Vaccines, Vaccinations, and NLM

As I write this message, I am one of the more than 25 million people in the U.S. who have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine. I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on February 4, and my second dose on February 25. NIH is distributing vaccines to employees based on priority group following general guidance from the CDC, but I became eligible first through my health plan. I’m sharing my story with you today and highlighting how the NLM has and still plays a role in vaccines and vaccinations during this time of the COVID pandemic.

Getting a spot in the COVID vaccine line will become one of the shared stories of this pandemic. As story tellers, we will likely exchange tales of how each of us got that prized place, particularly for those of us who received the vaccine in the first few weeks of distribution.

Here’s my story: As a resident of Washington, DC, and someone who is over 65 years of age, I became eligible pretty early – January 11. At the time, DC released appointment slots through its public web site. What if you don’t have a computer, typing skills, or access to the internet? Can the public library help here? Of course! In addition to providing internet access and coaching support from library staff, some public libraries are becoming sites for the distribution of the COVID vaccine. Each Monday and every other Thursday, as more appointment slots were released, I dutifully logged into the DC vaccination registration website, entering details and hitting refresh. Unfortunately, the available slots ran out quickly with each attempt. It was indeed frustrating. Through my health plan, I was entered into a vaccine registration list. As an NIH employee, I got my name on a list too. I was probably number 15,543 at NIH since I am healthy and able to work remotely, but I became eligible through my health plan in late January and was spared the déjà vu of type, refresh, repeat!

NLM played a big role in helping get this vaccine to me and people around the world.

We played a key role in making sure the genomic basis for vaccines and therapeutics were freely available to the public. In January 2020, NLM released the first fully annotated SARS-CoV-2 gene sequence to the public through our GenBank database, the world’s largest database of publicly available genetic sequences. Because NLM maintains extensive data repositories of nucleic acid sequences – the building blocks of genes – researchers were able to search NLM’s entire Sequence Read Archive (SRA) to better understand and characterize the biological properties of SARS-CoV-2 in record time. 

NLM created a dedicated website, the Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 data hub, for researchers to search, retrieve, and analyze data for more than 150,000 digital genomic sequences of the virus. In addition, we partnered with publishers around the world to make available for computerized data mining the full text of over 100,000 articles related to the coronavirus, helping scientist to identify key biological targets. Our ClinicalTrials.gov repository includes over 400 studies designed to develop, evaluate, and determine the effects of various COVID-19 vaccines.

Screen shot of MedlinePlus COVID-19 webpage

Our MedlinePlus consumer health information site contains specialized information about COVID-19 vaccines, clinical studies, and the vaccine distribution process. MedlinePlus helps people find information (in English and Spanish) about the COVID-19 vaccination program in the United States, and is a resource where people can find reliable, up-to-date information about how to protect themselves and their loved ones against infection while awaiting the vaccine. Linking to health information from the NIH and other federal government agencies such as the FDA and CDC, MedlinePlus provides access to fact sheets, statistics and research, journal articles, and even videos to help people learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.

What makes NLM unique is not just that it contributed to the process that helped make vaccines available, it’s that NLM has been helping scientists, clinicians and the public understand, prevent, manage, and cope with infectious diseases and health problems for nearly 200 years.

To Prevent Influenza!, 1918
National Library of Medicine #101580385

NLM identifies, selects, and archives a remarkable volume of content documenting these pandemics, from the scientific journals to the public health announcements. We were here 100 years ago, preserving information about the 1918 influenza pandemic, and we’re on track to be here in 100 years when future scholars and members of the public want to peruse the records of the COVID-19 pandemic and other health challenges faced by society.

The NLM serves scientists and society by providing trusted health information to understand, prevent and treat illness in support of public health. How can we help you?

Nursing and Libraries – Powerful Forces in Motion

This month, NLM joins the Nation in celebrating Black History Month. Libraries play an important role in ensuring equity of access to information. From my career as a nurse, I know that libraries are important vehicles for delivering trusted information. To celebrate my dual allegiances to nursing and libraries, in this post, I am tuning into the voices of Black nurses to learn what libraries mean to them.

