Exploring Strange (and Amazing) Collections on the Internet Archive

I love exploring digital collections, so it’s probably no surprise that I’m an enormous fan of the Internet Archive.  The Internet Archive is a non-profit library that hosts digital versions of billions of archived webpages and millions of books, texts, audio recordings, videos, images, and even software programs.  Many people are familiar with Internet Archive due to it’s Wayback Machine collection of archived webpages (about the closest we currently get to preserving the internet), but the other collections on Internet Archive also deserve attention for the wonderful, educational, and sometimes bizarre text and media artifacts they contain.

Searching the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive includes both a simple search form accessible in the upper right corner of the page (which allows you to search across metadata, full text of books, TV captions, or archived websites) or an advanced search with fielded search forms or the option to search with lucene query syntax.

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Simple search form on Internet Archive.

When exploring the collections, I personally prefer to just select the icons for web, text, video, audio, software, or images in the upper left corner of the screen and then choose to view all items for that specific media type (like All Video).

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Video collections on the Internet Archive.

I’m then able to use the side filtering options to narrow my search by criteria like subject, collection, creator, or language.  I can also search across the metadata within that specific collection or media type.

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Filtering video collections on the Internet Archive.

Strange Collections: Text, Video and Audio

I’m just going to focus on three media types in this post (text, video, and audio collections), but I hope to explore software, image, and web collections in a future post.  Here is just a quick sampling of some of the interesting collections to explore on the Internet Archive:

This is just scratching the surface of the Internet Archive’s digital collections.  Be careful about beginning to explore the Internet Archive, since once you get started, you may go down a rabbit hole that will take hours to find your way out of (like spending 3 hours listening to old-time radio shows).

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Big Data at the Library of Congress

Health science libraries are learning how to assist healthcare professionals, researchers, and patients with managing the “Big Data” generated through clinical trials, electronic health records, wearable technology, and a variety of other sources, to help patients get more individualized and evidence-based care, to visualize and identify health disparities by location, and many, many other applications I can’t begin to list or even imagine yet.  Health science librarians aren’t the only librarians wresting with big data, though.

The Library of Congress (LOC) is busy with the creation and dissemination of enormous data sets, as I learned last Saturday at the National Book Festival when attending the presentation at the Library of Congress Town SquareLC for Robots! Mining the Library’s Digital Collections.  Library of Congress Innovation Specialist Jaime Mears discussed a few examples of how the LOC is promoting the dissemination and re-use of its data sets:

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Library of Congress data sets on Data,gov.
  • Hack-to-Learn at the LOC: In May 2017, the Library of Congress offered a two day “hackathon” training to teach librarians how to mine digital collections.  The 61 attendees at the training were taught to use “low or no-cost computational tools to explore four library collection as data sets”, including the MARC record data set.

The Library of Congress is using open-access data sets, contests to encourage creative use and mining of the data sets, and training librarians in computer and data science fundamentals to transform itself into a true 21st Century library, with innovative applications of Big Data and digital collections leading the way.  I know I’m going to keep an eye on the Meetings and Events and Training calendars hosted by the Digital Preservation section of LOC, since they seem to offer interesting trainings on data science topics (like the hackathon) and meetings (like Collections as Data 2016 and 2017).

Health Programming at Public Libraries: What Works?

When you think of programming at public libraries, probably story time for children, book clubs, and maybe a workshop for job hunting comes to mind.  Did you know libraries also often offer programs to improve public health?  OCLC’s WebJunction offers a great infographic that sums up why public libraries “are in a unique position to bring together the people, programs, and partners necessary to make health information and services accessible to everyone.”  Basically, all people have equal access to the library,  and many people use library resources (books, internet, reference staff) to identify reliable health information.  Public libraries often use local community partners from the health and wellness field to:

  • Offer fitness classes to patrons.
  • Bring in healthcare providers to offer limited health screening services.
  • Use screenings to offer referrals to local health and social service agencies.
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Section of “Library Heroes Make Health Happen” infographic.

Public librarians aren’t providing medical advice or services themselves (and many public libraries have disclaimers attesting to this), but they are helping patrons locate reliable resources for finding local health services and insurance options.

Examples of Health Programming at Libraries

What types of health programming are most successful at public libraries? I first took a quick look at the health programs available through Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL, my local library system), and popular classes seem to include Bone Builders (a bone building and fall prevention program for older adults), meditation classes (in Spanish and English), Tai Chi classes, and yoga classes.  Overall, fitness classes seem to be the most prevalent health programming in my local library system, especially low impact fitness activities accessible to older adults.

Another place I checked for examples of programming was Urban Library Council’s 2016 Innovation awards for Health, Safety and Sustainability.  The 2016 Top Innovator award went to Biblio Bistro program in San Francisco, “a mobile, librarian-staffed cooking cart, [offering] demonstrations and classes to makes the connection between self-prepared meals and wellness.”  2016 Honorable Mentions include programs like:

These programs use creative partnerships with local organizations to plan health classes and events which meet the specific needs of the local library patrons.  Now when visiting your public library, you can check out a few books AND attend a yoga class, or learn how to cook!

Resources for Health Programming at Public Libraries

Here are a few useful resources for planning consumer health programming at local libraries, free classes for librarians to learn about providing health programs, and online tools to learn about local community health issues:

How can health science librarians get involved in big data?

