Bringing NLM to You

Guest post by Andrew Wiley, Video Producer, NLM Office of Communications and Public Liaison.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors from all over the world came to NLM for free, in-person, guided tours to learn about the largest biomedical library in the world. Visitors ranged from members of the public to students, educators, scientists, and nurses. They were introduced to many of NLM’s exciting research and information resources, such as the Visible Human Project — a library of digital images representing the complete anatomy of a man and a woman allowing visitors to discover a new perspective on the human body. Visitors could also explore the NLM Data Center, which houses the vital databases visitors know and love, such as PubMed, ClinicalTrials.gov, MedlinePlus, and GenBank.

NLM is not your typical library. During tours, visitors could interact with the investigators in our NLM Intramural Research Program who are using computational biology and computational health science approaches to solve biological and clinical problems. Visitors could also descend into the underground stacks to see medical librarians scanning the world’s largest collection of scientific and medical literature. They could also view some of the world’s oldest and rarest medical books in NLM’s extensive historical collections — discovering just a few of the features that makes NLM so unique.

While the pandemic put a temporary stop to our ability to continue with physical tours of NLM, we know that visitors are eager for a virtual alternative. That’s why we created our new NLM Welcome Page.

This is where you can start your virtual tour and explore NLM’s offerings and resources. Here you can embark on a journey to explore some of what NLM has to offer through webpages that guide you from the world’s richest collections of historical material to the most cutting-edge data of the 21st century.

We want you to be able to experience NLM’s past, present, and future, and continue to see how NLM’s research and information services directly support scientific discovery, health care, and public health.

NLM is committed to serving scientists and society. What would you like to explore at NLM?


Photo of Andrew Wiley

Andrew Wiley is a video producer and writer for NLM’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison. Before joining NLM in 2008, Andrew produced local television in Frederick, Maryland and worked as a video journalist for The Frederick News-Post.


Video Transcript (below):

Hello, I’m Dr. Patti Brennan. I’m the Director of the National Library of Medicine.

As a nurse and an industrial engineer, I’ve spent my career making sure that information is available to help people make everyday health choices and to support biological and medical discoveries.

At the National Library of Medicine, we provide trusted information to scientists, to society, and to people living every day with healthcare challenges.

For over 200 years, the National Library of Medicine has been a partner in biological discovery, clinical care decision making, and health care choices in everyday living. We began humbly as a small collection of books in the 1800’s and now have grown to massive genomic databanks accessible worldwide every day by millions of people.

As one of the 27 Institutes and Centers here at the National Institutes of Health, we have three primary missions:

  • First, we have researchers that develop the tools that translate health data into health information and health action.
  • Second, we serve society by collecting the world’s biological and biomedical literature making it useful to scientists through our PubMed resource, and to everyday people through MedlinePlus.
  • Finally, we have a mission for outreach to make the National Library of Medicine’s resources accessible to everyone through our 7,000 points of presence around the United States. We make sure that the resources of the National Library of Medicine are available through public libraries, through hospital libraries, and in schools and clinics.

Making all of the resources of the National Library of Medicine available to the public requires a very large workforce. We have over 1,700 women and men working here. We have librarians, computer scientists, researchers, and biological scientists. We have individuals who understand clinical care, and who understand how to educate the public. We work together to make sure we can deliver—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—trusted health information.

Thank you for visiting us today. We hope you will join with us as we begin our third century bringing health information to scientists and society, accelerating biomedical discovery, improving health care, and ensuring health for all globally.

Happy Holiday Season!

It’s the holiday season and a time for celebration, reflection, and catching up with family and friends. This year, I am struck by two themes: the celebration of light and darkness, and the time-honored traditions found in special foods and decorations.

For me, a winter aficionado with strong Irish roots, my holidays began with Samhain (pronounced “SAH-win”). Samhain is a Celtic festival that marks the “wintering of the world” – that necessary time of slowing down, becoming quiet, and resting. As I write this blog, millions of people across the globe are celebrating the festival of Diwali. Diwali is a five-day celebration marking the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Families gather over Diwali in households decorated with vibrant flowers and candles, enjoying sweets in acknowledgement of the year’s bountiful harvest.

This year, Hanukkah began at sundown on November 28 and ended December 6. This eight-day Jewish holiday commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem as a festival of lights remembering the miracle of the oil lamp that burned for eight days. For those who celebrate Christmas, this is both a secular as well as a religious festival including special prayers and church services, household decorations, sparkling trees, and sweet treats. In many places you might find luminarias, small paper sacks filled with sand that support candles creating beautiful lights along streets and up pathways in many neighborhoods inspired by traditions arising from Central and South America. Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage and identity, beginning the day after Christmas lasting for several days. During Kwanzaa people light candles, eat special foods recognizing the “first fruits” of the harvest, and place special symbols around their homes.

