The virus COVID-19.
The staff at Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences has created a coronavirus resource directory featuring information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Virginia Department of Health. (Getty Images)

VCU's medical library has created a COVID-19 resource guide

Information from trusted sources is available to faculty, students and the general public.

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COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has impacted people across the United States, is dominating the news cycle. As a result, it can be hard to locate reliable, trustworthy information about the virus. To help the public, the staff at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences has created a resource directory with reliable information about the outbreak.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the library produced directories for Zika, Ebola, SARS and other major infectious diseases. Two weeks ago, John Cyrus, a research and education librarian, and Sean Haupt, a research and education intern at the library, started working on the resource directory for COVID-19. The directory, which was finished last week, already has seen a significant amount of traffic.

“We try to provide concise, authoritative information that is accessible to a wide audience whether they be lay people or the professionals that we deal with on a daily basis,” Cyrus said.

Haupt and Cyrus culled through myriad sources of information. They started with trusted resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Virginia Department of Health. They also identified journals and other sources with reliable information about the virus.

“One of the consistent battles is the huge number of sources of information out there,” Cyrus said. “If we put everything on there, it would no longer be accessible. It would be overwhelming. Part of our job is essentially information management.”

Learn more

Read more about COVID-19 and view the Tompkins-McCaw Library's resource guides on other notable disease outbreaks throughout history.

A key feature of the directory is a map with visualized data on the outbreak. It shows the most heavily impacted areas and the number of people who have recovered.

To ensure the quality of the information, several infectious disease experts were consulted about the directory, and Cyrus said they were pleased with the feedback. Creating a directory like this is an important role for librarians at the university, he said. They work with medical professionals and researchers and provide them with accurate, timely information.

“We are making sure all of the information is relevant,” Haupt said. “That means taking feedback from medical professionals. We want to make sure none of the information is redundant.”

The library’s resource directory already has been updated multiple times since it was published, as the events surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. The updates will continue to take place as long as the virus is active and people desire the information.