The following reflection was written for the online class Big Data in Healthcare: Exploring Emerging Roles, a fantastic free course provided by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM).

Enormous data sets containing a broad variety of information produced at high velocity are transforming the healthcare field.  This “big data” is being used for clinical research, patient diagnosis and treatment, analysis of public health trends, and in many other innovative ways to move healthcare into a new era of highly personalized medicine.  Patients provide the health data, programmers and data scientists create new tools to manipulate the data, and clinicians and other healthcare professionals consult and analyze the data.  Health science librarians may wonder what roles they can play in this daunting but incredibly important new domain.  Librarians can use their specialized skills to fill three key roles in the big data field: they can act a liaisons between healthcare professionals and programmers, they can act as advocates for patients, and they can act as educators for patients and healthcare professionals.

Librarians regularly perform reference interviews and user needs assessments to determine the information and programming needs of their patrons, and these skills can help librarians become effective liaisons between healthcare professionals and programmers who create tools to manipulate big data.  In the presentation The Triple Aim at the Front Lines: Lessons from a VA Experience in using data to drive change, Dr. Nick Meo describes how in order to create more effective data tools for physicians, programmers need to know how frontline physicians are using these tools in their everyday practice.  Librarians can be the intermediaries in this situation.  After performing reference interviews, focus groups, and other forms of needs assessments with healthcare professionals, the librarian can then work with programmers to create data tools that fit the information needs and diagnostic/treatment processes of the healthcare team.

Librarians can also act as advocates for patients, by learning about patient concerns related to use of their personal health data and communicating these concerns to both the programmers and healthcare professionals.  In the article A ‘green button’ for using aggregate patient data at the point of care, Christopher Longhurst, Robert Harrington, and Nigam Shah suggest a change to HIPAA, so that it will be “acceptable for front-line clinicians to use aggregate patient data, even if identified, for the purpose of treating a similar patient under their care” (1233).  This idea may make aggregated patient data more easily accessible to clinicians, but how would patients feel about their personal health data being used in this manner?  Librarians can work with patients to gain their viewpoints on possible new uses for health data like the suggested “green button”, and patients may reveal ethical, privacy, or security concerns that programmers and healthcare professionals had not previously considered.

Finally, librarians can act as educators for both healthcare professionals and patients to demonstrate the value of utilizing big data in healthcare. Harlan Krumholz describes in the article Big data and new knowledge in medicine: the thinking, training, and tools needed for a learning health system how healthcare professionals will need to change their viewpoints about best practices for research in order to fully embrace big data.  Librarians can begin changing viewpoints by presenting healthcare professionals with concrete examples of how big data has been used to improve patient care, as well as training resources for learning more about data science.  Librarians can also promote participation for patients within big data initiatives, by explaining how the projects will benefit public health.  For instance, librarians can explain to patients and the general public how participation in the All of Us Research Program may improve personalized medicine for current and future generations.

Health science librarians don’t need advanced programming skills or a medical degree as a prerequisite to work with big data.  Librarians already possess valuable communication and training skills which will make them effective liaisons between patients, healthcare professionals, and programmers who contribute to generating, analyzing, and creating tools for big data.

Online Health Information for Older Adults – 3 Government Resources

The population of adults over  65 in the US is increasing rapidly, and this growing population has an important need for reliable health information.  According to The State of Aging and Health in America 2013 from the CDC, “two factors—longer life spans and aging baby boomers—will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years or older during the next 25 years to about 72 million.”  Another sobering statistic from the report states “two out of every three older Americans have multiple chronic conditions.”  The bottom line is that more older adults will be seeking health information in the coming years about a variety of chronic conditions, and librarians should be ready.  Librarians aren’t doctors and can’t begin to take the place of healthcare professionals, but we can guide older adults and their caregivers to reliable websites where they can find basic diagnosis and treatment information, which they can use to begin discussions with their physicians.

And if you think older adults don’t use the internet for finding health information online, read this study.  Or this study.

Here are a few of my favorite government websites that share helpful and trustworthy information on a broad variety of health conditions and services targeted towards older adults:

  • NIH Senior Health – This site is extremely user-friendly (with options to enlarge text size and change color contrast for easier readability) and has reliable health information from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), both part of the National Institute of Health (NIH).  Browse or search through health topics and videos with a focus on health conditions important to older adults.  There’s even a great toolkit for trainers to teach older adults how to access reliable health information online.
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Homepage of NIH Senior Health website.
  • National Institute on Aging A-Z Health Topics Index – Browse health topics relevant to older adults, ranging from Advance Directives to Vascular Dementia, and find printable fact sheets, guides, and reports related to these topics.
  • Eldercare Locator – Use this resource from the Administration on Aging to search for local resources (search by zip code or city/state) or find services and information related to topics like Adult Day Program, Alzheimer’s Disease, Behavioral Health, etc.  Online chat and a phone number (1-800-677-1116) are also available to contact.
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Homepage of Eldercare Locator.

A few others to note: CDC Healthy Aging has resources for advance care planning, chronic disease management, emergency preparedness, and more.  LongTermCare.gov has helpful information on planning and paying for long-term care.