Alabama Health Libraries Association
Health InfoNet/Go Local Expansion Project Proposal
(Submitted and approved April 2004)


Health InfoNet of Alabama (a University of Alabama at Birmingham-sponsored project) is a cooperative consumer health information service of the UAB Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences and the Jefferson and Shelby County Public Libraries. Health InfoNet started in 1999 as Health InfoNet of Jefferson County, and changed its name in 2002 after expanding its service area to Shelby County. The ultimate goal is to expand the service statewide.

Although the network is set up to maximize use of the best health information sources available, regardless of format, the Health InfoNet website (www.healthinfonet.org) has always played a key role, particularly as a referral source to local health information resources and providers, as well as to premier national resources such as MedlinePlus. The opportunity to participate in the MedlinePlus Go Local project would fit well with some of Health InfoNet's highest aspirations and goals. Indeed, it was at the recent NN/LM-sponsored statewide health information planning meeting in Birmingham (March 11-12, 2004), that the director of the Alabama Public Library Service, Rebecca Mitchell, and the Health InfoNet coordinator, Kay Hogan Smith, first discussed the idea and agreed that there was a real need for expanding the Health InfoNet model across the state.

After considerable thought and discussion amongst the network libraries' staff and the Health InfoNet advisory board (for a list of current board members, see http://hinfonet.lhl.uab.edu/advisorycommitte.htm), we have decided to request participation as an NLM-supported site rather than a locally supported site.  The Health InfoNet site has been a focal point for the service from the beginning. (Health InfoNet was awarded a $40,000 subcontract from the National Library of Medicine in 2000 to overhaul the site as part of the Health Information for the Public initiative.) However, in anticipation of the added demands of coordinating a statewide network, the benefits of this option outweighed the slight loss of local autonomy that might favor the second. Accordingly, this proposal will discuss the requirements listed in the “NLM Supported” column on the Proposal Checklist (Attachment 1).

The Alabama Public Library Service (APLS), the state library agency responsible for providing library services directly or indirectly through local public libraries, has been enlisted as a primary partner in this effort to expand the Health InfoNet services statewide as well as in the specific tasks related to this MedlinePlus Go Local proposal (see below). The Alabama Health Libraries Association (ALHeLA) has also agreed to help recruit volunteers to assist in this initiative.

I.                 Local Resources

a.      Selection Criteria – As a Health on the Net Foundation member site, Health InfoNet has always maintained a very selective approach to adding new health information resources to its Support/Referral Organizations database (see http://hinfonet.lhl.uab.edu/contacts.htm).  The Infonet “Linking Guidelines” (http://hinfonet.lhl.uab.edu/linkingguide.htm) specify our selection criteria for websites, as follows:

                                                    i.     Preference is given to local health information resources.

                                                  ii.     Site should be of an educational or informational nature, not commercial.

                                                iii.     Site should be authoritative and up-to-date, with the date of the last revision clearly marked.

                                                iv.     Information provided should be evidence-based, preferably including cited references.

                                                  v.     Site should be stable with a minimum of URL changes; should be easy to navigate as well.

                                                vi.     Information provided should strive for a balanced viewpoint, particularly in respect to complementary therapies.

                                              vii.     Sites which adhere to HON Foundation principles will be given preference.
(Although certified, allopathic medical health care providers and services are currently included on the Health InfoNet website, this selection should probably be expanded to include not only other such resources around the state, but also complementary and alternative care providers.  Those providers and services with websites should adhere to these same standards with perhaps an additional link from each resource to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's, “Selecting a complementary and alternative medicine practitioner” page at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/practitioner/index.htm.)

b.     Collect Information on Services Statewide - Will build on existing network of local public libraries and library consortia as well as expanding network of contacts with health care providers and health organizations to collect information on health services and resources statewide. In particular, the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) will identify and contact public libraries in all of the counties of the state to solicit their input as to local area health services, resources and providers.  APLS will then be the collection source for public libraries to send information to be included on the website for the project. An online “Suggest a Site” page similar to the NC HealthInfo project website's (see http://www.nchealthinfo.org/suggest.cfm) should also be available.

c.      Index Resources - The project director, Kay Hogan Smith, will (at least initially), do most of the indexing of resources herself, although she expects to be able to recruit qualified volunteers from the participating libraries (including Lister Hill Library staff) to assist her with this requirement.

d.     Willing to Attribute/Date Local Resources – Resources selected for indexing will be notified of their selection and encouraged to label and date any web pages or other resources provided as suggested by the “Linking Guidelines” (see 1.a.iii above).

e.      Mechanism for Keeping Information Current – Through an email distribution list of key contacts from resource institutions, augmented by a telephone contact list as needed, Kay will set up a (mostly) automated system of regular reminders to those institutions as well as their county libraries for updates to their directory information.

