Keeping Cool in the Library!

woman in library using an oscillating fan to keep cool

This summer the United States is experiencing an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees for days on end across the country. When health challenges emerge, people often turn to libraries as sources of information and support. NLM is proud of its resources that link people to the trusted health information they need.

Our MedlinePlus can help people find resources that can help them cope with excessive heat, including how to avoid overheating during exercise and heat-related stress at work. MedlinePlus also connects users to information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Red Cross.  MedlinePlus is a one-stop source of high-quality, relevant health and wellness information, in English and Spanish. Through this resource, we can help people find just the right information to stay cool in a healthy way and recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke.

NLM can support people during times of health crisis because it anticipates, acquires, and connects to relevant information that people may need to stay well. We have a team of librarians and health information specialists who systematically identify, collect, and curate relevant health information. We use special guidelines to identify information of high integrity, and when we provide access this the information, we also provide full and complete citations to their sources. In this way, we foster people’s abilities to recognize, evaluate, and interpret health information.

But libraries themselves also help people cope with heat crises. For example, during a heat wave in June, City of Houston libraries allowed Houstonians who lacked air conditioning to come to the library to stay cool. The city even provided free transportation to the libraries. The Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library, a member of our Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM), is one of those places where people were able to come during open hours to just cool off!

The NNLM, which operates in seven regions across the U.S., offers several online information resources to help people learn how to cope with extreme heat. When the 2021 heatwave hit Seattle, NNLM Region 7 offered video and text information services, including a reminder for readers to seek credible sources on social media. NNLM Region 4 alerted its stakeholders to the National Integrated Heat Health Information System at And Region 7 provided information aligned with the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative on the health consequences of climate change.

Our PubMed citation database connects scientists, clinicians, librarians, and public health officials to relevant information about managing heat. In a March 2023 article titled “Planning to Reduce the Health Impacts of Extreme Heat: A Content Analysis of Heat Action Plans in Local United States Jurisdictions,” and published in the American Journal of Public Health, Juliette Randazza and colleagues examined local U.S. heat action plans and provided a summary of their recommendations. This article, like others—but not all with citations in PubMed—is freely available in full text, and those interested can link to the full article from the PubMed citation without a paywall. Our ability to promote direct access to articles that help scientists, clinicians, librarians, and the public access health information in an emergency arises in part from the partnership NLM creates and maintains with publishers and scholarly societies.

The National Library of Medicine, and libraries everywhere, helps people access and make use of relevant health information. We are proud to stand as your partner as communities around the country and throughout the world face and overcome challenges to the health and well-being of everyone. Please let us know how we can help you!

Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD

Director, National Library of Medicine

Dr. Brennan is the Director of the NIH National Library of Medicine, a leader in biomedical informatics and computational health data science research and the world’s largest biomedical library. Under her leadership, NLM has grown its intramural and extramural research enterprise, extended stakeholders’ access to credible and reliable health information, and acquired and preserved biomedical literature using cutting-edge digital research and outreach. Read more about Dr. Brennan.

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