Evaluating online resources for COVID-19 data

Resources online for COVID-19 data are already plentiful. You can do a search today and find data on the internet from all over the world, from many sources and for a variety of audiences. So, this is a good time to review the ways we evaluate sources for data and information.

There is no one perfect method for validating a data source. The usefulness of the data does not necessarily determine its reliability, nor does its timeliness or currency. When you choose a good book to read, you generally look for a good author, right? When you’re looking for good data, you need to choose a data source that has been verified by other sources.

This will ensure that the next time you search for data, you know where it’s from, what makes it a credible source, and how reliable it is.

If you do a Google search on “evaluating sources,” you can find several helpful mnemonics and acronyms that can help you remember how to search safely:

SIFT = Stop. Investigate. Find. Trace.

CRAP Test/CARP/CRAPPO/TRAAP = Currency. Relevance. Authority. Accuracy. Purpose.

CRITIC = Claim? Role of claimant? Information backing the claim? Testing? Independent verification? Conclusion?

PROVEN = Purpose. Relevance. Objectivity. Verifiability. Expertise. Newness.

Any one of these methods is useful for evaluating information sources. When it comes to data specifically, these are important questions to ask:

Where is the data from?
What was the source for this number or set of numbers? Did this come from a database that was available to you online? What organization created or collected the data? For what purpose? Was it a government information resource, a well-known national nonprofit organization or a college or university-owned research center? Was the data private or public information?

Who owns or maintains the data?
What is the name of the individual researcher or organization which conducted the survey or held the focus groups or interviews? What agency or organization published its findings with a publicized database or report? Who maintains the website you downloaded the data from?

When was the data made available compared to when it was collected?
What was the time frame for data collection? When was the database or report based on this data published? What date was the data released? When did you access the data?

How reliable is the data?
For how many years has the study been done? Can the data be verified? Can the study be reproduced? What methods were used to collect the data? Is the study peer reviewed? How are the data collection methods evaluated? How reputable are the organizations producing the data? Who else repeatedly uses this data?

Here are some examples of current, reliable sources for COVID-19 data:
The most recent COVID-19 data available for our state comes directly from the Indiana Department of Health. This is a government information source. The ISDH has been transparent in releasing current information daily throughout the pandemic. Since we get the numbers directly from the ISDH, it is our primary data source. We’re not relying on a secondary source for information.

For federal statistics on COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a COVID Data Tracker with cases and deaths by state and county.

For global statistics on COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering maintains a COVID-19 dashboard that shows cases by country and world region. It includes information about data sources and technical production of the database.

Please see the Indiana State Data Center’s Coronavirus Data and Map Resources, by Geography on the Indiana State Library’s website for more data sources.

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Hoosier youth chronicling COVID-19

The Indiana Center for the Book and the Indiana Young Readers Center are calling out for youth up to age 18 to report how their life experiences have changed in light of the global health crisis. The current pandemic has brought many aspects of life to a stop, while other aspects of life, like time with family, have been magnified. Youth are invited to share their observations during this unique time in the history of our state. Entries will be added to a permanent collection at the Indiana State Library.

Entry is simple. Download the editable PDF titled Hoosier Youth Chronicling COVID-19 and complete online or by hand. Each entry will need a License to Use form signed by both the child and a parent or guardian. This allows the Indiana State Library to use your form in future possible publications, in print or to display in our collection or online. You may also want to include one to two images, such as photographs you have taken or pictures of artwork you have created. Images are optional.

All entries may be submitted via email to Tara Maxwell Stewart, or mailed to the Indiana State Library:

Indiana State Library
Attn: Indiana Young Readers Center

315 W. Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202

While there is no current deadline for entries to the collection, we would like to collect thoughts in real time as students are home from school.

The Indiana Young Readers Center also wants to draw your attention to a wonderful packet created by Natalie Long of Long Creations. Natalie says, “This is something I designed for fellow families with children living through this difficult time, it is meant as a gift, not for profit.” Families are welcome to include the packet in their submissions to the Indiana State Library, but please note that the packet is optional.

