How Librarians Can Help Healthcare Professionals

I recently wrote a blog post for NEJM Resident 360 (NEJM subscription required) about how residents can better utilize librarian services.  How to Take Advantage Your Medical Librarian, details a few of the common ways librarians can help doctors during their residency program and beyond.  As a medical librarian, I know there are a lot of other things we can do for residents and other healthcare professionals.  There are medical librarians who are doing different types of services, reaching out to provide information in creative ways, and doing things beyond the walls of the library that help our healthcare professionals in ways I have never dreamed.

So this post is sort of a “shared” post.  I would like any medical librarian to either comment below, tweet, or email* me the ways you help your healthcare professionals.  Healthcare professionals can be anyone (doctor, student, nurse, researchers, social work, pastoral care, hospital administration, etc.) that work with biomedical information, patients or families of patients, or who help fellow healthcare professionals in their jobs.

I will kick things off:

  • Create online journal club portals for nurses, enabling them to get CEs
  • Acquire spiritual & religious resources from other libraries to help pastoral care
  • Track every article written in a journal with an impact factor by the institution’s researchers & authors and provide those statistics, citation analysis, and collaboration impact to individuals and departments within the institution.
  • Help create treatment and care guidelines within the institution and with national associations.

Don’t leave me hanging…. contact me and I will add them to the bullet list. IF you have online documentation (research, website, article) give me the URL and I will link to that within the bullet point.
*email
krafty[atsign]kraftylibrarian[dotcom]
If you are a member of MLA use my email contact in the MLA directory

 

What is Real?

I have always been a scifi junkie even before I knew that was genre term. I can remember as a grade school kid checking out all of the books about ghosts, the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot and the Bermuda Triangle. I remember being disappointed when I had read everything on those topics in my public library. As I got older I branched out into aliens and conspiracy theories.  When the X-Files came out it was like seeing my public library bookshelf had added new titles and gone on TV.

All of those books, movies and TV shows dealt with what was real and what was fake.  Is there really a Bigfoot or is somebody walking around with really big fake feet?  Are there really ghosts or is it a shadow, lens flare, or active imagination?  The question of what is real, is always at the forefront.  You have the absolute believers who I think if they saw me early in the morning yelling at my kids to get ready for school would think demonic possession (I’m scary in so many ways in the morning).  You have the complete skeptics who can’t explain and discount a mother that had a bad feeling about her son, who unknown to her at the time was in a car accident in another city.

The question of what is real and fake has gone mainstream.  As I mentioned in my previous post, Masters of Illusion, you have more questionable types of “organizations” producing journals and holding conferences.  As CTVNews reported, you have questionable companies buying up reputable scientific journals.  For example, OMICS recently purchased several respected Canadian medical journals.  This is a cause for concern because the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against OMICS, “alleging that the company is ‘deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications’ and falsely claiming that its journals follow rigorous peer-review protocols.”

We live in a Wag the Dog world.  Where technology and communication have made it difficult to tell the difference between real news/research and fabricated.  The mud slinging and fact twisting of previous Presidential elections seems so quaint compared to the outright fake news about both candidates that flooded people’s dashboards and “news streams.”  We have people questioning reputable news organizations and claiming they are either fake news agencies or report on fake news.

How does the Presidential election fake news mess impact problem of fake scientific research and publishing.  It doesn’t, but it illustrates how fake information can easily be taken for real and how real information can be then called fake by opposition.  Take the example vaccines causing autism. There is not one reputable study that can show that vaccines cause autism.  The whole debacle was caused by a researcher who faked his research (funded by solicitors seeking evidence against vaccines) and published in The Lancet, a reputable journal, that there was a link to vaccines and autism. The Lancet has since retracted the article.  You have faked research/information which was believed to be real by the people. Now that it is proven to be fake you still have people believing in the fake research questioning the real research and calling it fake. They believe in the fake research and disbelieve the real research so much that people say the researcher is a scapegoat.