Black nurses have made huge contributions to the health and well-being of people and are foundational to the health care system as we know it today. Rhetaugh Dumas, PhD, RN, a psychiatric nurse and academic leader, once served as the deputy director of the NIH’s National Institutes of Mental health (1979-1981). Another psychiatric nurse, Chester A. Woffard, III, MSN, RN was a leading thinker in suicidology, particularly addressing the needs of nurses coping with suicide among colleagues. May L. Wykle, PhD, RN, devised critical intervention strategies for caregivers, with particular attention to self-care needs among minority elders. Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, MSN, RN, is an expert in health promotion and created much of the evidence base for HIV risk-reduction interventions. I’ll bet every one of these nurses used (and still uses) the library often!

I asked some nurse colleagues to reflect on the role libraries have played in their professional and personal lives – and look what I learned!

Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN | Senior Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer | Cedars-Sinai Health System

Libraries have been my constant go-to place for knowledge and skills to support any task I took on. It was important to me to join a profession that would enable me to read, learn, and be of use to other humans — nursing was the answer to my prayers. Reading in the library and collecting journals from around the world was a way to learn about life, humans, and nurture my sense of purpose to be of use to others. Libraries are full of stories about human caring; they are a safe place to gain knowledge and to explore and imagine life’s possibilities. I treasure my memories of being in the aisles of public and private libraries in schools, after school, and now accessing the wise words and secrets held by libraries electronically.

Sheldon D. Fields, PhD, RN, CRNP, FNP-BC, AACRN, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN | Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion Research Professor | The Pennsylvania State University College of Nursing

As a healthcare professional who is also a researcher, educator, and health policy specialist, I have leveraged the resources of the NLM many times. As an HIV prevention research scientist, I rely heavily on the biomedical literature databases such as PubMed to keep up to date on the research literature and for dissemination of my own work. As a nursing educator, the NLM training resources and courses on how to use various databases, as well as resources such as MedlinePlus and DailyMed for drug information have been most beneficial in my work with nursing students. The NLM supported National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology is also a reliable source for all things health policy related. Having such reliable, up to date, and accessible resources from the NLM is critically important to all facets of my career. 

Paule V. Joseph, PhD, MS, FNP-BC, CTN-B, FAAN | Lasker Clinical Research Scholar Tenure Track Investigator | NIH Distinguished Scholar | Acting Chief, Section on Sensory Science and Metabolism Unit (SenSMet) | Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research (DICBR), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) | Biobehavioral Branch, National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

During my PhD program, I realized how critical the library and librarians were in my scientific journey. The librarian at the UPenn Biomedical Library — who was also a nurse — played a crucial role in my PhD trajectory. It was the first time I had met a nurse who was also a librarian, and her intimate knowledge of nursing and the scientific literature helped me a lot. In my role as Principal Investigator, the librarians at NIH have been integral to the development of my lab as I have developed my clinical protocols and conducted literature searches for systematic reviews and meta-analysis. I have even co-authored papers with them. In addition, they are always available to train and share new tools to streamline the research process. The librarians have been very helpful in teaching the fellows and students in my lab about databases and guidelines to conducting reviews. When COVID-19 started and reports about COVID’s toll on taste and smell began to emerge, the NIH librarian (who knew what my lab studied) reached out and helped us tremendously by curating the literature on that topic. I am still using those resources as I develop a COVID-19 taste and smell long-hauler study.

Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN | President and CEO | National League for Nursing

As a nurse working on my doctorate, I had the opportunity to spend a summer in Washington, DC working with a Senator on many health-related issues. During that time, the Library of Congress became my refuge as I worked on my dissertation section on leadership and mentoring. Resources from the Congressional Library helped me understand the power of mentoring and recognize that nurses were sometimes left behind in terms of the mentoring process. Throughout my career, I’ve been inspired by the graciousness and generosity of spirit in people saying, “I see something in you that perhaps you can’t see in yourself.” But I know that I have been able to recognize this through what I learned at that beautiful, wonderful place called the Congressional Library. The library is where the literature revealed secrets to say, “Look at how fortunate you are to have been mentored all of your life.”

