NLM Is Open for Business!

NLM is open for business

Last week, I shared what NLM is doing to aid in the response to COVID-19 while keeping all of our public-facing services available to the scientists, clinicians, patients, and families around the world who use them millions of times a day. This week, I want to give you an insider’s view of how the 1,700 women and men at NLM are making sure that all our services keep functioning at a high level of performance.

In keeping with guidance from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Office of Personnel Management, NLM is encouraging remote work to continue Library operations.

This means that all our NIH and NLM telework-eligible staff are working safely from home. There are certain mission-critical functions that must continue onsite at NIH, and staff working in those capacities — security staff; data center staff; the nurses, physicians, and technicians at the NIH Clinical Center — must still come to the NIH campus. But the rest of us are working from afar. We’re brushing up on our telecommunications skills, Skype-ing through meetings, Webex-ing our conversations with colleagues, and texting and phoning as needed.

NLM, and the entire NIH community, is well prepared to keep our operations going while we’re unable to go to our offices at NIH.

All eligible federal staff have written agreements detailing telework arrangements, including the location of the telework office and related expectations. Most of our arrangements for contract workers include consideration for telework. NLM’s Office of Computer and Communications Systems helped equip our staff with the technology they need to work from remote locations and provided the training and support required to ensure secure communications with NLM servers.

We’re also working hard to stay in touch with all our staff.

We’re holding virtual town hall meetings. More than 1,200 NLM staff members attended our first virtual town hall and nearly 1,000 attended our second virtual town hall. These recordings are available for staff who are not able to join us “live.” This is important, as we strive to offer the greatest amount of flexibility to our staff who are adjusting to new ways of working and scheduling their days.

NLM divisions are holding their own virtual meetings and huddles to keep staff connected and coordinate work efforts so that services across the Library remain available. And we’re providing staff with telework tips and guidance on how to manage the professional and personal challenges of working remotely.

I’m proud to say that we haven’t missed a beat!

We’re still adding new citations to PubMed and expanding access to machine-readable full-text articles in PubMed Central, which serves as the repository for articles covered by the NIH Public Access Policy. Our researchers continue to pursue important questions in computational biology and image analysis. And we’re helping both intramural and extramural investigators register trials on, including these clinical studies related to the coronavirus disease.

Some things have changed, though. Here’s what my day looks like now.  

Photo of Dr. Brennan's telework space
Dr. Brennan’s telework space

I get up a little later than I used to (since my commute is now very short!) and am ready for work by 8 a.m. Although I have a study in the second bedroom of my apartment, I’ve found that I like working by the front windows. My laptop has a camera, and I have many pairs of earbuds — which is a good thing, because I spend most of the day on videoconferences and phone calls. But I try to get up every hour or so to move about or take a walk around the block (keeping my physical distance!).

While watching the world from my apartment windows, I’m working hard to make sure that our staff have the necessary resources to do their work and that NLM continues to support NIH, scientists, clinicians, and the global community.

Every one of us at NLM, wherever we are, plays an important role in keeping the work of the Library going during these extraordinary times.

So, stay safe, wash your hands often, and keep your social connections active — just at a distance! Let us know how you are managing and, more importantly, how NLM can help you.

6 thoughts on “NLM Is Open for Business!

  1. Hi Patti, I’m surprised that NLM does not have essential status to access articles that are in print. Although we have an extensive backfile of journals online we are still receiving requests for articles only in print. Some of these requests have been about coronaviruses. Today we scanned an article from 1971. With drug interactions and other issues surrounding this crisis, have you received any requests for articles not online? Do you anticipate accessing the print collections should the requests continue? Thanks, Linda

    1. Hi Linda,

      We have stepped up our collaboration with publishers and scholarly societies to increase the number of coronavirus-related journal articles in PubMed Central (PMC), along with available data supporting them. Deposited publications are made available in PMC as quickly as possible after receipt, in formats and with needed permissions to support text mining. PMC has received articles as far back as the 1960s related to coronaviruses under the COVID-19 Initiative. You can find additional information about this on our Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Initiative webpage –

      Our staff is fulfilling interlibrary loan requests from electronic resources, which accounts for more than 80% of the requests we have received since March 13, 2020. Because it is housed at the NIH, our print collection is currently unavailable given the need for our staff to follow COVID-19 guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and recommendations from the CDC prohibiting access to the campus.


  2. Thank you so tremendously much for your cordial, comfortable, and uplifting messages each day, Patti! You not only teach us about one of the major foundations of our library profession, but you also guide us, and help to make such a vast and unfathomably large LIBRARY feel more approachable and friendly. Thank you for sharing your home office with us today as well–it is so inviting, friendly, and comfortable!

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