Skip to Main Content

The Consortium

Supporting urgent information gathering for pandemic needs

TORONTO, ON, July 13th, 2020 – Since the pandemic began earlier this year, Health Information Librarians across Ontario have been working diligently to respond to questions Healthcare Professionals have needed evidence-based answers to.  Librarians in hospitals and health institutions have become essential partners, helping Healthcare Professionals respond quickly by developing rapid COVID-19 evidence reviews that support decision making.  This allowed Doctors, Nurses, Research teams and other medical experts to concentrate on providing critical patient-care and guidance.

The Health Science Information Consortium of Toronto (HSICT) is a consortium of 50 Healthcare Libraries across Ontario.  It’s information experts have been gathering urgent information to meet the emerging pandemic needs, from questions around direct patient care to PPE best-practices, to quickly assessing globally dispersed and un-indexed pandemic information.  Access to virtual health information databases and rapid response times have become an essential service for hospitals, clinics, academic and research institutions. That is why the Health Information Consortium is continuing to work together to disseminate information and materials.  A recent survey of its members has highlighted the impact of COVID-19 and the importance of enhancing information services beyond collective purchasing and shared digital information infrastructures. Highlights include:

  • Librarians united globally to pressure publishers to make any relevant content and data sets about COVID-19 that were behind subscription only paywalls open access to ensure all locations had access to critical information.
  • All HSICT members immediately facilitated research, guided community public health responses and supported the accelerated work to discover treatment options.  Over 60% of our members created a specific COVID-19 website or library guide to push vetted evidence out to medical experts.  60% of these were clinically focused, 40% patient focused. (e.g.
  • 95% of the libraries provided their full suite of research and research support related activities despite 80% physical facilities being closed to the public and/or repurposed for other urgent needs.
  • Almost 50% of the libraries had some of their employees redeployed during the first 10-weeks of the pandemic in order to support a hospital in other urgent activities.
  • All academic teams supported the shift to digital content as universities moved online in order to allow the continuation of research and learning to proceed.
  • Almost 50% of the libraries saw an increase in their literature searches and research supports during the crisis with 30% experiencing more than a 25% increase in activity. 

Health Information Librarians Continue to Support Medical Experts across Ontario with Answers to Critical COVID-19 Questions

As the pandemic continues, our Libraries will continue to provide their vital services to ensure we help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and beyond our borders.   Our priority will remain supporting medical teams as they continue to respond to this public health crisis, but also as communities now begin to re-open and adapt.  Our teams will be:

  • Ensuring safe access to physical collections and inter-library loans for research and medical teams.  This can include fast-tracking support for online training and e-learning about how to remotely access the Library’s extensive collection.
  • Supporting task groups that are established to develop short-term and long-term plans as communities reopen, including optimization of services to become even more digital moving forward.
  • Providing digital access to a breadth of health information that would be difficult for any institution to achieve on its own.  The collective licensing of digital resources allows us to pool expertise and resources, leverage our negotiation power and eliminate redundancy.
  • While the financial impacts on healthcare and institutions of higher education are as yet unknown,  HSICT will advocate a price freeze on any planned increases from publishers to avoid add even more pressure to already-stressed healthcare budgets.  


Source: @BDHodges1 “Does injecting bleach make sense? Is loss of smell relevant? How long is a person infectious? The information & misinformation is dizzying. @uhn and  MichenerInst librarians come to the rescue! Welcome to The Science of Covid!” Twitter, 24 April 2020,