Editor's note: We asked those responsible for implementing Go Local in North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois to recount their experiences working on the project. Here are their stories.
Go Local North Dakota
Submitted by Mary Markland, Judy Rieke, and Mike Safratowich
Library of the Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND
North Dakota's Go Local project "Discover Health Services Near You!" (http://medlineplus.gov/golocalnd) went live August 2008, less than a year after the project began. The official launch at the statewide library conference was held the end of September. Press coverage was extensive with television, radio, and newspaper spots.
Another major event that we used to promote the database was the Women's Showcase in Fargo in October. Thousands of people attended, and nearly 800 people stopped by the booth and learned about Go Local North Dakota. Since the launch, usage statistics show increasing traffic and user feedback has been positive.
The project was funded through the NLM GMR starting October 1, 2007. Prior to that, librarians at the University of North Dakota Library of the Health Sciences had explored various options for developing Go Local, but we determined the only way we could start a project was with funding from the NLM via GMR.
We didn't have a prior consumer health database or directory to build upon, so we knew we would need financial assistance. We also knew that we would not be able to add permanent staff to build or maintain the database. It was necessary for us to have current staff absorb many of the responsibilities.
A team from the University of North Dakota consisting of Mary Markland, Clinical Campus Librarian, Judy Rieke, Assistant Director and Collection Management Librarian, and Mike Safratowich, Bibliographic Control Librarian, wrote the proposal and agreed to assume responsibility for the project. After funding was obtained, duties were distributed according to team member expertise.
Project coordinator Judy Rieke oversaw the subcontract and facilitated collaboration with partners, including the state's underserved populations. Resource development and outreach coordinator Mary Markland solicited services from organizations and coordinated promotion through publicity and training. New technologies, such as depositing prospective services onto a Delicious site and 2-1-1 data mining, aided the process.
Site development coordinator Mike Safratowich managed building the database, user accounts, and local customizations. One of his major responsibilities was supervising the indexing of resources by subject and geography using "Go Local" controlled vocabulary. Using grant funds, we hired a data input specialist in a six-month, part-time student position. She did the creation, indexing, and maintenance of entries in the NLM system.
Future challenges for the project include maintaining momentum, defining ongoing responsibilities, assimilating Go Local into workflow, auditing records, analyzing additional services for inclusion, and coordinating promotional activities. We feel that despite the challenges, North Dakota's Go Local project offers a low-cost model that stresses collaboration, teamwork, and technology.
Go Local Iowa
Submitted by Chris Childs
Education and Outreach Librarian, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
I joined the Hardin Library staff on February 25, 2008, as the liaison to the College of Public Health and Community Outreach. Within the first week, I learned I had acquired another responsibility, promoting Hardin's latest project, Iowa Go Local (http://medlineplus.gov/iowa).
By the time I arrived, Elizabeth Nummela, our part-time graduate student, had been entering records since August 2007, and these records were just beginning to be reviewed. At that time, there were more than a dozen reviewers. The goal was to review every record for the official unveiling at the Iowa State Fair on August 11, 2008. This goal proved to be one of our biggest challenges.
Despite have help, it was very difficult for everyone to find the spare time to check records. I've heard from several other librarians from different states that one of the biggest obstacles they faced was the lack of personnel able to devote their time on the project.
We did what we could, but after the unofficial launch on March 30 I was told that I would only have another colleague assist me with the reviewing process.The situation looked very bleak, so during the summer we both buckled down and devoted as much time as we could to reviewing and meeting the goal. I'm happy to say that we did get every record reviewed by the time we exhibited at the Iowa State Fair, but it was an incredibly exhausting experience.
Prior to the summer, we had created an Iowa Go Local brochure, purchased promotional items, and borrowed a display case from the Center for Disabilities and Development. When Hardin had been approved for the Go Local grant by the NLM, Jane Gay, the director of Iowa COMPASS asked Chris Shaffer, the former Iowa Go Local project coordinator, about establishing a partnership. They agreed to loan us the display case and assist us with the graphics, and in return we included information on Iowa COMPASS as part of our exhibit.
Before we went to the Iowa State Fair, we decided to have a trial run at the local Johnson County Fair at the end of July. It draws one of the largest crowds around.
I would like to mention one thing about the Johnson County Fair (other than the fact that it went very well) — the pinwheels we purchased for this event. Chris Shaffer ordered 2,000. While that may seem like a lot, we ran out on the third day of the fair. We chose pinwheels because we wanted to attract children to our booth. Our theory was that if we drew in the children, then the adults would follow and we could talk to them about Iowa Go Local. We handed the pinwheels to the kids, which had the Iowa Go Local website on the stems, and gave parents our brochures and MedlinePlus pens. I would highly recommend pinwheels!
The Iowa State Fair only gave us six hours of exhibiting time, so we had to be creative in attracting attention. We created a series of activities that the kids could complete while we spoke with their parents. Elizabeth created a word search and Sudoku, and we printed several copies on large sheets of paper that we could attach to a trifold display.