Monique Powell, MSN, RN | Nurse Manager, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit | Children’s National Medical Center

I think back on my freshman year at Howard University and one of the most memorable moments occurred in the Founders Library. I remember the first time I walked through the doors I felt this incredible sense of belonging and history. The library was named Founders in honor of the 17 men that help to found Howard University. This building holds an incredible collection of history for African Americans, and I felt privileged to be able to sit down at the tables and walk through the stacks of books. I had an assignment to research how the African American community has interacted with the medical community. As I researched this topic and used the microfiche machine to view documents, papers, and letters, I remember feeling that I had access to history in a way that I never had before. I remember coming across a personal check signed by Ruby Dee and Ozzy Davis sent to the Howard University School of Medicine to support the students — a piece of history that still moves me so many years later. My experience that day has stayed with me and encourages me to continue the work I am doing in health care and for my community. I am a proud graduate of an Historically Black College and University and feel honored to be able to serve my community as a nurse.

Asia L. Reed MSN, RN, CPN | Professional Development Specialist | Nursing Education and Professional Development | Children’s National Medical Center

The library has helped shape my educational destiny in so many ways. I have appreciated the academic library both online and in-person throughout my undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. The library offers free educational resources, caters to specific research needs, provides space for meeting with others, and supports personal and professional growth. Having recently graduated with my master’s degree in nursing education, the library contributed to my success by providing access to a variety of education resources and online databases that supported my needs. The articles I chose were directed toward my learning styles, which had a positive impact on my academic achievements. As a novice nurse educator, the library continues to play an important resource in my career path and for my pediatric nurse residents.

Reneè Roberts-Turner, DHA, MSN, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ | Director, The Department of Nursing Science, Professional Practice, and Quality Magnet® Program Director | Children’s National Hospital | Assistant Professor of Pediatrics | The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

What I always loved most about being in the library is the quiet and calm I felt as soon as I walked through the doors. During my senior year of college, my mentor (who was an employee within the University of Virginia Wise Library) heavily influenced my decision to use my bachelor’s degree in Biology to pursue Nursing instead of medicine. I spent many hours reading about healthcare careers, in various books and journals, reading articles using the microfiche machine, and concluded Nursing was the profession for me. I also spent a significant amount of my time at Marymount University’s Emerson G. Reinsch Library, where I was introduced to the Washington Research Library Consortium and benefitted from the ability to borrow materials from other academic libraries in the Washington, DC area. As I pursued my doctoral degree via online classes, I felt the same satisfaction with the electronic library format. Although I’m not physically in the library, whenever I log on to the electronic library, I still feel a sense of quiet calmness.

Linda D. Scott, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FNAP, FAAN | Dean and Professor | University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing

Those who knew me as a child can attest that I always wanted to be a nurse. My earliest professional inspiration was Florence Nightingale, whom I mimicked as I provided nursing care to my dolls and even tried to replicate her uniform by wearing a blanket that served as a cape. My information came from books through my neighborhood Bookmobile. An astute Bookmobile librarian noted my hunger for learning and encouraged me to explore more about nursing at the public library. That’s where I learned a more complete history about the nursing profession and discovered a wider representation of nurses, including some who looked like me. Learning about Mary Eliza Mahoney and Mary Elizabeth Carnegie, and later Hattie Bessent and Rhetaugh Dumas—along with other nurses of color whose footprints are evident in the profession—turned my emulation of the nurses I admired into a belief in the possibility for myself. Library resources have not only been invaluable to me throughout my education and career, but they helped me see myself on the “path we tread.”