The lines between real and fake research and real and fake news have become entangled, making me wonder how it can be fixed.  Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory journals has been disappeared.  Inside Higher Ed,  quotes a spokesperson for CU Denver (Beall’s employer) that “Beall made a ‘personal decision’ to take down the website.” There is much speculation online as to why he made this personal decision.  Reputable publishers do their best to sniff out fake research.  However, if reputable publishers publish questionable journal issues funded by drug companies and reputable publishers are bought by questionable companies it paints a picture of an industry that has problems policing itself.  Who is left to determine what is real and what is fake?

Which leaves me to end this post with a quote from one my favorite scifi movies, The Matrix.

Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.

 

Masters of Illusion

One of my favorite scenes from the Simpsons is where bartender Moe sets up a fake upscale looking entrance to his bar to try and attract more customers.  After entering the bar the upscale customer says, “Hey, this isn’t faux dive. This is a dive,” to which Moe responds, “You’re a long way from home, yuppie-boy. I’ll start a tab.”

With just a few word changes and the same idea could be expressed about fake academic journals.  This has been a topic of discussion for the last few years in the library world.  The New York Times has an interesting and more mainstream article addressing the issue of fake journals and fake academic conferences.

In the article “Fake Academe, Looking Much Like the Real Thing” Kevin Carey, describes how he was contacted via phone call to attend a conference in Philadelphia a mere 20 minutes after he entered his information on a website.  Carey also goes on to describe how many of these real sounding “associations” can have shady if not outright illegal dealings and offer little to no academic rigor for paper submissions.

Unfortunately we live in a time when what is faux dive and real dive is getting harder and harder to determine.  Lots of people have fallen prey to fake news by re-posting the stories on the social media accounts.  People need to do more investigating to determine legitimate sources of information (news or academic).  However, we also live in a time where people often feel too rushed to do that.  Everything must be done NOW!  Wait for an article to come via ILL? Nope just find another one that is available online that can.

Unlike falling prey to fake news on social media, the fake “scholarly” associations, publications, etc. might cause the researcher more time and money than if they had slowed down and investigated things.  I know there are librarians who actively help their researchers avoid questionable publishers.  My guess though is that for every researcher a librarian helps there is another who falls victim.  Hopefully more mainstream stories like this will help alert others to do a little more digging.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

A few years ago I got started down a path thanks to a library director friend in Oklahoma who asked me to teach a class specifically for hospital librarians.  While he worked in an academic medical library he noticed that hospital librarians in his area needed some help thinking of different ways to prove their value or justify their existence, especially in light of the Affordable Care Act (which was very new at the time and nobody knew what would happen…but they knew it would have a pretty big impact).

In preparation for the class, I did a lot of research on the ACA.  I was and still am not an authority on the ACA but I did learn a lot about the changing landscape that hospitals would be (and now are) dealing with.  The biggest change was moving from a fee for service model to a value based model of providing healthcare services.

(Gross over simplification of the ACA coming next….if you want more info click here for a very detailed LibGuide on it.)

Traditionally hospitals were paid on how many procedures they did and billed.  If you had a heart attack were admitted, then released, and then readmitted a few days later…they were paid for the services they provided each time you were admitted.  The ACA now penalizes hospitals that have readmission rates for certain conditions, procedures, etc. In the heart attack example the hospital would still be paid for the services they provided BUT they would also incur a penalty if their readmission rate for heart attacks was too high.  In the beginning these penalties happened for just a few conditions such as heart failure but it has evolved to include more conditions AND acquired hospital conditions like infections.  Every hospital is ranked on these things and those with the poorest score are penalized.  Those with the best score are rewarded.

Not only are hospitals in competition with each other over their reimbursement rates. But they are also in competition for patients.  Now days it is very common for patients to have a very high deductible for care.  If a patient has to spend $4000 before their insurance kicks in, they are going to look for and compare the costs of hospitals.  Both patients and insurance companies are doing this.

So what does this mean for the librarian and why on earth did I focus on this in my class in Oklahoma?  It means that hospitals have to completely change their financial and caregiver goals.  This also means that they are looking at EVERY department in the hospital to see how it fits into these new goals of the hospital.  So cardiology, environmental services, IT, and yes the library all are judged by administration as to how they help the hospital meet their goals.  Clinical departments have a leg up on departments like the library because they can point directly to numbers to tell hospital administration what they are directly doing to impact the hospital goals.  Heck even environmental services has a leg up on the library.  “Was your room clean?” is a question on the HCAHPS hospital survey that patients receive to rate their hospital experience…..which also directly impacts ACA reimbursement.

