Gamification at Health Science Libraries

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Image via Pixabay.

Last year I occasionally saw the term “Gamification” pop up on the American Libraries Magazine website, and I was immediately intrigued. I’ve heard of board games and video games used in library programming, but what in the world was gamification?  In the article “Engaging Students Through Gamification”, Tasha Squires describes how “gamification  takes a process or learning target and sets it in a gaming format.”  Squires goes on to describe how she and the other staff at a middle school library created a game where students earned points through challenges involving “critical thinking, collaborating to solve puzzles, interacting with teachers outside their normal purview, and creating original work such as book trailers and creative writing pieces.”  Gamification seems like an incredible tool for school and public libraries who work with children and teens to promote learning and reading in a fun, creative way.

Can gamification also be used by health science libraries in academic, government, or hospital settings for outreach and training purposes?

Gamification for Health Outreach and Medical Training

I used a quick search of PubMed to see if I could find any reviews on the use of gamification for health or biomedical purposes.  Many of the reviews I found illustrated how gamification can be used promote healthy habits and provide health information to patients, such as:

Other reviews described how gamification can be used for training of healthcare workers:

One of the most interesting examples of gamification used specifically in a health science library is described in the article “Courting Apocalypse: Creating a Zombie-Themed Evidence-Based Medicine Game”, where health science librarians at the University of Iowa created a zombie-themed “choose your own adventure” game to teach students evidence-based medicine skills.

Health science libraries can use gamification methods to provide health information to patients and training for medical students and healthcare staff in an entertaining, memorable way.

If you’d like to learn more about gamification, I’d recommend reading the article “An Introduction to Gamification: Adding Game Elements for Engagement” by Tara Brigham (full-text behind paywall), or watch the free training webinar from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), Education Games and Health Sciences.

 

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How Libraries are Using GIS Mapping

I first learned about geographic information system (GIS) mapping on the Community Health Maps blog from the National Library of Medicine, which offers training materials to teach community organizations how to create low-cost maps related to public health. GIS mapping is used in many creative ways for public health purposes (such as identifying health disparities or visualizing the locations of dangerous environmental hazards). GIS seems like an incredibly useful method for displaying and exploring data on local, national, and international levels, so I wanted look into how academic and public libraries are involved with teaching and using GIS.

Libraries Teaching GIS

Many academic libraries offer GIS mapping services, such as GIS software access, in-person training for students and faculty, and LibGuides that explain the basics about GIS.  For example:

  • At Duke University, the Brandaleone lab for Data and Visualization Services offers access to mapping software (like ArcGIS, QGIS, Google Earth Pro, and more).  Their GIS in the Library webpage offers tips about library workshops and academic courses on GIS and where students can find additional help related to data visualization and GIS.
  • John Hopkins University offers a LibGuide on GIS and Maps, access to ArcGIS software for students/staff, and their GIS and Data Services staff also offer training and consultation on GIS.

The only public library online resource I was able to find related to GIS was the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Online Resources page from New York Public Library.  This online guide provides links to data sources, free software, lectures on GIS, and even NYC online maps.

Public Libraries using GIS for Assessment

While academic libraries seem to focus more on teaching GIS mapping to students and faculty, public libraries often use GIS mapping for assessment of services, facility use, and collection development.  The article Using GIS to Assess Public Libraries by Dilnavaz Mirza Sharma at Public Libraries Online discusses how public libraries “have embraced GIS as a tool for evaluating usage, collection development, and community impact by capturing GIS data to provide evidence of the library’s function in the community serviced.”  The article describes a case study “of how GIS maps were used to identify public library locations in Chicago that would be ideal for providing consumer health information materials to underserved populations.”

Interactive Maps as Exhibits

Some academic and public libraries also use GIS mapping to create interactive maps shared on their websites as digital exhibits or tools to explore useful data sets, such as:

  • The University of South Carolina library website offers a searchable map of locations from the 1956 Negro Travelers’ Green Book.
  • The College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland has created an interactive mapping tool that allows users to search for and view all libraries within a selected neighborhood, along with related local data on demographics, economics, education, health, and responses from local libraries from the 2013 and 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey.
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Interactive mapping tool to explore Digital Inclusion Survey data, created by the University of Maryland College of Information Studies.
  • Brooklyn Public Library offers a literary map on its website, exploring local landmarks and locations related to children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction.

There are so many potential applications for GIS mapping in both academic and public libraries, from workshops to teach students how to use GIS to interactive digital exhibits that allow users to explore data sets at a local level.  I hope in the coming year to learn more about use of GIS software, maybe using the Community Health Maps training materials.

