Thursday, July 4, 2013

LibraryBox for Disasters (aka a Medical eBook GO Bag)

Recently, I was brainstorming about uses for my LibraryBox. If you aren’t familiar, LibraryBox is a concept started by Jason Griffey of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The LibraryBox is a portable file sharing server built on a router the size of two packs of cards. The device is powered via USB cable and can be run off of a laptop, tablet, car charger, rechargeable battery pack like you’d have for your cell phone, even a solar charger is a possibility. The files are stored on a flash drive and the LibraryBox shares them out thru an internal wifi to devices via the device’s browser. Apple, Android, Windows, Phone, Tablet, Laptop; it is entirely platform independent.

I've heard Jason present on the LibraryBox and read some posts on it, but I didn't have a use envisioned. At Computers in Libraries 2013, I discovered another use as Jason had his LibraryBox on and loaded his presentation PowerPoint on it. That meant we could all download the slides to our tablets beforehand and follow along with a screen in our hands. Imagine not having to sit on the front row just to see the slides anymore.

Being a geek, I ordered the TP-Link MR3020 router and a 16 GB Flash Drive from Amazon ( ) and built my own LibraryBox. But I still didn't have a practical use envisioned. I thought I might load all of my family pictures on a flash drive and share them at the next family gathering (Birthday party, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.).

In all the Social Media traffic from the ALA Annual Conference, I discovered Jason had started a Kickstarter project to bring LibraryBox to version 2.0.

Passing the Kickstarter information on to the ALA Think Tank group on Facebook ( ) got me started brainstorming on other uses for the LibraryBox. If I say so myself, and I do, I think I found a great use.

When I was in the Air Force, we were usually subject to “recall” for deployment to any hot spot on the planet. For rapid movement, we all kept a GO Bag in our closet. Three sets of BDUs, 5 T-shirts, 5 briefs, 10 pairs of socks, 30 days of toiletries, a spare pair of glasses, etcetera; all of the things you’d need in the middle of nowhere without a Wal*mart around the corner. The contents would change depending on the season and area of interest covered by the Air Force Base I was stationed at. I obviously didn't need to carry a sweater to Saudi Arabia, but I would need it (and more) if we had to deploy to a mountainous area in winter. As an avid reader I always kept a stack of paperbacks to be read and I’d throw a pile in the top of my GO Bag.

That got me thinking that one place people need books is when they've rapid deployed to a disaster area. Especially true of medical personnel who may be forced to perform procedures they wouldn’t usually perform at home. Think about the doctors responding to the Haiti earthquake a few years ago. No electricity, phone, internet, running water; the whole infrastructure of modern life unusable. I’m sure they’d all love to have a set of basic references they can use to refresh their memory of unusual procedures. Everybody is going to do great with the basics, but the day after the event or two days after, when they want to give the patient the best recovery. When they have the time to do fine, detail work, they may need to look at some reference works. Also they may respond to a radiation event or another type of event that no one has any practice with.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has a division known as Specialized Information Services (SIS). They maintain a lot of resources for disaster recovery. One of those is a gateway ( to freely available online resources related to disaster medicine and public health. Resources include expert guidelines, factsheets, websites, research reports, articles, and other tools aimed at the public health community. Gateway, for those unfamiliar with this usage, means the resources are all linked from this one central database. You may have heard portal or federated search as other terms for this type of database.

All of the resources are downloadable files free of any copyright restrictions.
Examples of the items you can link to from the DisasterLit database include:
  • FEMA’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness: Program Manual
  • International Red Cross’ War Surgery: Working with Limited Resources in Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence
  • International Red Cross’ Caring for Volunteers: A Psychosocial Support Toolkit
  • International Atomic Energy Agency’s Communication with the Public in a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency
  • American Veterinary Medical Association’s Emergency Preparedness and Response (Bet you didn’t even think about animal care, but those animals may be the only food source for some while after the disaster.)

Ideally, you’d individually check the gateway and download whatever resources you’d expect to need to your tablet or phone, but what if you didn't  Or what if you don’t want to fill your device with all of these files when you may only need half of the works available? Wouldn't it be great if someone was detailed to download all of the SIS Gateway works to a flash drive? Then when you get to the Disaster Area, you can download the work you want to your device for use. What about another flash drive with a bunch of conversational language guides? You could have different Flash Drive for Flood, or Earthquake, or Volcano, or Forest Fire, or Tsunami, or whatever disaster.
 That’s my thought, a digital library of disaster resources that fit into your bag easier than a single paperback. Do you work with a team of medical personnel that might respond to an emergency? Then I could use your help.
Who should manage a program like this? Is there a resource you wouldn't want to be without? 

I’m hoping to present my idea to the NLM SIS folks, but any and all suggestions of other agencies to contact are welcome.

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