So while other departments are able to point to specific data to illustrate to the administration how their department helps the hospital achieve its goals, the library has no such data.  Sure we do literature searches and support the caregivers, but what data do we have to show that those searches impact the hospital’s goals?

I recently attended a meeting where hospital administration explained the hospital’s strategy and goals and then explained how the clinical departments fit into those goals.  The administrator then explained how they will be working with non-clinical departments in the near future to develop appropriate measures to support the hospital goals.  DING DING DING At least the administration realizes the value of the non-clinical departments and will be working with them to create MEASURABLE goals that help the hospital meet its goals.  I am not so sure every hospital administration is reaching out to their non-clinical departments like this.

After hearing of the hospital administration mentioning non-clinical departments accountable for providing measurable data that supports the hospitals goals, I had a flashback to my Oklahoma group 2 years ago and to the other ACA and the library classes I taught after them.

Hospital administration wants to know specifically how you help them meet their goals.  They are asking “What have you done for me lately?”  I hope for your sake you just don’t tell them you do literature searches to support the doctors and nurses who treat patients.  Because while that is true….they are going to need to know in a 3 bullet point slide how literature searches lead to their hospital goals being achieved.  It is not their job to fill in the blanks as to how the lit searches do that.  It is your job.

Life as the President of MLA: Part 2

So now it is down to the nitty gritty, what does the MLA President do all year?

I will do my best to describe my activities for the year, but for more specific details MLA members can look through the position description for President in the Board Job Descriptions document.

May 2015
Wednesday “after” the MLA meeting when everyone is going home, taking some extra vacation, or finishing up some MLA conference activities like CE or final meetings, the MLA Board meets to do a sort of post conference meeting.  This is where we discuss the meeting as a whole and anything that came out during the meeting from MLA groups (Sections, SIGs, committees, etc.). In general the Board does not make heavy lifting decisions at this meeting because we are just as worn out from the meeting as the rest of the members.

June 2015
The President attends the MLA/AAHSL Legislative Task Force in Washington DC and meets with Senate and House staff to advocate on behalf of NLM and other legislative issues happening within the Senate or House that are important to health science librarians. I can’t remember specifically the specific issues from 2015 but in 2016 some of the issues we discussed were NIH and NLM funding increase, approve the appointment of the Librarian of Congress, and issues pertaining to copyright.

In the past the President is invited and has gone to the ALA Annual Conference. This isn’t a requirement and as I understand, things have changed at the ALA meeting and the there isn’t as much for the presidents of other library associations as there was in years past.  I was also invited to the CHLA/ABSC annual meeting in Vancouver.  The MLA President doesn’t always go to this meeting but I felt it was important to attend because we were co-hosting the 2016 annual meeting in Toronto.  So I opted to go to the Vancouver meeting and one of the Board Members who lives in California and was planning to go to ALA attended on behalf of me and MLA.

BTW I totally loved the CHLA/ABSC meeting and if you can get to go to one of their meetings it is totally worth it (and they are so nice).

August 2015
The Board meets virtually in August and the President prepares the agenda and runs the meeting.  While this is our first official meeting after the annual meeting the Board often discusses things via email.  So this virtual meeting provides the opportunity for all of us to meet and discuss things in real time as well as approve any motions that have been presented.

I also attended IFLA.  In the past the MLA President would attend IFLA.  Currently this is not something the President will attend.  I know some MLA members are unhappy with this and I understand where they are coming from.  However, at this time IFLA is not a good fit for MLA given its current goals.  IF this changes and MLA re-joins IFLA, August is the time the President would go to IFLA.

September 2015
In the past the President would visit the next (their) MLA meeting city and facility.  As I mentioned, the meeting was a joint meeting with CHLA/ABSC so I did not go to Toronto, as much was already being taken care of.