MAC-MLA 2017 – Themes, Resources, and Opportunities

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association (MAC-MLA) 2017 Annual Meeting was held in Staunton, VA from October 21-24, and the meeting was a whirlwind of powerful, innovative ideas shared through presentations, posters, and even live-Tweeting.  Here’s a quick rundown of my key takeaways from the meeting, including important themes highlighted during the keynote presentations, interesting resources, and professional development opportunities from MLA and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM).

Themes

The overarching theme of this year’s meeting was “facing your fears” (yes, it’s close to Halloween), and each of the four keynote speakers discussed different topics related to librarian, patron, and researcher fears:

  • Impostor Syndrome – Do you ever feel like you’re an impostor in your profession?  Dr. Michael Southam-Gerow of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) discussed how anyone (but especially women and students/professionals from minority populations) can suffer from “impostor syndrome/impostor phenomenon”, where they worry about the validity of their achievements in their chosen field. Dr. Southam-Gerow also discussed techniques to overcome these “impostor” feelings.  The slides from the presentation are available here.
  • Open Science – Dr. Maryrose Franko of the Health Research Alliance (HRA) presented on addressing funders’ fears about open science.  Dr. Franko outlined common fears about open science (cost, administrative burden, and burden/uncertainty for researchers) and described how HRA, the Center for Open Science, and other partners are working to promote and strengthen open science initiatives like open access publications, data sharing, and preregistration.  Her presentation slides can be found here.
  • Health Justice and Health Literacy – Dr. Beth St. Jean of the University of Maryland, College Park gave an introduction to health justice and its relationship to health literacy, health outcomes, and information avoidance. She also discussed strategies to help information professionals improve health literacy among patrons and decrease information avoidance.  Her presentation slides can be viewed here.
  • Critical Librarianship – Derrick Jefferson of American University provided an overview of critical librarianship, which “seeks to be transformative, empowering, and a direct challenge to power and privilege.” Jefferson provided examples of critical librarianship in action and resources to learn more about the movement through Critlib.org and the #critlib on Twitter.  Jefferson’s presentation slides can be accessed here.

Resources

These are a few of the interesting new resources I learned about at the meeting:

  • NNLM RD3 – This is a fantastic website created by NNLM to help health science librarians learn the fundamentals about data science and data management.  (I also wrote about this resource in my MLA 2017 takeaways post.)
  • PubMed Labs – Use this test site from the National Library of Medicine to explore new features and tools that may be added to PubMed, and provide direct feedback to the NCBI team.
  • Open Science Framework (OSF) – OSF is a “free, open source service of the Center for Open Science“.  Researchers can collaborate and manage projects through OSF, including storage of data and files, access control, and the ability to link third party services to the platform. Users can also search through collections of pre-prints, project registrations, and posters/presentations from conferences.
  • NEJM Resident 360 – This online resource from the Massachusetts Medical Society (publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine) can be used by residents and medical students to participate in discussions, find career and study tips, and find interesting learning resources from NEJM.  The  Learning Lab, Resident Lounge, Career, and Discussions sections are free to explore, while the Rotation Prep section is only accessible through NEJM institutional or individual subscriptions.
  • Systematic Review Tools – I learned about several interesting free systematic review resources from the poster “From screaming to screening: An evaluation of free systematic review software” by Elizabeth Moreton,  Jamie Conklin, Leila Ledbetter, Rebecca Carlson McCall, and Jennifer S. Walker. Users can search for systematic review software through the Systematic Review Toolbox, and free systematic review tools that may be useful to try include Colandr and Rayyan.
  • Burnout Libguide – During the paper presentation “Burnout, Professional”[MeSH]: A Study on the Subject of Medical Librarian Burnout” by Megan N. Kellner, Associate Fellow, National Library of Medicine & Elizabeth O. Moreton, Nursing Liaison Librarian, UNC Chapel Hill, I learned about this very useful Libguide for medical librarians to test if they’re experiencing burnout and resources to prevent burnout.

Opportunities

Updates from MLA and NNLM included training opportunities for health science library professionals:

A New Toolkit to Promote Health Resources at Libraries

I’ve written before about how public libraries are a vitally important resource for teaching health literacy skills, providing health-related programs and services, and offering access to reliable health information for the general public.  The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) offers public libraries a number of resources to help them fulfill this role, such as free online classes for library staff on consumer health topics and a fantastic guide to health information resources and programming ideas (created with California State Library), Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library: A Consumer Health Toolkit for Library Staff (2nd ed).  Back in September, I learned about a new toolkit created by NNLM and the American Library Association (ALA) for promoting health literacy at libraries that I wanted to take a closer look at.

