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.

Doing Something Neat with Technology? Submit Your Project to JMLA Virtual Projects

The Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) Virtual Projects Committee is seeking innovative and notable technology projects for the October 2016 JMLA Virtual Projects column. The annual column focuses on library virtual spaces that extend the library “presence” outward to support users in their digital spaces, wherever and whenever needed.

To be considered for this column, please submit a 200-word abstract of your virtual project or a link to your project web page that describes the project and why it is innovative or notable. Technology projects must have been implemented within the past two years. Send your submissions to Susan Lessick  slessick[atsign]uci[dot]edu AHIP, FMLA, by March 17.

Submissions of virtual projects may demonstrate the implementation of a new technology or a new application of an older technology. Focus areas or technologies of special interest include, but are not limited to:

  • electronic medical record (EMR)/electronic health record (EHR) integration and “meaningful use” programs
  • data management
  • data visualization
  • assessment metrics
  • gamification
  • flipped classroom
  • adaptive learning technologies
  • virtual reality (VR)
  • beacons
  • social media technologies

    Please consider sharing your knowledge and experiences with implementing virtual projects in your library to inspire and encourage your peers, partners, and communities.

    JMLA Virtual Projects Advisory Committee: Patricia Anderson; Janis F. Brown, AHIP; Michelle Kraft, AHIP; Susan Lessick, AHIP, FMLA (column editor); and Elizabeth Whipple, AHIP.

“85% of biomedical research is wasted” and librarians

First to the rather disturbing 85% figure. This originates from a 2009 Lancet article that suggests much research is wasted due to asking the wrong questions, being badly designed, being not published, being poorly reported and more. The paper has been cited some 400 times in Google Scholar which indicates that it is an area of interest and concern.

So where where do librarians fit in? A recent paper (“Impactful librarians : identifying opportunities to increase your impact”) suggests that they can play a very important role in improving research quality in their organisations. At the same time, this will help raise the profile and value of clinical librarians, which is increasingly important in the current economic climate.

Shona Kirtley, from the University of Oxford in the UK, outlines a number of steps that librarians can pro actively take to achieve some of these desirable outcomes. 16 possible actions are handily summarised in the article, and no doubt there are other approaches which can be adopted.

To highlight just one area as an example, one aspect of research inefficiency is in the reporting of research methods and results. Reporting guidelines, which often take the form of check-lists or flow diagrams, have been developed to improve reporting of various study types, such as randomised controlled trials (CONSORT), systematic reviews (PRISMA), observational studies (STROBE), case reports (CASE) and so on. As clinical librarians are often in contact with researchers, they are ideally placed to promote awareness of guidelines such as these. For instance, this could be when a clinician requests a search for research, during training classes, on the library website etc.

It is valuable to have a look at the EQUATOR Network site which provides online access to numerous reporting guidelines; searchable by study type and/or clinical speciality. Just making researchers aware of this site alone would significantly contribute to research quality.

My own country Australia has just become the fourth member of the network worldwide, following the United Kingdom, Canada and France. There is a Librarian section of the EQUATOR Network if you would like to be involved in establishing it in your own country or contributing generally. Another site focussed on preventing research waste is The Reward Alliance.

In short, the Kirtley paper is well worth printing off and reading, giving as it does much food for thought and outlining potential opportunities for librarians to have a positive and valued impact on biomedical research.

Comments, suggestions, tips, anecdotes etc welcome below,

– Rob

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

At the beginning of last year I was asked to design and teach a new course with one of the nursing instructors that would teach students how to write professionally and value inter-professional communication. As an academic librarian for nursing and health sciences, I do a lot of teaching as part of my day to day role, but I had never taught an eight week course. And, not since before library school had I taught anything that wasn’t directly related to libraries or where I was not in the role of librarian.

My co-instructor and I spent months matching readings, assignments, and assessments to learning objectives and the course that emerged was a cross-listed nursing and health sciences elective titled Basics of APA Writing for Healthcare. In the course, students learn to evaluate research, ethically use sources in their writing, and practice formal, persuasive writing, all while exploring a current healthcare communication issue and evidence-based practice. Many of these are topics I cover with students ordinarily as their librarian, but instead of teaching them in bits and pieces throughout various classes, I get to teach them all in sequence in a condensed time frame and reinforce the material as I go.