Light plays a leading role in many winter celebrations. During this time of year, at least in the northern hemisphere, light is a cherished resource dispelling the darker days and cold weather inspiring vision and hope. Light serves as a symbol of many things to many people, but to me, light symbolizes goodness and knowledge and has special meaning to the National Library of Medicine. NLM brings knowledge to the world 24/7, and I personally take this time to remember the “light” that NLM brings to the world.

NLM has a bit less to do with food and decorations, but we are filled with books, articles, and artifacts about nutrition and symbolism. We can extend the celebration of food and decorations to NLM. In 2016, NLM’s History of Medicine division launched a special exhibition, “Fire and Freedom: Food & Enslavement in Early America.” This exhibit illustrated the important connection between meals and power dynamics – you can visit the online exhibition here. NLM’s digital collection includes pictures of holiday events across time and around the world – you can look here for a poster urging Americans to Buy Christmas Seals, Fight Tuberculosis and here for a September 1917 list of suggestions from the American Red Cross for Christmas packets for our military personnel at home and abroad.

As you experience the lights and marvel at the foods and decorations of this holiday season, in whatever way you celebrate, please take with you the good wishes of the National Library of Medicine!

NLM Staff: Supporting Biomedical Discovery and Advancing Public Health

I am very pleased and proud of the hard work, dedication, and accomplishments of the 1,700 NLM staff members who have gone above and beyond in 2021 by demonstrating their commitment to advancing our critical mission. Every day, NLM staff transform information into knowledge, which enables researchers, clinicians, and the public to use biomedical data to improve health and save lives.

This month, we celebrate the many accomplishments of our staff across NLM. While our celebration will not be in person this year, it still gives me great pleasure to recognize the individuals and teams at NLM who have demonstrated their hard work and dedication through special acts of service, exemplary performance, and decisive moments of leadership.

I want to take a moment to express my deep appreciation for the technical staff at NLM who have worked tirelessly to ensure that people around the world continue to have access to NLM’s vast research and information services including ClinicalTrials.gov, GenBank, PubMed, and PubMed Central. They can also take credit for making it possible for NLM staff to continue to work under maximum telework conditions, ensuring that each and every quibble with technology is fixed, and our employees are able to be online wherever their home office may be.

We recognize 565 staff this year for an impressive list of accomplishments. I’m happy to report that NLM staff continue to make incredible achievements that advance our mission despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to recognize more than 200 Special Act or Service awards made by our colleagues encompassing both individual and group awards. These awards recognize short-term accomplishments, meritorious acts, public service, and scientific or other achievements accomplished within or outside one’s designated responsibilities. Achievements include continued efforts to support a variety of COVID-19 initiatives, ensuring contracts and grants are awarded, and upgrading to modern and more efficient systems – all accomplished while working remotely!

We also honor individuals’ milestone years of service, including three staff members with 40 or more years of service and 12 people who have worked in the federal government for 30 years or more. They were joined by 28 staffers with 20 years of service and another 20 with 10 years — representing years upon years of experience and dedication to public service. The efforts of these people have made a lasting difference to NLM and to the public.

In addition to honoring the recipients themselves, these awards also bring important recognition to the talents and contributions of NLM staff across the biomedical research enterprise.

As 2021 ends, I want to recognize all NLM staff for their commitment and service to make scientific literature and genomic, clinical, and other types of biomedical data readily available to those who need it — 24/7. Our success is driven in large part by our ability to adapt to changing technologies that support biomedical discovery and enhance individual and public health. I remain impressed by and grateful for our NLM team!

Guest NLM contributors: Sarah Ashley Jolly and Christine Winderlin.

Please Join Me in Thanking our NLM Veterans

Every year at this time, I take advantage of Musings from the Mezzanine to share with you some of the things for which I am thankful. In my 2020 blog, I reflected on how far we’ve come together since I joined the NLM in 2016. In my 2019 blog, I mused about the people, professionals, and personnel for whom I give thanks. This year, I want to give thanks for all veterans in the United States, but particularly for those NLM staff members who are also veterans.

There’s an official legal definition of a veteran – according to Title 38 United States Code, a veteran is a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. Also included as veterans under certain circumstances are National Guard members and members of the uniformed services such as the Public Health Service.

Left to right: My grandfather, Michael Flatley, and my father, Thomas Michael Flatley.

I come from a strong veteran family – my dad, my uncles Bill and Ed (who were military chaplains in WWII and Vietnam, respectively), my cousin Joey, and my nephew Chris.

At NLM, we are fortunate to count many veterans among our numbers. Some of our staff are not only veterans of active-duty service, but they also continue to serve through the reserves or through membership in the National Guard.

It’s good for NLM to have veterans among our workforce. Veterans bring well-developed skills that can effectively be applied to our operations and research enterprise. While each veteran is unique, and entered uniformed service for very personal reasons, veterans bring a commitment to the country refined through their assignments. And veterans strengthen NLM’s commitment to serve the public through government service.