We also had a large map of Iowa that was blank except for the county boundaries. It was the map of Iowa that turned out to be the crowd pleaser. Originally, the idea behind the map was to have people show us where they lived and we would go in Iowa Go Local to locate resources in their community for them. This didn't work out very well because people didn't want to take the time to look our demo. Considering all there is to see and do at the Iowa State Fair, this is understandable.
We improvised and asked everyone passing by our booth to sign their name on their county. We told everyone that our goal was to have all 99 counties filled. As people signed their names, we passed out brochures, magnets, and pens. Because I didn't have a counter, I eventually lost count of how many people we spoke with, but I know it was in the hundreds. At the end of the day, 89 of the 99 counties had signatures.
Summer was over, but we continued to prmote Iowa Go Local. There were press releases, radio interviews, and presentations at several public health meetings. Packets were emailed to every public library and public health agency in the state. If an email address couldn't be found, then a packet with the description and 25 brochures was sent by regular mail.
I've also included a brief demonstration of Iowa Go Local into my presentations on patient safety and to the critical access hospitals in Iowa. I've also exhibited at the annual conferences of the Iowa Library Association and the Iowa Nurses Association. I plan to continue exhibiting at several events in the upcoming months.
Working on Iowa Go Local has been incredibly rewarding, but it has had its challenges. I spoke to Elizabeth recently, and she said one of her biggest problems in the beginning was searching government directories, which had much incomplete or outdated information. Elizabeth also mentioned that the process of entering and reviewing records would have gone more smoothly if she had another graduate student working with her.
Currently, there are 5,098 records in the system, and Elizabeth just entered in another 100. One of the biggest decisions that needed to be made after the summer was how Elizabeth should spend her time working on Iowa Go Local. Should she only enter in new records or make sure that the records already in the system are current?
I decided to have her update the existing records and only create new records upon request. Recently, we were asked to include dental information, so Elizabeth is creating 100 new records every two weeks. She estimates that in the end she will create an additional 1,000 records. Entering in these new records over an expanded period of time allows her to continually check the existing records while gradually adding this new information into the Go Local system.
The response to this project has been incredibly positive. Everyone I have spoken to about it agrees it is a very useful resource, one that would benefit everyone in Iowa. I've heard from several librarians that they have included a link to it on their library's websites and from nurses who plan on including Iowa Go Local in information packets for patients.
It is these responses that make working on a Go Local project worthwhile, and I encourage those states that currently don't have one to seriously look into what is needed to start a Go Local project.
Go Local Illinois
By Mary Klatt
Associate Director, Loyola University Health Sciences Library, Maywood, IL
Health-E Illinois celebrated its first birthday on September 7, 2008. It has been a year of progress, expansion, challenges, and changes for the Illinois Go Local project (http://medlineplus.gov/illinois).
The database grew to close to 10,000 records over the past year. With the addition of new subject headings by the Go Local group at NLM, the database increased in size and depth. Currently, one part-time staff member is scanning through the database, county by county, to assure basic coverage in all subject areas.
An early challenge for the Health-E Illinois team shortly after the kickoff was the daunting task of auditing each of the 10,000 records in the database. The auditing schedule called for a completion date of September 1, 2008. However, the audit was completed by June 2008.
This extremely effective first-year auditing strategy has allowed us to approach the start of our second year with a focus on terminology and choosing appropriate health topics. Several new local service terms have been added to the database, so we have been continually updating records and searching for further health services that incorporate those terms.
Also, we have been reviewing each county for additional health services — especially focusing on terms and topics that we had few records for and on counties that had few health service records in the database.
An additional challenge the team faced was to get people to discover and use Health-E Illinois — marketing. An outreach team was formed and included Loyola's Health Sciences Library staff, SIU Medical Library staff, and Peg Burnette from UIC Peoria. The team aggressively sought outreach opportunities.
As of October 2008, the outreach team has conducted its "Beyond an Apple a Day" class to librarians in fifteen public libraries and four library system settings. Five sessions were held for the general public. Health-E Illinois was featured at eleven meetings or exhibits, including the annual meetings of the Illinois Library Association, Health Sciences Librarians of Illinois, Midwest Chapter/Medical Library Association, and the Medical Library Association. The team also produced flyers, PowerPoint presentations, and handouts. The outreach team continues to seek opportunities to teach and present Health-E Illinois and other consumer health resources.
Another challenge was to update not only the Health-E Illinois partners and its advisory board that meets twice a year, but also the general public on what was going on with the database and with outreach programs. Health-E Illinois launched its news blog (http://healtheillinois.wordpress.com/) in October 2007 to fulfill this need. The blog has evolved into a consumer health awareness blog for Illinois featuring articles on hot consumer health issues and topics. The blog is averaging over 1,000 hits a month. Our most popular article, "The Dreaded Chigger Bite," has been accessed 3,299 times.
Finally, as with all projects, staffing has changed over the past year. Staff members leaving the project were Tom Bartenfelder, Anthony Molaro, Eugene Giudice, Katie Posniak, Samantha Meyer, and Eileen Cooney. The new team members are Jean Gudenas (new database manager), William Halverson, Natalie Danford, Elaine Hicks, and Carol Hartmann.