Patient Library reopens
The NIH Patient Library has faced challenges since its inception in 1955, from relocations to federal government shutdowns - but perhaps no time has been more challenging than the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting pause in library services from March until September 2020.
Gradually and incrementally, and always with an eye on safety, the library has resumed patron services. First to staff only, then to patient and staff through "curbside delivery" and finally to open door and concierge service to inpatients, outpatients and their caregivers.
Located off the 7th floor atrium, the library is now open to visitors from 11 am until 6 pm, Monday through Friday, and 11 am until 4 pm on Saturdays.
Last September, head librarian Marie Kaplan was very happy to revive one of the most important services the librarians provide, bringing library materials to the patients at their bedside, be it the daily newspaper, a new movie on DVD or the latest bestselling book.
Though printed volumes remain their focal point, several digital offerings were initiated, expanded and promoted during the pandemic: popular digital eBooks and audiobooks using the patient library's Libby library reading app, as well as streaming guided imagery via the library's "Healing Streams" meditation page. Both resources are available to staff as well as patients.
"Not surprisingly," Kaplan says, "the sleep meditation was especially popular among staff this past year!"
In addition to print books, DVDs and online services, the library also loans laptops to patients. The Patient Library also has a “Global” section that includes Spanish, French, and materials in other languages, as well as a collection of musical instruments available for loan, including guitars, ukuleles, keyboards and a doumbek drum - an Egyptian percussion instrument.
Kaplan notes that among the many losses suffered during the pandemic year of 2020, the most wrenching for library staff was the passing of dear colleague and librarian Martha Caro, who worked there for 15 years. Kaplan said, "She left a deep and abiding mark on the library and its services, and in so many hearts."
The newest librarian, Liz Maloney, brings her experience as a children's librarian with the DC Public Library System to serve the pediatric as well as adult patients at the Clinical Center. She also brings her creative talents to bear in storytelling as well as managing the popular NIH Patient Library Facebook page.
The library's services are provided primarily for patients and their families at the Clinical Center. However, NIH staff employed in the Building 10 may access the digital offerings and check out books and audiobooks from the library. If staff check out an item that is then requested by a patient, a librarian will contact them and request its return for patient use. Magazines, music CDs, DVDs and computers are reserved for use by patients and their guests only.
2022 marks the library's 67th year of operation. The patient library will continue to live up to its motto of being "your home library away from home" for Clinical Center patients and their caregivers.
Recent patient Anita Parks noted, “I can't begin to convey my gratitude for this wonderful and necessary resource. As a patient, I have leaned heavily on the escape the Patient Library provides during my multiple stays.”
Kaplan says the librarians "always strive to accomplish the simply stated goal of the first NIH patient librarian, Peg Hannigan, who aimed to ‘make the patients happy!'"
- Debbie Accame