This Health Literacy Toolkit is part of the broader Libraries Transform campaign from ALA, which is “designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals.”  The toolkit offers simple, catchy “Because Statements” highlighting how libraries benefit individual and community health (like “Because quality information helps you make better decisions”).

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Because Statements from the toolkit.

Each Because Statement can be printed as a poster, postcard, bookmark, or table tent or shared on social media (graphics sized for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook).  The toolkit also offers key messages, activity suggestions, and resource links related to each Because Statement.  Access to the toolkit materials is free, but users must register to access the materials.  The toolkit isn’t made specifically for public libraries and can also be used in school, academic, and special libraries to promote health resources.

Overall, I’m really impressed with the elegantly simple and unifying promotional messages offered by the Health Literacy Toolkit.  I spend a lot of time on social media in my current job, and I understand the importance of bold, simple statements that will hook the audience and stick in their mind.  Libraries are such amazingly valuable resources for offering equal access to high quality information and services, but unfortunately some people may view libraries as obsolete due to changing technology and user needs.  The Because Statements in this toolkit act as sharp, quick explanations about why libraries are still relevant and important for community health.  I also appreciate that the Because Statements can be downloaded in a wide variety of formats, so libraries can use them for both print and social media promotion.

The toolkit has a few areas where it could potentially be improved to increase promotional value and also direct library staff to additional useful health resources.  The text of the Because Statements is very catchy, but some sort of imagery added below the Because Statements could make the graphics much more eye-catching and appealing to a wider range of library patrons. Translation of the Because Statements into other languages (especially Spanish) could also help to reach a broader population of patrons.  Finally, I’d love to see some sort of integration between this new toolkit and the Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit.

The Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit offers a much broader list of health resources and programming ideas, while the Health Literacy Toolkit offers the graphics and promotional messages needed to promote these health resources and programs.  The Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit does seem to be in need of an update (with the second edition published in 2013).  Hopefully if the Health and Wellness toolkit is updated in the near future, it will be more closely linked to the new Health Literacy Toolkit.  Both toolkits offer important and complementary tools for creating and promoting health resources and programs within libraries.

 

Tools to Visualize Local Health Data

Have you ever wondered which issues have the biggest impact on public health in your community, or how your county’s public health ranks in comparison to other counties in your state?  Here are two helpful tools for visualizing and comparing county-level health data, found through the list of County and Local Health Data tools at PHPartners.org (I originally learned about these tools through the free NNLM class Health and Wellness @ the Library: The Essentials of Providing Consumer Health Services).

CHSI 2015

CHSI 2015 (created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) describes itself as “an interactive web application that produces health profiles for all 3,143 counties in the United States.”  Select a state and county to view an “at-a-glance” summary (under the “Summary Comparison Report” section) on “how the selected county compares with peer counties” (better, moderate or worse) “on the full set of Primary Indicators” (arranged under categories Mortality, Morbidity, Healthcare Access and Quality, Health Behaviors, Social Factors, and Physical Environment).

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The Summary Comparison Report for Montgomery County, MD at CHSI 2015.

CHSI 2015 also allows you to view county demographics data and county-level data for specific Primary Indicators.  For instance, the age adjusted Alzheimer’s disease death rate for Montgomery County, MD is 13.3 per 100,000 residents, while the US median rate is 27.3.

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Data on Alzheimer’s disease death rate for Montgomery County, MD at CHSI 2015.

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (created by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and University of Wisconsin) measure “the health of nearly all counties in the nation and rank them within states” using “county-level measures from a variety of national and state data sources.”  Check their Our Approach page for more information on their data sources and ranking methods.

Try searching by state from the County Health Rankings homepage, and then choose a county to view the Rankings data for the county (compared against overall state-level data and its ranking compared to other counties in the state)  under categories including Health Outcomes (Length of Life and Quality of Life) and Health Factors (Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social and Economic Factors, and Physical Environment).  Choose the “Show areas of strength” checkbox at the top of the screen to highlight public health factors where the county has a strong ranking, or choose “Show areas to explore” to highlight categories where the county has a weaker ranking.

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Viewing County Health Rankings data for Montgomery County, MD.

Choose the “Compare Counties” option to create charts comparing the public health data of two or more counties (including counties in different states).  For instance, the screenshot below shows a chart comparing County Health Rankings data for Calvert, MD, Fairfax, VA, and Montgomery, MD.

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Comparing County Health Rankings data for three different counties.

