Elizabeth R. Lorbeer, EdM, MLS, Library Director
Michael Shields, Library Digital Strategist
Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine
The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly thrust health sciences librarians into meeting the challenges of providing supplemental online content to teaching faculty as learners are removed from the clinical environment to protect and prevent the spread of the virus. Although health sciences librarians have curated vast online collections, implementing a school-wide transition to a virtual curriculum on short notice has brought the profession to the realization that there is an incentive to innovate the learning environment. The health sciences librarian’s role has been to locate technology-enhanced content for instructors, such as cases, vignettes, procedure videos, and test preparation, to keep learners on track and engaged in their educational programs. Anecdotally, librarians and publishers report the increased purchase of electronic textbooks since the start of the pandemic to support independent learners’ online curriculum. More than ever, librarians are identifying electronic content for independent learning to support the virtual classroom. With learners having limited access to patients and respective healthcare sites for their training, instructors turn to published content found in electronic book collections to support instruction at a distance.
Our library uses ComaxSys LibLynx’s Identify & Access Management software to create a unique portal experience for our learners based on discipline and class year. We call it the “Bibliomatrix,” as the LibLynx software allows the creation of personalized portals with access to online content curated for groups of users to meet their specific learning objectives. In operating a virtual medical library, the librarians aim for our users to have an unmediated experience — meaning, anyone should be able to access and use the library with little to no help from anywhere. To achieve this, the librarians applied universal design to our systems and created an appropriate experience for each user group. Instead of users having to search the online catalog or locate discipline guides on the library’s web pages, the teaching faculty and librarians have collaborated to create panels of curated content for our learners in the portal.
LibLynx has several features for providing seamless access to online content, but what benefits our users are the portals. The portals allow the librarians to connect library users to the most relevant content with little to no navigation. Librarians and instructors identify book content in real time and curate panels together that support learners as they progress through a competency-based health sciences program. Online book content, at the title level, is displayed on the panel to help learners quickly find materials that support precisely where they are in the medical school’s education program. Residents and healthcare providers have their own unique portals that focus on quick look-up or continuing education needs in their everyday responsibilities, such as patient care, without having to sift past materials that may be more appropriate for a learner. Users can favorite resources, no longer having to remember where to find it or use their browser’s bookmarks.
The librarians use Doody’s Review Service to help research and identify core titles for purchase that meet our library users’ individual needs. The librarians can enter a user’s LibLynx portal and create a panel of favored online book titles. Our users have responded favorably to the virtual library’s commitment to provide a unique, customized online experience for each user.
Health sciences students need to consume a great deal of information in a short amount of time. We hope this new implementation will ease the stress of finding information for users and reinforce that the library has the resources they need to succeed.