If you have any questions about submitting your child’s work to the Indiana State Library, please reach out to Tara Maxwell Stewart.

The post was written by Indiana Young Readers Center Program Coordinator Tara Stewart and Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Considerations for reopening if the library board or staff still have concerns

Once the current COVID-19 public health emergency is over and the executive orders limiting movement have expired, some library board members or staff could still have concerns. It is imperative that if additional restrictions remain in place, the library enforce those restrictions universally. Some of the things a library could continue to do to encourage social distancing for the public without risk of legal recourse are as follows:

1. Rearrange or remove some of the seating to limit how many people are congregating in the seating areas and to keep the tables spread a good distance apart from each other. This might draw some criticism from taxpayers but would not be discriminatory if seating was first come first serve.

2. Meeting room reservations by the general public could technically continue to be temporarily or even permanently discontinued. Neither the law nor public library standards require libraries to provide meeting rooms. Again, this is a move that might draw criticism but wouldn’t be discriminatory if no one has access except the library staff or board.

3. Libraries could continue to request patrons stand six feet apart at the check out and reference desks by marking the floors with tape – or something else – and posting signs, similar to what retail stores are doing. Requiring everyone to do that is not discriminatory. Family members and small groups that come in together should not be required to be separated from each other.

4. Libraries can use plastic sneeze shields at the check out and reference desks to protect staff from patrons similar to what the retail stores are doing. This seems impersonal but would be a non-discriminatory safety measure.

5. Libraries could rearrange their computer areas to provide some distance between each terminal. However, if rearranging isn’t practical, they could have only every other computer terminal operational to force some distance between the users and perhaps limit the amount of time each user may be on the computer. Computer users can put their name back on the waiting list to have another turn if they don’t complete what they need to do on the computer the first time. The library could sanitize the terminals between users.

6. Libraries could limit story time and other programs to X number of people, first come first serve and make sure they are holding the programs in a large enough space that individuals are not on top of each other, and so on. Maybe those turned away because the program filled up could get to be first on the list for the next program. Or, maybe the program is repeated multiple times so everyone can have a chance to attend since smaller groups will be allowed to attend each time. Don’t pass around objects to be touched by multiple people at story time  or programs; continue to keep puzzles and games put away out of reach or require that they be checked out and checked in even while using on the premises so they can be sanitized between users, etc. Capacity limits for story time or other programs should be stated on the program description. For example: “This program is limited to X number of attendees and is first come first serve” or “Attendees may register via X or Y.”

7. Libraries could still post a sign at the library entrance and have a policy requesting that those with communicable illnesses refrain from entering the library. However, trying to kick patrons out if they are coughing or have a runny nose could be problematic for multiple reasons. Library staff don’t know if the patrons might have allergies, asthma, lung disease, cancer, etc. Additionally, with COVID-19 and other communicable illnesses, sometimes the person is contagious before they even show symptoms and sometimes a person may still be coughing after they are no longer contagious.

8. It is possible for libraries to set a lower maximum capacity threshold for their buildings that will allow for six feet between every person in the library to try to prevent against overcrowding but this could be difficult to enforce unless the library stations someone at the door to do head counts of everyone coming in and out. This would obviously draw criticism if people are forced to wait to come in until others have come out but would not be discriminatory if enforced consistently. Libraries will want a policy in place for this and should expect to have to address complaints. This will likely not be a popular move.

Wherever the general public gathers, whether retail or grocery stores, the mall, restaurants, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the public library, there will always be some risk of being around others with communicable illnesses. However, as stated above, there are measures that can be taken to help reduce the risk of spread of such illnesses and make public places safer for all.

This blog post was written by Sylvia Watson, library law consultant and legal counsel, Indiana State Library. For more information, email Sylvia.

7 ways to cope during tough times – from someone who’s been there!