I also want to highlight a website specifically for my local county (Montgomery County, Maryland) called Healthy Montgomery, which allows users to create customized health dashboards for their local zip code.

From the Healthy Montgomery homepage, choose the Community Health Dashboards option under the Find Data drop-down menu.  You can then choose to view county health dashboards based on a variety of health indicator measurements (like Healthy People 2020 or Maryland SHIP 2017).  You can also build a custom dashboard and filter to view only specific indicators, view data for a specific location (zip codes within Montgomery County), filter by comparisons (like Healthy People 2020 or Maryland SHIP), filter by subgroups (like age, gender, or race), or filter by data source.

The dashboards include helpful icons beside measurement data to indicate if the measurement is higher or lower than county/US average, or if the measurement has an upwards or downwards trend when compared to prior values.

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Customized dashboard from Healthy Montgomery for Silver Spring, MD (zip code 20910).

While the county-level health data tools like CHSI 2015 and County Health Rankings are useful for getting a general idea about public health in larger communities, I hope all counties will eventually have websites like Healthy Montgomery available to view health status (and local health disparities) at a more granular, neighborhood-based level.

What Role Should Libraries Play in Preventing Opioid Abuse?

The abuse of opioids (both prescription and illegal) is a major public health crisis in the US.  The Centers for Disease Control describe how 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and the number of opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999.  More overdoses are occurring at public libraries, which leads to the question: what roles should librarians have in helping to prevent and treat opioid abuse?

Public Libraries Preventing and Treating Overdoses

A coworker recently shared a fantastic article with me from American Libraries (a publication of the American Library Association) by Anne Ford, called “Saving Lives in the Stacks.”  The article describes how many public libraries are taking active steps to prevent overdoses onsite, such as:

  • Monitoring public bathroom use (to prevent overdoses in restroom stalls).
  • Training staff to administer Narcan (generic name naloxone), a medication that can reverse the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

Public librarians often take on a wide variety of roles, ranging from teacher to program planner, but do librarians also need medical training to act as first responders?  This question raises legal and ethical issues beyond what I’m able to answer myself, but there is one role that I’m confident librarians can fill during this public health crisis: as information providers.

Information on Opioid Addiction and Treatment

Medical, academic, and public librarians are working to create a range of online information tools for both the general public and for healthcare professionals on preventing and treating opioid addiction:

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Opioid Abuse and Addiction Health Topics page on MedlinePlus.
  • Public Libraries: Some public libraries also provide LibGuides or online lists about opioid prevention and treatment resources (especially information on local resources), such as the Westport Library in Westport, CT or the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, MA.

Public librarians, especially those who have to handle actual overdoses and even provide emergency medical treatment, are true heroes in this battle, and all libraries (including academic and medical) can work to provide reliable information to the public and healthcare professionals on prevention and treatment resources for opioid addiction.

Takeaways from MLA 2017

I just attended my first Medical Library Association (MLA) Annual Meeting (this year in Seattle, WA), and I came away with a lot of great new ideas, resources, and news from the health sciences information field.  I’m still trying to absorb everything I’ve seen and learned over the past few days, but here’s a quick list of some of my most interesting takeaways from the conference:

  • Open Access Biomedical Journals – The vendor hall offered me the opportunity to explore the online tools and publications available from a variety of biomedical publishers, and I checked around for any open access resources they offered.  A few open access publications and resources I came across include:
  • Data Resources – 
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New data resources portal from NNLM.
  • LibGuides to ExploreI find LibGuides very useful, so I kept an eye out during the poster sessions for any interesting projects related to LibGuides. Two fantastic LibGuides I learned about:
    • Mobile Resources for Health from the University of Florida – Learn about health-related apps, ranging from apps for healthcare professionals (clinical apps, administrative/productivity apps, E-journal and literature database apps, etc.) to apps for patient education.  The LibGuide is mobile-friendly, so learn about healthcare apps on your phone!
    • Disability Resource Guide Disability Resource Guide from University of Illinois – Learn about a variety of physical and mental disabilities, including depictions of the disability in popular literature and media, web/reference/academic resources, and common assistive technologies related to the disability.
  • New Online Learning Portal for MLA – The Medical Library Association recently launched MEDLIB-ED, an online education portal for health information professionals where users can “find, complete, track, and claim credit for educational activities.”  A free competencies self-assessment is available where users can learn about the newly revised MLA Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success, rate their skills, and use the ratings to plan professional development.
  • Product Updates from National Library of Medicine (NLM) – The NLM provided updates about a number of their free online tools, including:

These are just a few of my favorite highlights, but check Twitter for #MLAnet2017 for more updates and insights on the conference!