October 2015
October is the Chapter meeting scramble.  There are only 4 weeks in October and it seems every MLA Chapter has their meeting in these 4 weeks.  Sure there might be a few renegades who hold their meeting the last week of September or the first week of November.  In general, everybody has a mad craze to always hold their meetings at the same time.  It makes it impossible for the President to attend every Chapter meeting.  As a result the Board has to figure out who will attend which meeting so that there is at least one person from the Board attending each meeting.

While I was President I really wanted to attend every Chapter meeting, unfortunately cloning wasn’t (and still isn’t) possible.  I personally wish Chapters could spread their meetings out over the year.  My personal goal is to attend every Chapters’ meeting at least once in my library career. I love the Chapter meetings.  You learn so much and meet so many people in a nice bite size environment.

November 2015
The Board meets in person in Chicago every November.  Over the years I have been a Board Member and President it seems that this meeting is held on or touching my birthday every time.  I think there is a hidden passage in the Board manual that dictates this.  The President meets with the Treasurer, President Elect, Past President, and the Executive Director a day before the rest of the Board meet.  The Board meets usually for 1 1/2 days discussing in person things we have been working on (via email) and items brought forth by the MLA groups.

By the way this is the best meeting to see your warm weather Board Members deal with just the very beginnings of winter in Chicago.  *giggle*

This November I also attended the MLA Historical Marker ceremony in Philadelphia.  Obviously this doesn’t happen every year but there are events that “pop up” that the MLA President attends.  For example, last week (September 12, 2016) Teresa attended the swearing in of the new NLM director Dr Patti Brennan.

December 2015
The President doesn’t usually travel this month but this is an important month for MLA.  This is the month that the MLA election results are available and the President notifies the candidates.  These were some of the best and worst calls I had to make.  I worked with many of the people who were on the slate and all of them were wonderful librarians doing great things and each and every one of them deserved to be elected.  It sucks that they couldn’t all be elected.

February 2016
Instead of traveling to Chicago in the dead of winter (thankfully) we have another virtual Board Meeting.  Much like the August meeting, this allows the Board to meet online and discuss things that we have been working via email.

The President also must do some writing.  They write the Welcome letter for the Annual Meeting program and the MLA priorities or goals for the MLA News.

March and April 2016
While there isn’t any traveling the President is increasingly eyeball deep into the Annual Meeting preparation as it gets closer to May.

May 2016
The President travels to the annual meeting a few days before the meeting starts to attend Board meetings.  Similar to the Chicago meeting the President, President Elect, Past President, Treasurer and Executive Director meet the day before the entire Board meets.  Then the entire Board meets for 2 days before the start of the annual meeting.  Once the annual meeting starts, the President is   attending and speaking at MLA group meetings and events.  Hopefully, not many future Presidents have to preside over a change in the bylaws.  That was not my strength and I am forever grateful to those who helped me through it.

Every day of the Annual Meeting is super busy for the President. IMHO the President can call it a successful day if they had time to go to the bathroom.  As busy as I was during the Toronto meeting, I enjoyed the time I spent in the hallways chatting with members and meeting new people.  I know I have said this before, but it is totally true…. You learn the most from the meeting by talking and engaging with your colleagues and meeting new people.

At the end of the Annual Meeting, the President becomes the Past President and has come full circle to pass the gavel to the President Elect who is the new President and runs the post Annual Meeting Board Meeting.

Other things that don’t fall in a timeline:

Email, email, email.  A lot of work with the Board, MLA groups,  MLA staff and MLA members is done via email.  Prior to becoming President my inbox was under control.  While I was President I had to develop all sorts of files in my saved email folders or else my inbox would have been a nightmare.

Pop up events. It probably isn’t really correct to call them pop up events because usually the events the MLA President attends aren’t sudden.  I just call them pop up events because they are predictable yearly events.  For example: my trip to Philadelphia for the Historical Marker and Teresa’s trip this September to the new Director of NLM’s induction.

Phone calls. The President has a phone call every other week with the Executive Director.  Every other week the President has a phone call with the Past President, President Elect, Treasurer, and the Executive Director.  So the President has a scheduled phone call every week regarding MLA.  Of course those are the scheduled phone calls, there are always phone calls from MLA staff and members that are about different items.