Today we welcome guest blogger Jenny Kobiela-Mondor, assistant director at the Eckhart Public Library.

I’ve worked at Eckhart Public Library for almost seven years, and for more than a third of that time, our library has been coping, in one way or another, with really tough situations.

Early in the morning on July 2, 2017, someone threw a large mortar-style firework in the book drop connected to our Main Library building, starting a fire that destroyed the interior of the building, including every single book and DVD we had there, artwork, furniture, computers and more. We spent 987 days with our Main Library building closed, operating out of our Teen Library and Genealogy Center buildings, as well as a storefront we rented. On March 15, we reopened the Main Library to the public, and were opened for service for a whopping 12 hours before we closed due to COVID-19.

To say that the past 1,000 days have been tough is an understatement. However, during these difficult years, I’ve learned some great techniques for coping – and even thriving – through tough times!

Slow down, you move too fast
The instinct when an emergency happens is to act. And, it’s true – there will be urgent matters. For example, only a few hours after our incredible firefighters had put out the fire, our director, Janelle Graber, went in and grabbed important financial documents from her office. When we decided to close for the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to notify staff and patrons as soon as possible. But once a situation has been stabilized, put the slow clock on and try to be as calm and methodical as possible in your response. Take time to sit down and make a plan. It will feel wrong, because you will absolutely want to do something tangible to try to make the situation better, but it’s not helpful to rush around without a plan, or with only a vague plan.

Throw a pity party!
When times are tough, some of us try to put on a brave face. It’s important, particularly if you’re in a leadership role, not to seem like you’re losing it when something bad happens, but it’s also vital to feel your feelings of grief, anger, fear or whatever else you’re feeling. One of my favorite techniques for working through those feelings is one that my mom has used over the years, particularly when she’s had tough medical issues such as cancer – I throw myself a pity party! When I start to feel like I want to cry, or rant, or pout – or all three at once – I look at the clock and give myself 15 minutes to do just that. It’s very cathartic to give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling, and it’s helpful to have a time limit to avoid getting into an unhelpful cycle of grief or anger. If you’re in a leadership position, make sure your staff also has access to the tools to help work through their feelings – whether that’s bringing in someone who specializes in grief, someone to lead a meditation or relaxation session or just a sympathetic ear. That was something we missed in the immediate aftermath of the fire, and it made it harder for all of us to move forward.

Flex your flexibility muscles
Being flexible is absolutely essential when dealing with an emergency or a tough situation. Making plans is very important, of course, but those plans must be able to change when the situation warrants it. Especially in an emergency situation, flexibility will get you far. As we got ready for our reopening and realized how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect it, we had to scale back our celebration, figure out how to protect the staff and patrons, and prepare for the possibility of closing the library completely. Everybody needs to be poised to be ready to react to changing situations.

Communication is key
Honestly, communication is always key in an organization, but there’s no time that it’s more important than in a difficult situation. Our management team struggled with wanting to have solid answers after the fire, and sometimes that caused us to wait until all of the pieces were in place before we told the rest of the library team what was going on. However, in such a scary situation, some information is better than no information. Members of your team don’t necessarily need every detail, nor do they need a constant trickle of information, but updates, even updates that are simply, “We’re not sure what the next step is, but we’re working on it,” are soothing. Remember, too, that communication is a two-way street. Library leadership need to listen to what staff are saying, and try not to get defensive if staff are confused or upset. Sometimes they just need to know that a leader in your organization knows what’s going on. And if you’re not part of that decision-making process, have patience for the people who are. Remember that everybody, at all levels of the organization, is stressed out and trying to figure out what to do.

Call in the cavalry!
No matter how amazing your library is, you can’t do this alone. And don’t feel like you need to! Call on your partners, volunteers and advocates to help out! After the fire, we needed places to meet and to hold programming. Our Community Foundation building became a home-away-from-home, particularly for meetings during those early days. Our grand finale of our Summer Reading Program was two weeks after the fire, and we were able to switch it to a local park, borrow lawn games from other libraries and have partner organizations bring games and activities. Talk to your supporters about what they can do for you, and what they can do to boost morale at your library. Even something as simple as a batch of chocolate chip cookies from a friends group member or $5 gift cards to your local coffee shop for staff can go a long way to making things look brighter in a dark time.