Ora Strickland, PhD, RN, FAAN | Dean and Professor | Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences | Florida International University

I remember my parent’s library. It had encyclopedias, short stories, poems, and even medical books. Whenever any of us got sick, my mother would run to her medical books, and I took notice. All those books piqued my interest in becoming a nurse. Throughout my career, I’ve found that university libraries serve nurses very well because the librarians are good. I’ve been fortunate to frequent university libraries where librarians collaborate with the schools of nursing to set up library committees to review the library holdings in health care and related fields to make sure that their holdings are adequate and address the needs of nursing students. One library I have visited often throughout my career is NLM. I’d spend hours and hours at NLM; it’s a wonderful place. I also met some real scholars when I was at NLM. That’s what I miss most with the rise of the internet – because a library is also a community meeting place. It’s a place to meet other wonderful scholars and some of those scholars can end up being collaborators.

Retired Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, PhD, RN, FAAN | Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer | University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth

During my graduate education, particularly my doctoral program, libraries became my lifeline and my “go-to” place to help me problem solve and find resources that I couldn’t identify myself. Librarians gave me ideas that I hadn’t thought of and became my alternate support system outside of my department – and outside of my profession. Libraries have been very integrated into all the work I’ve done and the positions I’ve held throughout my career. Librarians deserve a lot of credit for my academic and professional success.

Mia Waldron, PhD, MSN-Ed, NPD-BC | Nurse Scientist, Nursing Science, Professional Practice & Quality | Children’s National Hospital | Assistant Professor of Pediatrics | George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Libraries were a steady feature in my life. I spent childhood summers in the Brooklyn Public Library reading fiction; I worked as a clerk in the Cardozo Law Library as a teen; and decided on the sorority to join based on histories read at the Schomburg Library. The decision to change my college major from pre-medicine to nursing was made after poring over career data found in the health sciences library over 30 years ago. The importance of knowledge, as a nurse, has proven invaluable throughout my career. In most instances, my first instinct is to turn to a library.


What a journey! Libraries are shaping the future of nursing and health care, and these nurses give us a glimpse into how all libraries, including the NLM, resonate with the dreams of nurses and provide support and skills to move forward in practice.

I am grateful to my colleagues for sharing their perspectives, and so proud of what the merging of these two forces — nursing and libraries — bring to the health of the world!

How have libraries influenced you and your career?

10 Tips After 10 Months of Video Calls

Like most of the world, staff at NLM has been engaging with others through various technologies – video conferencing, virtual daily work huddles, and conference-inspired meetings that require screen sharing, virtual breakout rooms, chat features and instant messaging. I’ve gone from a 30-minute commute, including a short walk and a metro ride, to a 3-minute walk from my bedroom to my home office. Those lovely, long walks across the NIH campus that formed the bridges between meetings three or four times a day are now replaced by 60-second coffee refills between almost-non-stop video calls between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. And where before I only had to make sure that I looked professional and polished, I must now make sure that there’s no clutter or distracting pictures or items in the background – the camera sees everything!

Fortunately for me, I regard meetings as a high art. For the past 15 years, meetings have been one of the main mechanisms through which I work. Early on I learned two great tips from a great biomedical informatics guru, John Glaser

Never walk out of a meeting with more to do than you came in with, and never close a meeting without knowing who is taking the next steps on every item.

This comes in handy when your days are lived on camera! I can’t match the wisdom of John, but I can share some ideas that are proving helpful to me as I (virtually) meet with NIH colleagues, the NLM leadership team, individuals with whom I’m collaborating, and NLM staff through “brown bag” lunch sessions.

I’d like to share a few of my own tips garnered from my years of in-person and virtual meetings.

Call people by name, often.

This is particularly helpful if you are leading a meeting, for it acknowledges people and engages them in the moment. It is also important when you are a participant. Using names helps compensate for the lack of communication cues in video calls, such as eye contact and head nodding, and fosters engagement and stimulates participation.

Start on time and end on time.

I know I’m not the only one whose days are lived through conference calls and video chat. By starting and ending on time, you demonstrate respect for everyone on the call, as well as those in the prior and subsequent calls. In addition, it saves you from having to start every next call with the “sorry I was finishing up a previous call” apology.

Allow for pauses.

This is important for the leader of the meeting and is also equally relevant for participants. It can be difficult to pick up on visual and audio cues, gestures, and conversational threads, such as someone leaning back, leaning in, shifting their gaze, or changing their tone of voice. So, it becomes particularly important to let pauses stand an extra second or two to allow someone to come off mute or organize their thoughts.