The job descriptions document says the average time commitment for the President (not including travel) is about a day per week.  I would say that is pretty accurate but it isn’t like a whole day at one time.  It is an hour here and there so it wasn’t as noticeable to me as a whole day would have been.  What was noticeable was how much of my thoughts occupied MLA activities.  Perhaps this is because I was “in touch” with MLA stuff for a little bit each day (via email or phone).

So there you have it…what I did as MLA President for an entire year.  I am sure I missed something.  I hope this is helpful for anyone who is contemplating running for President.  It was one of the best things I did in my career.  It was tiring and yes some things I used to do in my free time suffered (this blog and my swimming) but my family was super awesome and according to my husband my family didn’t suffer.  With his support I was still able to have a pretty good work/life balance.

My hope is to get back to this blog and swimming more. However, I have had a recent career change that will probably fill the spot that MLA President once had.  I have accepted and will be the Director of my library in October.  The first few months are going to be busy as I learn my new role but I think I can still squeeze in a post or two a month instead of watching Real Housewives.

Three Legged Dogs are Cool

I know I owe you all part 2 post on Life and MLA President but I have gotten delayed.  My 1 yr old puppy, Chewie (as in Chewbacca of course) was diagnosed with cancer and had to have his leg removed.  That kind of sucking away all of my available free time.

Chewie doing good after surgery.

While Chewie doesn’t have much to do with medical librarianship, I have to say the little dude has inspired.

Life as the President of MLA: Part 1

I’m baaaaaaaaaack.

It has been a while since I have posted.  I want to thank all of the guest posters who have written and kept things going while I took a year off.  You guys were great.

So, one of the questions I have gotten over the year is what is like to be President of MLA.  I want to take the time to answer that question.  I will try to provide as much information without getting so wordy that it becomes the longest blog post ever.  With that in mind I am going to make this a two part series.  The first part is going to focus on my experiences while the second part will get into the nitty gritty of time and how things are done.

First and foremost it was an awesome experience.  I wish everyone who wants to run as President will get to be President.

Meeting Librarians:

Attending the Chapter Meetings and the CHLA/ABSC meeting provided me with a rich opportunity to meet more librarians than I would have ever met in my lifetime.   Meeting people and sharing stories and experiences, brainstorming ideas, learning from each other is the one thing, hands down, that made the whole Presidential term great.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend every Chapter’s meeting, they all overlap a great deal.  However, I want to still attend every Chapter’s meeting at least once.  I learned so much from different groups that I feel like it will do me good to step out and go to a different Chapter every once and a while.  I think we are sometimes so wrapped up in our own groups that we don’t always know what is going on elsewhere and big MLA annual meeting can sometimes be information overload.  I kind of got this idea from a librarian friend whose child was graduating college during her Chapter meeting.  She decided to go to her child’s graduation and then go to a different Chapter’s meeting (which didn’t conflict with the graduation) and present a poster.  So a few years down the road if I happen to be at your Chapter meeting, I am just branching out and expanding my boundaries.

Capitol Hill Visits:

I was both equally nervous and excited when I joined the AAHSL and MLA Joint Legislative Task Force in Washington DC.  Because NLM and the NIH are government entities they cannot lobby on behalf of themselves.  Who is to lobby for the things we medical librarians use? Well, medical librarians will lobby on their behalf.  The first day we met to learn and discuss all of the most relevant and timely issues that we needed to make our Senators and Representatives aware of.  We were given packets and created talking points.  The next day we were set loose in 3 teams of 3-4 people.  We met with the staffers responsible for health affairs for the Senators or Representatives of our states.  It helped to be in a group because the members in your group chimed in and provided support while you were talking with your state’s staffer.  It was such a cool experience walking the halls of the Senate and House buildings.  I felt a part of the governmental process that I learned about when I was a kid in school.

MLA Historical Marker:

I got to be a witness to library history.  Last November I went to Philadelphia to attend the unveiling of the MLA Historical Marker  at 1420 Chestnut Street (later designated 1420-1422 Chestnut Street).  MLA is the world’s oldest association of medical librarians and information professionals!  To be a part of such a respected and long standing association and to see it being recognized by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was humbling and wonderful at the same time.