f.       Use the Go Local Controlled Vocabulary – Willing to use this controlled vocabulary exclusively.

g.      Timeline –

                                                    i.     Begin publicizing Go Local project among state public libraries via Alabama Public Library Service as soon as confirmation of participation is received from NLM; begin identifying key library contacts in each county; encourage those contacts to submit appropriate health resources for indexing in their counties (Spring 2004)

                                                  ii.     Publicize Go Local project among current participating health care organizations and providers in Health InfoNet to advise them of changes (Spring 2004)

                                                iii.     Training at NLM (May 27, 2004)

                                                iv.     Begin indexing resources for Go Local system (June 2004)

                                                  v.     Begin promoting Go Local project in Alabama media outlets (Summer/Fall 2004)

                                                vi.     Begin training public libraries' staff in Health InfoNet procedures; begin recruiting volunteers to assist in record creation, indexing and maintenance (Fall 2004)

                                              vii.     Redirect Health InfoNet website to Go Local site as soon as new site is indexed and ready for use (Fall/Winter 2004/05)

                                            viii.     Train recruited volunteers in creating and indexing new resources; set up automated update reminders to contacts around the state (Winter 2004/05)

II.               Staffing

a.      Hire/Compensate Salaried Project Director – It is the general consensus of those involved in this project that the coordinator of Health InfoNet, Kay Hogan Smith, should fill this role. (See attached curriculum vitae.)

b.     Manpower Needed to Create, Index and Maintain Records – Besides the project director, there are over 1,500 fulltime staff in the 207 Alabama public libraries of whom over 240 are MLS professionals. [1] It is from this population that volunteers to help create and maintain the records will be recruited.

c.       IT Support to Maintain Inputting Computers - The UAB Office of the Vice President for Information Technology (OVPIT) provides a base level of centrally administered technology services to all members of the UAB community – 14 fulltime desktop support staff, 14 customer support staff, server management group of 7, and an application development support team of 5. APLS has an Information Technology staff consisting of one supervisor, one circuit rider technician and one inhouse technician at present.  The agency is in the process of hiring two additional circuit rider technicians to assist the public librarians with technology issues.  They will be available to work with Lister Hill as they provide technical assistance to the public libraries using MedlinePlus Go Local project.

d.      Volunteers or Staff to Handle Record Creation and Maintenance/Plan to Recruit Volunteers and Staff – Initially record creation and maintenance will be the responsibility of the project director herself. However, as expansion of the Health InfoNet network statewide requires training of newly participating public libraries' staff in medical reference as well as Health InfoNet policies and procedures, these training sessions could also be natural opportunities to recruit volunteers around the state to assist the project director with this responsibility. In addition, APLS has a Strategic Planning Committee made up of 25 public library directors from across the state.   This committee represents all areas of the state and all sizes of public libraries.  This committee will be the core group of librarians that can identify volunteers to work with the creation of records and the maintenance of those records of the project.

e.      Means for Providing Customer Service for the Site – As has been the case to now, Kay Hogan Smith's email address will continue to be the link for “Comments about this website” on the web pages.

III.             Hardware/Software/Website

a.       PCs Available for Volunteers/Staff with Internet, Web Browsers and Necessary Plug-Ins – Project Director has a new Dell Pentium 4 laptop (Inspiron 5150) with Internet access, Internet Explorer 6.0, and various audiovisual plug-ins loaded (with capacity for others as needed).  Other volunteers must also have adequate computer access and support to be accepted.

b.      Check and Repair Broken or Problem Links – Through network of participating library and organization contacts, the project director should be able to efficiently and quickly troubleshoot and repair errors in links following receipt of link reports from NLM.

IV.            Promotions

a.       Publicize the Site in the Region – Expanding on the traditional Health InfoNet approach to PR without extensive funding, we will exhibit at health fairs and other appropriate low-cost exhibit opportunities, speak at local community organization meetings and submit press releases to media outlets across the state. (Again, the project director will recruit volunteers from the public libraries around the state to help her in these tasks.) In addition, a prominent link to the site should be created on every participating library website.

b.      Perform Outreach for Collection Development – Through these promotions effort, especially in the speaking engagements and exhibit opportunities, there should be equivalent opportunities to learn about resources and services in the local areas to add to the Go Local database in Health InfoNet. In addition, outreach efforts targeting specific populations of both consumers and health care providers and organizations are likely to continue to be a part of Health InfoNet's mission. (We are currently wrapping up the “Healthy Spirit” health information access project, targeting adult African American men, which was funded by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Southeastern Atlantic region, in 2002.)

c.      Summarize Promotion Efforts Quarterly – The project director is familiar with quarterly reporting requirements from previous subcontracts, and she does not expect any difficulty meeting this requirement.


[1] U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2001 (E.D.TABS), Table 10, p. 46. June 2003.



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Latest Revision, 12/16/04.
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