Take a break
During a tough time, your coworkers and patrons need you for the long haul. That means that your mental and physical health is extremely important. It can be hard for those of us who are passionate about our libraries to take a vacation, or sometimes even just a lunch break, in the midst of a difficult situation, but burnout is real and exhaustion can make you sick – and that doesn’t help your organization, your coworkers or your patrons! Everybody needs time to recharge, so don’t be afraid to take the time that you need. You’ll end up being more productive and better able to deal with challenges when you’re well-rested and healthy.

Always look on the bright side of life!
Our biggest challenges can sometimes also lead to unexpected wins. After our fire, we were able to sit down and really consider what our patrons need from a 21st century library. We had been starting to work on weeding, and suddenly we were able to work on building an incredible collection. Even the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to expand virtual programming, work on professional development, and bring more attention to our digital collection. You don’t have to be relentlessly positive – again, it’s good to spend some time grieving or worrying – but there are silver linings to nearly every difficult situation.

And finally …
Hang in there! This is an incredible and unprecedented challenge, but Indiana libraries – and libraries all over the country – are doing an amazing job responding! You’ve got this!

This post was written by Jenny Kobiela-Mondor, assistant Director at the Eckhart Public Library.

EBSCO expands database content available via INSPIRE until June

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, EBSCO has graciously decided to expand database content available via INSPIRE until the end of June. This includes upgrades from Academic Search Premier to Academic Search Ultimate, with over 9,200 active full-text journals and magazine articles; from Business Source Complete to Business Source Ultimate, with over 3,200 active full-text journals and magazine articles; and from Masterfile Premier to Masterfile Complete. These upgrades are now live and may be accessed on INSPIRE. If you have questions or need assistance with any of the resources on INSPIRE, please contact us. Read EBSCO’s statement below:

“As the library community adjusts to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, EBSCO, as a key content provider and partner for INSPIRE, is looking to ensure end users have access to an expanded breadth of online content. Many college, university and K-12 students will be completing the current academic term in an entirely online format. To assist with this initiative, EBSCO has made the following offering available to all members of INSPIRE: Academic Search Ultimate, Business Source Ultimate and Masterfile Complete. This collection will bring thousands of additional full-text journal and magazine titles into each library’s collection.

Please let us know if you would like direct URLS for your libraries to access the new content.”

Those with questions may contact Deborah LaPierre, senior academic account executive with EBSCO. EBSCO tech support can be reached at 800-758-5995.

EBSCO has also made available all levels of Rosetta Stone until June 30. Libraries interested in access to the expanded edition of Rosetta Stone should contact Leah Griffin, account executive at EBSCO. Library patrons should contact their local public library to inquire about availability.

The upgraded databases can found under the Databases A-Z link on the INSPIRE homepage.

This blog post was written by John Wekluk, communications director, Indiana State Library.

Novel coronavirus COVID-19 resources for libraries

The following blog post is intended to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice.The author relied on federal law and Indiana law, but did not research any other jurisdictions. Due to the rapid changes of this evolving public health emergency, the most appropriate information and recommendations will likely change daily. The information below is up-to-date as of March 18.

Libraries throughout Indiana are now embracing the dual challenge of meeting community needs while protecting the safety of staff and patrons during the current outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, as well as other pandemic diseases in the future. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

The COVID-19 outbreak provides an opportunity for local public libraries to educate the public using reliable and accurate sources for medical and public health information. See the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s webpage A Guide to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) for Public Libraries for a list of resources. The geographic spread of the virus also creates an opening to reinforce libraries’ traditional values of inclusion and non-discrimination.

