to decide if we should be open with skeletal staffing in situations where classes are canceled due to H1N1 --this is Univ. of Delaware

10:32 NJQ One needs an advocate or an established role on campus as the go to place for info

10:33 shellymc17 I for one work in the busiest place in the library with plenty of computers, so I would recommend closing it

10:33 MarciaAtAmes Shelly, how much "say" does your library have in making the decision?

10:34 shellymc17 Sounds like the library will get to make the decision or at least highly recommend it to the Provost

10:34 shellymc17 We had the outbreak here in the spring of last year. No classes canceled though and information was disseminated via an emergency call system

10:35 MarciaAtAmes Several of you mentioned providing information about H1N1 on your website. Was that the library website or campus? Or both?

10:36 kstanwicks Information is provided on our campus web site:

10:36 shellymc17 Our library has a subject guide for more information, plus the campus has it's own website for more information -linked mainly to the CDC for authority

10:36 NJQ We have it on the University website and as part of a rotating Info site on our webpage -- it is now done on our home page but can be reached.

10:36 fanslerc

10:37 MarciaAtAmes At Illinois Wesleyan we have both campus info (the health service) and Meg created an H1N1 libguide - here's the link to our blog which includes relevant info

10:37 Allison

10:38 MarciaAtAmes One of you mentioned a plan for epidemics as part of your disaster plan - is there a link to your plan (sorry if we missed it)?

10:40 MarciaAtAmes Will any of you now be adding a section to your library emergency response plans on epidemics?

10:40 fanslerc yes- in development as we speak!

10:40 Allison Ours, too, is in the works!

10:40 shellymc17 Yes, we'll be adding a section on epidemics --I think it is farther down the line than many of us would like though

10:44 MarciaAtAmes This is Meg, tapping in on marcia's account

10:45 MarciaAtAmes Is it truly our role to plan for this level of staffing crises in libraries in our disaster response plans

10:45 MarciaAtAmes or are we talking about a response plan to specific types of emergencies

10:45 MarciaAtAmes to me, the former is about our collection and the latter would be personnel issues

10:45 MarciaAtAmes more of an HR thing, to my mind

10:46 NJQ AT NSY we are not autonomous and must follow the directive of the University Admin. If we close we close. If we are told to be open we try to be humane and take into account people's circumstances.

10:47 MarciaAtAmes Anyone else?

10:48 shellymc17 Same here than at NSY, my manager is not going to make me or any of my staff work if they are concerned that they will contract something by coming in to work

10:48 fanslerc we have a response plan for the collection-but now, we're trying to develop one for staffing and continuity of services as well

10:48 Allison I guess it depends on the numbers of library staff who may be out. We are currently creating a list of people willing to work nights and weekends if those staff are out sick.

10:48 algallaher One reason that it would be helpful to be in on the planning is just to know what options the college is considering. To me, there's a difference between the college closing and classes being cancelled, for example.

10:49 MarciaAtAmes Good points! It's getting close to time to go. Any other questions people want to ask?

10:49 NJQ we have many alternative modalities for service -- when we were closed for a week due to a hurricane we had a librarian in another state who worked for us monitor the email.

10:49 fanslerc I think no mattter what happens, my library will try to offer some services-even if classes are called off.

10:49 NJQ It is important to notify users what your circumstances are -- limited sevice, hours closed, etc. people do understand.

10:50 algallaher Yes, one piece of advice we got was to set the hours we felt we could completely commit to, and alert folks in advance that other hours might be closed without much warning.

10:51 NJQ Having access t the wepages to make changes or to the servers to power on and off -- that can be the most important thing to be able to do

10:51 susanmurray If our college closed, then the libraries would most likely follow. But we do have so many online resources, that much student research could still be done off-site.

10:52 MarciaAtAmes Alternative services is an interesting point to consider.

10:52 MarciaAtAmes There's that planning thing again :-)

10:52 Allison How many will be using twitter and/or blogs to post information about reduced hours or closings, if necessary, or just posting that information on their websites.

10:52 MarciaAtAmes Anything else?

10:52 kstanwicks I think we'll be sticking with our web site.

10:52 susanmurray That's a great thought - I don't know whether our web page staff can update pages from off campus - I'll have to ask. Right now, we could only change our telephone message, but being able to update our web hours would be nice.

10:53 NJQ Recently we had to close the main library for a flood -- I and others were able to get the word out by changing webpages, voicemail, etc.

10:53 MarciaAtAmes Facebook?

10:53 NJQ We even put a notice on our facebook page!

10:53 shellymc17 we'll use our facebook page

10:53 MarciaAtAmes Great minds :-)

10:54 guest233055 we have college wide telephone/email alert system that people can sign up for to recieve closure notices.

10:54 NJQ Not many hits but still someone saw it!

10:54 guest233055 I wonder if we could get part of that announcement to check webpages for reduced hours or online services -- just thought of that.

10:54 NJQ After Virginia Tech many schools developed such a phone program --

10:55 NJQ And don't forget easy tech - signs on the door!

10:55 susanmurray Yes, our college does have this phone alert system...

10:56 NJQ My biggest concern is, as in 1918, this may get so out of hand that the infrastructure cannot cope

10:57 MarciaAtAmes True, but certainly communication tools are better -- hoping that'll help!

10:57 MarciaAtAmes Okay...we're running out the clock. As a reminder, ACRL posts transcripts off the OnPoint discussion page

10:57 shellymc17 Yeah, the medical system can't even cope by having enough of the regular flu vaccine for everyone who wants it

10:57 susanmurray I have to get to another meeting. This discussion has been great. I'll read the rest online later..

10:57 MarciaAtAmes Super, thank you all!

10:57 MarciaAtAmes Stay healthy!!!! :-)

10:58 NJQ Bye!

10:59 guest233055 Most of our reference and instruction staff can access the help chat enmail etc from home if they are not sick too!:D

10:59 guest233055 Bye.

10:59 MarciaAtAmes Thanks, take care!