Teaching with a nurse educator is the perfect balance; we are learning from each other’s perspectives on active learning, information literacy, and library research. Talking to each other for hours each week teaches each of us about the other’s expertise and helps us each value the other’s role in healthcare education. And students benefit from having two instructors with varied proficiencies. We can teach both theory and practice, catch different mistakes, counter each other’s biases, and improve our communication. Through our teaching partnership we give students an ongoing example of how interdisciplinary collaboration can improve practice, a lesson they will hopefully take with them into their healthcare professions.

I am still learning as I go, but this has been an invaluable experience so far. My goal for this year is to seek out other interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities for myself and the library.

InTOCicated by eTOCs

As you might gather from the post title, I love journal alerts (aka eTOCs) and here’s why:

  • They increase use of our expensive ejournals
  • They help keep clinicians up to date in their specialty
  • They repeatedly remind clinicians that the medical library exists; no small thing in these Googlesque days
  • They can be used to cross promote other library resources, services and news

We are a relatively small hospital library (two staff) which services around 5000 clients. Over the years, our ejournal alert service has grown to around 700 journal alerts, and is probably our most popular service.

The way it works is that all journal eTOCs come through one email and are forwarded to alert groups automatically via rules.

Our organisation used to have Groupwise for its email system and rules worked well with it. However on switching to Outlook, we quickly found that we could only create half a dozen or so rules before memory limitations were reached. After some searching, we found an Outlook add-in called Auto-Mate from Pergenex which came to the rescue. It’s an easy to use but powerful add-in, and it’s strangely gratifying to watch it automatically forward dozens of eTOCs each morning.

While signing up for eTOCs is a one off task, and forwarding of emails is automatic once rules have been set up, creating and modifying ejournal email groups is the most labor intensive part of the service. If I was to start the service again, I’d probably do it at the subject level (eg cardiology) rather than the title level (eg BMJ) as this would reduce the workload involved in adding and removing users from groups.

With a previous post – exporting Google Scholar citations to reference managers – I Kraftily used it as a Trojan horse to seek an answer to issue. Thanks to responders Farhad, Christine and especially Karen who provided the solution.

In a similar vein, I’m hoping a clever commenter out there can shed light on the following question:

Is there a way to have an online web form such that a user can make multiple selections (for the various eTOCs they are interested in) and which on submission updates multiple email groups (corresponding to the eTOCs they have selected/deselected). The email system doesn’t necessarily need to be Outlook. I thought this would be relatively straightforward process but as yet haven’t been able to find any offerings like this, despite playing around with the likes of MailChimp.

The JournalTOCs service has something like this available but our resolver wouldn’t work with their system alas alack alay

In any case, I remain a big fan of eTOCs and would be interested to hear if any other libraries have any comments, are using them in interesting ways or have any technology (not RSS ) that streamlines the process and so on

Thanks Rob

Poop is OK!

Written at last week’s Internet Librarian 2015 Conference

A conference’s opening keynote address is kind of like the first day of school. You sit excitedly wondering what the experience is going to bring, anxiously chatting with your neighbor about what sessions you plan to attend. Looking around you size up the crowd: the diehard tweeters in the front, the laid-back cool kids leisurely skimming their conference programs, and the super hip girl in the back row wearing red tights who you hope will be your new best friend. As we settled into our seats in the hotel ballroom, we expected a lot. No pressure, but the opening session lays the foundation for the rest of the conference.

The opening keynote address at this year’s Internet Librarian 2015 Conference did not disappoint. The panel of female entrepreneurs discussed the topic “Exploring Roles & Directions: Creating, Failing, Learning.” Ilana Ben-Ari of Twenty One Toys, Liza Conrad of Hopscotch, and Erin Mulcahy of littleBits discussed their experiences in start-ups and how what they’ve learned can transfer to the library world.

One highlight from the panel is when Lisa Conrad from Hopscotch, an app that teaches kids coding through building games, told the story of a teacher who said there was inappropriate material on the app. She complained that her students were using the poop emoji too much, and she was deleting the app. Worried, the folks at Hopscotch banded together to find a solution to the problem. After some thought, they soon realized there wasn’t a problem. The kids were using the app and learning how to code – that’s the whole goal! They concluded that poop is OK. If the users like poop, then they should have poop!

What can librarians take away from this anecdote? The Hopscotch staff looked at the situation through the lens of the user. They asked the questions, “Who is this helping? Who is this serving? What do they want?” They based their choices on the people who matter most – their users. As librarians, it’s easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day and forget who we serve. Like at Hopscotch, we need to reevaluate the standards people hold us to and remember why we’re here- for our users.