MLA Business:

I am still honored that I was elected by the membership to serve as President and to guide MLA forward as an association.  Associations and organizations are changing rapidly.  It was a great privilege to be a part of the process as MLA members, Board members and staff worked to help the association evolve to meet the needs of future medical librarians.  All of us worked together to look at things from a different perspective and not rely on the old “we always did it that way” principle.  Rome was not built in a day and we have had some hiccups along the way but to be a part of the evolutionary process is something that I hold near and dear to my heart.  As I went to the Chapter meetings, Board meetings, and spoke or emailed with so many people in the association, I always did my best to try and understand people and perspectives and to help the association. I love the people in this organization and I believe that we all are working to make things great.

Family:

If you were at the Toronto meeting you might have noticed that I teared up a little and my voice cracked when I thanked my family for their support.  I am not a crier.  I’m a suck it up kind of person. Being MLA President provided a wonderful personal experience for me as well.  My kids have always known that I help doctors and nurses find information to help treat patients.  During my term as President they were able to see medical librarianship beyond my day to day job.  They would see me chatting on Twitter with other librarians from all over the world (*see funny story below).  When I left for Chapter meeting I would tell them where I was going and what I would be doing.  My trip to Philadelphia for the historical marker gave me the opportunity to talk to them about the history and evolution of medical librarianship.  Finally, they were able to hear about their mom going to Washington DC to talk to our elected officials (well their staffers) to try and influence positive change. Through all of this they saw first hand of what “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” can be.

My experience as MLA President will stick with me forever.  I enjoyed and learned so much during my time.  However, I am glad to slow down just a bit and be the past President now.  My kids will be sad that they won’t get as much Garrett’s popcorn, but I am ready for the next phase of my career (whatever that may be) to begin.

*Funny story*
One Thursday evening while participating in the #medlibs chat, my son asked me who I was texting.  I told him I was Tweeting and talking with other medical librarians around the US and the world.  He paused a second then asked if I knew every medical librarian in the US in the world.  I said no of course not.  He then asked if I had met the people I was chatting with.  I told him that I had met some but not all.  He looked at me and said, “I thought you told us we weren’t supposed to chat online with people we haven’t met in real life. You should be careful Mom.” -I got a dose of my own internet safety speech from my kid.

Odds & Ends of possible interest

Useful FireFox extensions :

  • Distill

This allows you to monitor a web page  for any changes. You can highlight just part of the page (handy as some pages  change a lot  with tweets or whatever so you want to avoid that) and it will track changes only in that section – useful if looking for a report to appear, update to a publication. The only tricky thing with it is that  when you highlight a section the Save changes icon you want is bottom right (took a while to find that)

  • Lightshot and Awesome Screenshot  Plus

Both of these make capturing and annotating screenshots  very easy which is useful for training  materials, highlighting problems  via emails etc

  • Copy as plain text

Just a little  thing but find it useful. Adds a  right click option to a highlighted  items in the browser  such that  you can copy as  plain text and don’t have formatting carried over  into whatever you are  copying into

  • Vimperator

Essentially it converts links into numbers and you can “click on the link” by typing the relevant number so in a sense  creates  keyboard shortcuts  for websites. Could be useful with any web interface used frequently.

  • Lastpass

Oldie but a very goodie – only ever have to remember one password.

 

Other bits and pieces:

PubMed for Nurses  tutorial

UpToDate now more useful  for those that subscribe

There is now a specific ClinicalKey app (rather than just a mobile optimised site) but apparently only available in the US for the moment

Booko price alert. Booko is useful for finding the best prices for books (including delivery). It now has a feature where for a given item you can set a price target and be alerted when price drops below your nominated figure. This feature is below the book cover image.