Libraries are asking about their obligations to staff and patrons during a pandemic. The Indiana State Department of Health advises public facilities to take “every day preventive measures” to help contain the spread of COVID-19. These include:

  • Ensuring adequate hand washing facilities and supplies are available.
  • Posting signs encouraging proper hand washing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • Encouraging patrons not to enter the building if they are sick.
  • Performing routine environmental cleaning (cleaning all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace).

See the health department’s COVID-19 Information for Public Facilities and Organizations information sheet for more details.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that employers create an infectious disease outbreak plan in order to be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations. See CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers for more information.

The U.S. Department of Labor suggests employers review their leave policies and consider providing increased flexibility to employees and families. Because flexible policies can open the door to discriminatory practices, DOL reminds employers they must administer flexible leave policies in a manner that doesn’t discriminate against employees because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age (40 and over), disability or veteran status. Read more here: Pandemic Flu and the Family and Medical Leave Act: Questions and Answers.

Some of the measures that libraries are already taking include:

  • Increasing the frequency of sanitizing public computer keyboards.
  • Cleaning public contact surfaces twice per day.
  • Making hand sanitizer available in numerous locations (e.g., public computers, circulation desk and staff area) with signs encouraging use and encouraging patrons to use hand sanitizer both before and after using the computer.
  • Encouraging staff to wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Cancelling programs; either some or all for a temporary period.
  • Removing toys or other touch-heavy objects from children’s areas.
  • Curbing outreach to at-risk populations, such as retirement communities.
  • Temporarily suspending requirement of a doctor’s note for an extended staff absence.
  • Closing temporarily, reducing services or changing the services provided.

The following resources provide additional suggestions and information:

Indiana Library Federation: About COVID-19 and ILF Response
Every Library: Resources for Libraries on Coronavirus
Library Journal: What Public Libraries Need to Know about the Coronavirus
National Libraries of Medicine: Coronavirus: Library and Business Operations Planning
OSHA: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (Steps Employers Can Take)

Libraries do not need to start from scratch in designing new policies and procedures to address COVID-19 or other pandemic diseases. We urge you consult your library’s attorney before proposing changes or additions to your library’s policies, but the following resources can serve as templates to help you get started:

As we move through this ever-changing public health crisis, it is reassuring to discover so many organizations sharing freely of their time and resources to help us all figure out what we need to be doing.

Written by Cheri Harris, certification program director/legal consultant at the Indiana State Library

Stuck at home? Enriching activities to do with all ages from the Indiana Young Readers Center

Looking for extra activities to keep children busy? Explore some of these activities put together for you by the Indiana Young Readers Center, located in the Indiana State Library. Remember, children of all ages can benefit from play and reading. Keep your kids engaged with some of these resources.

Ages 0-5
Parents with very young children have a big challenge. Little children will not understand what is happening in relation to the current COVID-19 situation. They might sense the fear and anxiety in their parents and react to that by being cranky and unmanageable. Keep them engaged by trying some of the activities listed in our Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award Program Guides. We have three guides from 2018, 2019 and 2020 all chock-full of fun, developmentally-appropriate activities for little kids. Even if you don’t have the books listed in the guides, you can still do most of the activities.

For children ages 0-5 the best thing to do is to talk, sing, read, write and play with them. We know little kids can’t really write yet, so anything you can do to get them using their hands to work on fine motor skills is a good thing. Examples are block play, crafts, finger painting, playing with pots and pans and so much more.

Ages 6-9
Children in this age bracket are more independent and may be missing their friends and social connections. Involve them in planning out your day of activities. They can do so many things, and many of them independently. Have a game tournament. Start a reading challenge. Keep them involved in the world from inside your home by talking about nature. The Indiana Nature Conservancy has put together a guide for sharing with children to get them more connected to nature. Most of the activities in the guide can be done right at home.

This age group might enjoy many of the ideas in the aforementioned Firefly guides as well. The 2020 guide in particular has activities appropriate for older children on topics like Africa, optical illusions and pirates!

