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.

Keeping clean: Methods your State Library takes to make sure your library experience is safe

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about sweeping changes to the way we live, work and interact with one another. Tasks we take for granted, such as going to the grocery store, meeting with friends and even going to the library to find materials for research have been made somewhat more challenging to carry out. Here at the Indiana State Library, we do a lot to keep everything clean and to ensure that both patrons, and ourselves, have a fun and safe library experience.

Several studies, such as the one illustrated in this comprehensive American Library Association article, have noted that the virus survives on hard surfaces for about two or three days, and up to 24 hours on paper. Sanitization is top priority at the library, and the staff makes sure to clean and disinfect all surfaces as often and thoroughly as possible. In the case of books, which understandably do not do well to be soaked in cleaners on a regular basis, they are placed in isolation for a set period of time until it is safe to return the materials to the stacks.

Patrons are welcome to come inside the building, but to encourage social distancing and personal safety, that library is operating on an appointment-only schedule. If you are a walk-in patron and didn’t make a prior appointment when you stop by, don’t worry. If we have appointment slots available, we will still be able to help you with your research needs. Seating arrangements to encourage social distancing are available, hand sanitizer is provided at the information desks and also next to each elevator in order to keep things clean, and to reduce the spread of the virus and other bacteria. Are you unavailable to come to the library personally? Patrons can chat with a librarian through Ask-a-Librarian, with no charge.

As per county mandates, face masks are required for entry into the library facility. Don’t have a mask? No worries. We provide free paper masks at our circulation and information desks. Simply ask the librarian or desk attendant and we will be happy to give you one. If you live in Marion County and you’re seeking something a bit more permanent and portable, the city of Indianapolis and IndyGo have partnered to provide free cloth face masks that can be picked up at the Julia M. Carson Transit Center in downtown Indianapolis. Masks can also be ordered online.

We hope that these procedures and precautions allow to you to fully utilize all the services the Indiana State Library has to offer, all while keeping you safe and giving you peace of mind.

Please call 317-232-3675, email or use our Ask-a-Librarian service to schedule an appointment.

This post was written by Damon Lawrence, library technician 2, 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