Keep your camera on when possible.

Keeping your camera on provides visual evidence that you are present and attentive during the conversation and meeting discourse. It’s courteous to others, and yes, it does mean that you have to attend to the image being displayed, but it allows your colleagues to see that you’re not reading email or distracted by other issues. It also reinforces the connection between the speaker and the audience and enhances a sense of group engagement. Although some may worry about excessive bandwidth consumption, the social value is worth it!

Keep your microphone off unless speaking!

Visual cues are important; auditory cues are distracting. Until technology advances, microphones (mics) often create distortion, pick up background noise, contribute to audio feedback, and generally degrade the conversational experience. Remaining on mute signals respect for the speaker and gives them a non-competitive platform for discussion. It helps to learn the steps of muting and un-muting to keep up with the rhythm of the conversation.

Check your mic often and use a headset with a good mic.

Get to know your mic, how it works, and the indicators that it’s live. Poor audio quality can affect the experience of the video call for everyone. Many of us forget that the mic is on our laptop and the further away we are from the mic, the poorer the audio. I’ve found that using a headset helps because it puts the mic close to your mouth and will help minimize background noise. It is key to your personal happiness and professional survival that you make sure you know how to troubleshoot basic mic issues, particularly knowing when your mic is on, when it’s NOT on, and to stay alert so it’s never on when you don’t realize it! 

Use chat features judiciously.

Most video conferencing software has some type of text support, usually called “chat.” I find this feature to be very useful when I’m NOT the speaker and very annoying when I am. Sometimes, in a big and exciting meeting, sidebar conversations held through the chat feature can provide clarification and enhance the shared experience. However, every thought appears on the screen and it can be distracting to the speaker. If you really want to chat your way through a video call, consider setting up a parallel channel in a different platform for that purpose or consult with your speaker beforehand. Your speakers will thank you!

Watch your backgrounds!

Video conferences introduce us to the private lives of our colleagues in ways never before anticipated, often by having the opportunity to look over the shoulder of your colleague and into their background. Some video conferencing platforms allow you to customize the image projected on your screen – a blessing and a bane. Remember that some backgrounds may best be left for personal calls with friends or family, and professional engagements do best with a more subdued background where the interest can focus on the person, not the background.

Take notes.

Many of the mental mechanisms we use in human discourse add meaning and interpretation to the words that are exchanged. We remember how a colleague smiled when bringing up a new idea, or the worried look when your words weren’t well understood. Note taking (I use a fountain pen and write in long hand) helps keep me focused during video calls, aids me in organizing thoughts, and often provides a reminder for the next meeting or conversation.

Take a break!

This tip is for you; not about using the technology. Technology is unrelenting and always demanding. The immediacy of work, the pull of people waiting for a meeting to begin, and our tendency to overschedule can lead to very packed days. As an industrial engineer with human factors training, I know that performance degrades over time and short breaks help! Schedule breaks – at least every two hours – even if only for five minutes. Take a walk, hug your child or someone you love, or start a load of laundry. The goal is to refocus and refresh!

What have you learned from 10 months of video conferencing? Please share your tips and ideas here – we are all in this together.

We’re “Going to Have to Science the **** Out of This!”

When faced with the other-worldly, complex challenges of surviving on Mars after being left behind by his shipmates, Matt Damon, who plays an astronaut in the movie, The Martian, knows that his only chance of survival will require him to call on all of his scientific knowledge and understanding of the scientific method in order to meet his basic needs, explore new terrain, and establish new routines for everyday living.

Along the way, he must adapt to constant changes in the environment, technological disruptions, and the challenges of remote collaboration. Sound a little too familiar?  

The process of remote work that has become the new normal for most of NIH and NLM staff is beginning to resemble the experience of an astronaut stranded on Mars. It has required all of us to figure out how to meet our basic needs – food, socialization, activity, and rest; explore new terrain – home as the workplace; and identify new routines. We’ve continued to face man-made and natural challenges, such as fires, hurricanes and floods, been relegated to virtual meetings, and have worked collaboratively without the benefit of being in the same physical space. Yet, at no other time has it ever been so important for NLM to keep innovating for the future.  