I think that working at NLM is also good for our veterans. NLM allows them to continue in public service and provides them with a world class enterprise environment that makes effective use of their talents and skills honed through previous service. And working at NLM enjoins the efforts of these veterans with the remaining 1,600 plus people who work every day to bring information to the public, make genomic information safely and securely available for science and public health, and help reach communities across the country with trusted health information.

I am pleased and proud to honor these select members of our outstanding workforce. Thank you for your military service and thank you for your continued service at NLM!

Clockwise from top left:  Dianna Adams (U.S. Army), Alvin Stockdale (U.S. Army), Velvet Abercrumbie (U.S. Navy), Ken Koyle (U.S. Army)
Clockwise from top left: Dianne Babski (U.S. Army), Kevin Gates (U.S. Air Force), Bryant Pegram (U.S. Army)
Left to right: Todd Danielson (U.S. Army) and Peter Seibert (U.S. Army)

Turning Talent into Treasure

One of NLM’s greatest assets is its talented, creative workforce. Last year, NIH called on its 27 Institutes and Centers to step up to mount an effective response to COVID-19. Supported by Congress, NIH invested more than $2 billion to ensure rapid access to COVID-19 testing for everyone in the United States — funding research to accelerate access to vaccines and therapeutics and leveraging existing clinical trials and electronic health record data to characterize, monitor, and treat the long-term sequalae of COVID-19 infections.

How is NLM supporting NIH’s COVID-19 response? Well, not surprisingly, our literature and genomic repositories are key to inspiring new research and providing the reference annotated genomes used to evaluate the SARS-CoV-2 virus and help discern its variants. Our Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) gives NLM a face in communities across the United States, providing trustable, community-specific health information and increasing community engagement in NIH research programs. Our researchers are developing new analytic tools to more efficiently interpret medical images and refine the taxonomy of viruses so the properties of related viruses can be better understood. All of these activities draw on the talents of our almost 1,700 staff and the extensive partnerships we have with collaborators within the government and across the country. But it’s our special knowledge of data science, library science, and informatics that is making it possible for NIH to set up many new research programs with systematic attention to data coordination, data reuse, and data integration.

I want to highlight the talents of people working diligently across NIH. When NIH receives congressional funding for new programs or innovative research, a lot of work happens behind the scenes before these funds are awarded to investigators. Program announcements are written, solicitations offered, proposals received and reviewed, and awards made. Each of these steps requires an enormous amount of human effort. NIH has staff engaged in all of these activities for our typical programs and standard research mechanisms. To date, NIH received almost $4.9 billion to fight COVID, which is about 8.8% of the NIH’s total budget of nearly $43 billion for fiscal year 2021. NIH efforts to address COVID required a legion of staff members to refocus their regular priorities to participate in this emergency response. The contributions of NLM staff in this effort were amazing, with nearly 50 people from NLM stepping up to help write funding announcements, participate in reviews, and/or managing the awards process.

In particular, I want to elevate the work of three of our NLM staff who have made significant contributions to this effort. Yanli Wang, PhD, is a program officer in our Division of Extramural Programs. Because of her expertise in data science and training in chemistry, Dr. Wang was detailed to the RADx Radical (RADx-rad) program. RADx-rad is supporting innovative approaches, including rapid detection devices and home-based testing technologies, that will address current gaps in COVID-19 testing and extend existing approaches to make them more usable, accessible, or accurate. Dr. Wang serves as the program officer for the Discoveries and Data Coordinating Center and is working to provide programmatic stewardship and make sure that data across all studies is collected in a systematic manner that fosters data integration and data reuse. A critical aspect of Dr. Wang’s work is fostering the uses of common data elements across the projects and over time.

Two NLM staff members support NIH’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery or RECOVER Initiative. RECOVER is studying the post-acute experiences of the estimated 10% to 30% of people who contract COVID-19 and continue to experience a range of symptoms. Amanda J. Wilson, Chief of NLM’s Office of Engagement and Training, is our representative to the RECOVER Initiative executive and coordinating committee. In this role she helps prepare the many funding announcements that stimulate research or reuse of clinical data to best understand this complex problem. Ms. Wilson leverages the extensive resource of the NNLM in support of community-based education and support of the COVID-19 crisis.

Another NLM staffer supporting the RECOVER Initiative is Paul Fontelo. In addition to his roles in training and research in NLM’s Intramural Research Program, Dr. Fontelo is a pathologist by training. He provides specialized expertise to the Autopsy Cohort Studies to identify tissue injury due to SARS-COV-2 infection, delivers technical direction to awardees, and approves certain deliverables and reports as required. He also participates in the application reviews of the Autopsy Cohort and the Mobile/Digital Health platform and is a member of the Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Executive Coordination Committee.

I’m grateful to these colleagues, and many more across NLM, who are going above and beyond their usual job responsibilities to help NIH step up to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic! Join me in thanking them for their efforts and using the talents of the NLM to create invaluable treasures for NIH!

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