Move between browser tabs. It is quite easy to get caught out using alt-tab when all you actually want to do is move between tabs of the browser. Ctrl-tab works for most browsers so you just have to think ctrl instead of alt

On the Wards. This is a website for junior docs containing podcasts, blogs and videos. The podcasts are interviews with senior clinicians that discuss common questions and case based scenarios that junior doctors will face on the wards etc

A few new useful(?) MeSH headings for 2015 – Legendary creatures, Long term adverse effects, Smartphone, Spirit possession, Giraffes, Hoarding disorder

Continuing with MeSH. MeSH On Demand identifies candidate subject headings from text pasted into the search box

Two newish PubMed alerting services – Medumail and MedSubscriber

Papers, the reference manager, for iPhone and iPad is now free

British Medical Library Association book prize winners 2015 for possible book purchases

WriteCite Builds citation as student enters details so they can learn the structure

The Cloud Catalog: One Catalog to Serve Them All

And with that it is time now for a coffee

Ithaka S+R Local Faculty Survey and Health Sciences Libraries:

In 2014, the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Libraries administered the Ithaka S+R Local Faculty Survey to our faculty to measure their changing needs and perceptions of library resources. The survey, consisting of seven modules including the health sciences module, was distributed across our campus. The health sciences module targets faculty with patient or clinical care responsibilities. At this time, few health sciences libraries have used this instrument. Survey questions focused on attitudes and skills related to evidence-based scholarly resources as well as access and use of other library services and resources.

Of course we all know students’ research skills especially in finding evidence based scholarly research are often lacking. This came out clearly from the results of the Ithaka survey. Again we were not surprised to see that faculty also see these research skills as a very important aspect of the students’ learning. However, it is still amazing that a large number of faculty did not see teaching the skill of finding evidence based scholarly materials and research skills as primarily the librarians’ function. A timely reminder for us to continue informing our faculty that we indeed have are more than capable to teach students research skills especially when it comes to evidence based practice. What a great opportunity for us to collaborate with our faculty and remind them about everything else we bring to the table!

Hopefully more health sciences libraries will use this survey instrument to measure their faculty perceptions because I think it would be interesting to compare the VCU’s Tompkins-McCaw Library’s findings with other libraries that have surveyed their health sciences faculty.

Post Publication Review: Librarians’ Role

On Monday I spoke to a group of physicians, hospital administrators and other medical professionals on the impact of the publishing industry on hospitals and medicine.  While I spoke about the elephant in the room, sky high subscription rates for institutions, I also spoke about the role of post publication review in medical literature.

The example I gave was Amanda Capes-Davis who comments within PubMed Commons on mistaken identities of cell lines within the medical literature and her efforts to inform readers of potential cell line problems.

I wish I had seen Melissa Rethlefsen’s PubMed Commons post when I was creating my presentation.  It is a great example of how medical librarians can examine the published literature for inconsistencies regarding the methodologies of their search of the literature when conducting research.

Melissa reviewed the article “Comparative efficacy and safety of blood pressure-lowering agents in adults with diabetes and kidney disease: a network meta-analysis.” Lancet. 2015 May 23;385(9982):2047-56. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)62459-4.  She and her colleagues at the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library reviewed and tried to duplicate the authors’ Embase search strategy which the authors reported in the Appendix (pages 13-14). According to the PRISMA flow chart the authors retrieved 1,371 results (Appendix page 37).

According to Melissa,

This study highlights the need for more accurate and comprehensive reporting needed for search strategies in systematic reviews and other literature search-based research syntheses, and the need for better peer review of search strategies by information specialists/medical librarians. Though the searches in the Appendix are on face value replicable and high quality, on closer inspection, they do not in fact meet the reporting standards as outlined by PRISMA Statement items #7 and #8: “Describe all information sources in the search (e.g., databases with dates of coverage, contact with study authors to identify additional studies) and date last searched” and “Present the full electronic search strategy for at least one major database, including any limits used, such that it could be repeated.”

For me, this comment within PubMed Commons highlights the need for librarians to analyze search strategies in the literature and to speak up and set the record straight when things are not correct or there are issues of reproducibility.  Just like Amanda Capes-Davis who sheds light on cell line problems or the statisticians who questioned the math in an NEJM article (later retracted), we are subject experts and it is important that we help contribute to post publication peer review.

Medical librarians all around the world can point to examples of when a poor literature search could have saved lives or prevented injuries, death or illness.  I am not suggesting the literature review in the article by Palmer et al. could cause patient harm.  But PubMed Commons provides librarians with an avenue by which to question literature reviews presented in research.  Hopefully by highlighting questionable search strategies or corroborating effective search strategies it will lead to better use of librarians and better research all around.