I’m calling your attention back to the experience of our abandoned astronaut for a very specific reason — his use of scientific knowledge, insight, and experience to analyze opportunities and identify innovative solutions. This serves as a great model to illustrate the work happening at NLM.

NLM has prioritized the health and safety of our workforce while responding to COVID-19 and keeping our public-facing services available to the scientists, clinicians, patients, and families around the world who use them millions of times every day.  

We continue to work at the top of our game, adding nearly one million new citations in PubMed, expanding access to coronavirus literature through PubMed Central (PMC), and launching the first phase of the NIH Preprint Pilot to test the viability of making preprints searchable in PMC and increase the discoverability of early NIH-funded research results.

We’ve opened up new lines of research: our intramural investigators are applying their talents in computational modeling to examine microbiome in wastewater to detect evidence of the novel coronavirus, and using integrated comparative genomics and machine learning techniques to identify key genomic features that could differentiate SARS-CoV-2 from other strains of coronavirus that cause less severe disease.


Yet, it’s not enough to do just enough. We must continue to prepare to advance and support the future of scientific communication and build on the public’s trust in NLM.

It’s long been a hallmark of NLM to scan the external scientific environment, verify observed needs, and create scientific communication and dissemination tools to support the scientific environment.

Think back to the 1980s. Something was happening within our country (genomics revolution on the horizon) and across NLM (building the foundation of the scientific communication tools needed to support genomics) that led to the emergence of the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 1988.

Many, many forces needed to be aligned to make this happen: the critical vision of how a library could accelerate a genomics revolution; the talents of one of the best scientific analytical and communications workforces; the political goodwill of a Congress invigorated by scientific opportunity; the specific language needed to create the authorization legislation; and, of course, a bit of vision, hubris, and innovation brought about by the NLM team of Drs. David Lipman, James Ostell, Dennis Benson and David Landsman..


So how do we “science the **** out of this” to create the future of 2030 from the foundations of 2020? Doing for science what the decade of 1980-1990 did for genomics.  

First, we begin with our strongest suit — collecting, organizing, and disseminating scientific literature. We’re doing this by aligning our investment in novel products, such as moving NLM’s  Sequence Read Archive (SRA) to commercial cloud platforms, while stimulating new investigations such as computational approaches to curation at scale to accelerate the automated indexing of large health data sets. We’ll build on our strong foundation that grows from and relies on systematic, public-informed decision making related to the acquisition, indexing and dissemination of biomedical and health information as stated in our authorizing legislation. We’ll rely on our 2017-2027 Strategic Plan guided by the NLM Board of Regents. We’ll also engage our researchers and staff, who interact with the public, to make sure that NLM’s offerings are available to the public, 24/7, without charge or restriction.


What other sciences can help with this? Organizational science can help us remain open to future growth opportunities that may look different from our past successes. Public health sciences can identify the end-users of NLM services and offerings ranging from patients to clinicians to researchers to policymakers, so that we can continue to ensure we are meeting their needs. The biological, physical, and clinical sciences signal the future ways that we might understand the health and wellbeing of all, with social sciences providing tools to reposition organizations towards the future they hope to shape.

However, the marooned astronaut in the movie did not completely rely on science alone. You might remember his (dis)pleasure at discovering the disco music left by his commander. (He didn’t really like her choice of music.) This minor plot point tells us that to effectively “science the **** out of this” requires that we continue to look to the arts and humanities to translate science into the human experience to help us understand what goes on inside of us, and show us what it means to be a human being. The arts and humanities are an important part of the way we bring our own inspirations and ways to design the future.

How will we make this happen? We’ll need to identify, align, and share new models for innovation. We’ll have to learn to relax the structure of video conference technologies to mimic the hallway and in-person conversations and reduce the sense of ‘presentation’ on the screen to become presence in the moment.

But most importantly, we’ll need your ideas and guidance. How do we keep innovation alive under the constraints of our everyday life in COVID-19? Can you help inspire us to innovate?