Ages 10 – 14
Even though your preteens might be the group most likely to tell you that they are bored, they are also developmentally ready for more mature thinking. They will have a better understanding of what is going on than little children and can brainstorm with you about how to spend the days in productive and balanced ways. Kids in this age group are often passionate about their interests and may be missing their friends.

Genealogy
The Indiana Young Readers Center has put together a genealogy program for children in this age group. Take this time to talk about family and the practice of genealogy. What is it anyway? Share family stories and history. Work through the program guide and learn about the kinds of documents that genealogists refer to when filling in their family trees. Do you have any documents in your home right now that you can examine?

Indiana History
If you are looking for more academic resources, take a look at this video about two of the murals located in the Indiana State Library. They discuss the history of Indiana Statehood. Talk to your school age students about how the United States was created. Who lived here when settlers arrived in Indiana? If you’d like to have a more robust conversation, take a look at the discussion questions that we use during our fourth grade field trips.

Still hungry for more history content? Explore the Indiana Historical Marker Program coordinated by the Indiana History Bureau. Every Indiana county has at least one marker. Choose an Indiana social studies standard for your student to work on. Fourth grade standards are especially relevant to Indiana history. Find a marker that relates to that standard. Take it further by researching a little more using Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections. This project could fill a whole morning and introduce your student to great online resources.

Keep a Journal – Good for all ages
Encourage children in all age groups to keep a journal about how they are feeling and what is going on around them. This is a historic time. Researchers in the future will be fascinated by primary resources like journals and diaries written by Hoosier children. Those future primary resources will not exist unless we create them now. Someday, your child could donate their journal to the Indiana State Library!

Letters About Literature  – Grades 4-12
Do your kids like reading and writing? Every year the Indiana State Library hosts a writing contest for students in grades 4-12 called Letters About Literature. Students write to an author, living or deceased, about a book that changed how they see themselves or how they understand the world around them. Students write to us every year about how books help them understand topics close to home like family and school or more sophisticated topics like racism and war. The contest for 2020 is closed, but students can always get a jump on working on their letter for next year. Visit the Letters About Literature website for more information about the contest. Your student could get published!

Ages 15-18
High schoolers are more likely to be able to fill their own time, however they may be in need of resources to help them with their existing school work. Be sure to get familiar with INSPIRE. INSPIRE is Indiana’s virtual online library, a collection of online academic databases and other information resources that can be accessed for free by Indiana residents. INSPIRE includes full-text magazine and journal articles, images, historic newspapers and much more. If students are frustrated about not finding sources for a paper or project, have them try INSPIRE.

Explore Old Journals
The Indiana Young Readers Center has put together a packet for teens interested in reading old diaries. Work through the packet to learn about the value of writing journals and researching old diaries. The diaries in the packet are written in cursive! Does your student know cursive? Take this time to teach your student the basics of cursive writing. Why is it important for students today to be able to read and write in cursive? Explore this question with your student. Fun fact: One of the diaries is from 1896 and the writer talks about playing euchre with her family!

Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections
Still looking for something to do? Take a look at some of the interesting things that the Indiana State Library has in our digital collections. From car racing to dogs to historic documents. We’ve got something for everyone:

Indianapolis 500, between 1926 and 1957
Artistic family tree (featuring President James Polk)
Pre-Photoshop trick photo postcard
Studio photos of Chow Chow dogs
South Shore Line broadsides featuring the “Workshop of America,” 1926
Miami Treaty of St. Mary’s, 1818
Preserved ivy taken from Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train 
Letter from D.P. Craig, a soldier with the 14th Indiana Regiment to his family, 1862
Awards given to African American WACs at Camp Atterbury, 1943
Women’s suffrage pamphlet with map, ca. 1915
Susan B. Anthony letter to Grace Julian Clarke, 1900-01-11 
Locks of hair presented to John. M Conyers (March 29, 1865)

In these unprecedented times, we hope these enriching activities will keep children of all ages engaged and busy.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.