All for One…Health for All: The Role of Open Access, Evidence-Based Information to Improve Health for All Species

Guest post by Kristine M. Alpi, MLS, MPH, PhD, AHIP, OHSU Library, Oregon Health & Science University; Tova Johnson, MPH, MA, MLIS, OHSU Library, Oregon Health & Science University; and Heather K. Moberly, MSLS, AHIP, FHEA, PgCert (Vet Ed), University Libraries, Texas A&M University

Physical isolation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to increasingly engage with the outdoor environment or bring companion animals into their lives as supports for their physical and mental wellbeing.

This connection among the health of humans, animals, and the environment exemplifies the One Health approach. 

One Health is not new, but it has gained new life amid rising concerns over COVID-19 and the environment in recent years. This model encourages collaboration across disciplines, with experts in human, animal, and environmental health, along with other specialties, to achieve better public health outcomes. While leaders often come from veterinary medicine or public health, anyone committed to keeping the world healthy is a potential partner in One Health. 


Providing high-quality, timely information to the people and professionals who need it most is critical to protecting the health of people, animals, and the environment. The FDA uses the term animal health literacy to provide the public with information about drug and food safety concerns that can have an impact on animals and humans. The joint NLM/FDA resource, DailyMed, includes drug listings approved for either humans or animals.

NLM’s MedlinePlus online health information resource provides robust information on animal-human interactions, but typically with a focus on those that threaten human health such as animal bites or zoonoses (diseases that can be passed between humans and animals). To get information from animal health experts, we can look to information providers such as veterinary educators to provide insights offering the interconnected One Health perspective.

Just as MedlinePlus relies, in part, on health professional societies to provide information on specialized care, veterinary medicine trains specialists in topics ranging from behavior to surgery, and provides information to support decision-making about large and small companion animal healthcare. Animal health information in multiple languages is not centrally coordinated, but the American College of Veterinary Surgeons is one example that offers information in Spanish as well as English.


Beyond personal experiences caring for animals at home or at work, One Health is a critical framework for providing timely, open, high-quality information during times of wildfires and natural disasters that can affect all species. Responding to natural disasters brings together teams who work primarily with humans and teams who typically work with animals. Many veterinary schools provide emergency preparedness education in addition to deploying veterinary emergency teams to respond to emergency situations that may be all species-focused or primarily a human health oriented mission. Central knowledge resources like the American Red Cross also provide apps and information to support people and pets during times of crisis.

Libraries who participate in the NLM-supported Network of the National Library of Medicine are essential resources for people seeking information online from trusted sources. Health sciences librarians, particularly the members of the Medical Library Association’s Animal and Veterinary Information Specialist Caucus, support the health of all species by addressing questions raised by people who live, work, and share the broader environment with companion animals and wildlife. These questions may come to public, community college, and university libraries who rely on free and direct access to high-quality resources written for a variety of audiences.

We recently presented Health Questions for All Species as a free webinar for the Oregon Reference Summit to highlight how to use NLM and other open access, evidence-based resources to address One Health questions. We acknowledged the value of regionally and culturally specific resources for populations who are particularly challenged by certain conditions or environmental exposures, and discussed similarities and differences in human and animal information sources, terminology and readability.

We hope this information expanded your awareness about how NLM and other information resources can promote One Health through an integrated approach to searching and addressing issues that impact humans, animals and our environment.

The One Health Commission is a great place for educational resources for teachers and learners who want to take another step towards Health for All.

Did you learn something new today? What can you do to contribute to One Health?

Kristine M. Alpi, MLS, MPH, PhD, AHIP, OHSU Library, Oregon Health & Science University and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Population Health & Pathobiology, North Carolina State University.

Tova Johnson, MPH, MA, MLIS, OHSU Library, Oregon Health & Science University.

Heather K. Moberly, MSLS, AHIP, FHEA, PgCert (Vet Ed), Medical Sciences Library and department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Heather is a 2020 recipient of the Friends of the National Library of Medicine’s Michael E. DeBakey Library Services Outreach Award