Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Health Information Seekers Characteristics: Online vs. Offline

This article was forwarded to me by my HealthSci OhioLINK email list.

Cotten SR, Gupta SS.
Characteristics of online and offline health information seekers and
factors that discriminate between them.
Soc Sci Med. 2004 Nov;59(9):1795-806.
PMID: 15312915

Increasing number of individuals are using the internet to meet their health information needs; however, little is known about the characteristics of online health information seekers and whether they differ from individuals who search for health information from offline sources. Researchers must examine the primary characteristics of online and offline health information seekers in order to better recognize their needs, highlight improvements that may be made in the arena of internet health information quality and availability, and understand factors that discriminate between those who seek online vs. offline health information. This study examines factors that differentiate between online and offline health information seekers in the United States. Data for this study are from a subsample (n=385) of individuals from the 2000 General Social Survey. The subsample includes those respondents who were asked Internet and health seeking module questions. Similar to prior research, results of this study show that the majority of both online and offline health information seekers report reliance upon health care professionals as a source of health information. This study is unique in that the results illustrate that there are several key factors (age, income, and education) that discriminate between US online and offline health information seekers; this suggests that general “digital divide” characteristics influence where health information is sought. In addition to traditional digital divide factors, those who are healthier and happier are less likely to look exclusively offline for health information. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of the digital divide and the patient–provider relationship.

There is a great divide between the two groups (online seekers and offline seekers). As predicted age, income, and educational level were related to how people sought their information. Offline searchers tended to be about 11 years older than online searchers. Interestingly the online searchers reported being very satisfied with their health and happier. After close analysis it was discovered that the healthy happy online researchers were less likely to look for information offline. The study hypothesized that individuals who were less healthy would be more likely to use the Internet for health information, because they might be more desperate to use the Internet to find solutions to their health problems. This was not the case. Perhaps offline searchers reporting poorer health are not as physically able to use or access the Internet (i.e. are they confined to a bed all day). Another thought is that Perhaps health information obtained from the Internet has helped online health seekers to maintain good health. As the article points out, the data used in the study does not one to examine this.

It is an interesting read. I hope those who are interested have a way of accessing it online to read. I decided not to provide the link to the article because libraries get their journal articles various ways, and the way I was able access it and read it may not work for your library.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Have e-books turned a page?

So this article in the New York Times, "Have e-books turned a page?" published Aug 27, 2004 by David Becker kind of dovetails nicely with my earlier blog on Medical Electronic Books.
(Note: if you are trying to access the NY Times article and it is more than a week past 8/27/2004, you will not be able to read the article free online from their site.)

It is extremely interesting. While it does not specifically mention electronic medical texts it does mention electronic books within libraries and with the academic and technical field. Specifically it mentions the O'Reilly books which are mainly targeted to computer technology and are available on Safari. We have access to Safari Tech books and we have noticed (from calls to our library) that set of electronic books is getting a good amount of use. This creates another question, "Is the use of electronic books determined by the type of user? Specifically, are technical users (computer programmers, web developers, etc.) more like to use an online book than another type of user?" My answer is a tentative yes. Even Sean Devine, managing director of Safari Books, says not all types/styles of electronic books are for everyone. For example Safari Books may not be work for all types of libraries or places, but technology or education material where, "The notion of having electronic access to a body of content that's searchable, where they can cut and paste examples of code right into the application they're working on--that's very compelling to our customers."

The NY Times article also compares the ebooks to that of digital media such as iTunes and other music download sites. Honestly, I am almost embarrassed to say that I never thought to compare the two, but when you talk about copyright and digital right management it makes sense to look at how the two medias have diverged.

According to publishing industry analyst, Jean Bedford, publishers are extremely concerned of security and that has fueled or cooled the drive into new areas and technologies. Because publishers are so concerned about security it is effecting the type of reading devices and formats that an ebook can be read or created in. This also hinders the reader or potential readers from using a standardized device, access a variety of wanted titles, etc. Borders said, "I don't see any combination of device and service that'll just come together and create a major shift. Steve Jobs did a great job of getting all the music labels together and saying, 'Digital distribution is going to happen--let's get ready.' I don't see that happening with book publishers. They're more traditional, they're very decentralized, and it just takes them longer to work out issues."
So users/readers have limited access to the good stuff, because the publisher's are nervous about making it available. Mike Violano, vice president and general manager of eReader, "Some publishers just don't trust letting their content be available in digital form."

The article continues to state that readers want their books to be available on multifunctional devices, not something they have to go out and buy specifically to get ebooks. So that means users want their books ready and read-able on PDAs, lap tops, and phones. (ok side note...have you ever tried to squint and read your phone's address book, who the hell wants to read a book on a phone!?) So this idea, gets back to my question as to whether medical texts are "there" yet for our patrons. Most of our medical texts are really only available on lap tops or desk tops. 1. We haven't invested into PDA ready books. (long story about library and hospital's willingness to go PDA institutionally) 2. At a glance there are very few medical books that are PDA available at a reasonable cost institutionally. The majority seem to be targeted to the individual PDA user not the institution buying for its users.

One of my questions as to whether ebooks are "there" is whether or not people are ready to give up their reading habits, i.e. curl up with a book, highlight a chapter, dog ear a page, etc. The NY Times article specifically ends with Gary Frost, Gary Frost, conservator of the libraries art the University of Iowa in Iowa City commenting on the human nature and reading. "Current book reading habits are the result of centuries of accumulation. Reading text on a screen and in search-equipped formats represents a profound behavioral shift, equivalent to the transition millennia ago from scrolls to multipage codexes, Frost said. Even digital enthusiasts will need time to adjust."

So there you have it....Are ebooks there yet? No. Are they getting there? I think so, but it won't be as fast as the music industry has with something iTunes. But that doesn't mean we should ignore it or discount it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Working Chat...

Ok so I wanted to blog about those pesky epub ahead of prints, but fortunately/unfortunately I will have to wait to blog on that.

Fortunately, I am working on setting up my computer and installing software (crossing my fingers about firewall issues) to get our Health Sci Ref Chat up and running. As we were surprised to find out we are going to be trained on it this comming Monday!

Unfortunately, you will have to wait to read my rant about those darn epubs ahead of print. I now you all are crying in your drinks right now.

So I bid farewell until I am to have some down time away from getting the chat thing all together. This whole ref chat thing has polarized quite a few here in my library. I would rather not discuss that whole mess on this blog, but it is interesting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Publishers Publishing Content in Advance....ARRRRGH

So I guess I have a bad case of the Tuesdays along with the Mondays I got yesterday. Oh well so be it.

The thing that has got me all in a snit are these damn publishers who publish articles waaay in advance before the print. This is particularly problematic as patrons search PubMed.
For example look at this citation I just grabbed from PubMed:
Antel J, Owens T. Multiple sclerosis and immune regulatory cells. Brain. 2004 Sep;127(Pt 9):1915-6. No abstract available. PMID: 15321939

Do you see a problem with getting this article today (August 24, 2004)? Well the fact that the article is published in September of 2004 makes it pretty freaking hard to get in August of 2004!!! Our patrons will actually call us up and complain about the fact that they can't get access to the article. Now this would be easily dismissible if it weren't for the fact that the publisher puts this article up on their site. So our user thinks that anything that is displayed on the site is ripe for the picking. Now I have to go into a long song and dance explanation about how we get this journal through our OhioLINK consortia and while the journal is technically up to date on the consortia's web site, we do not have access to articles published ahead time.
I realize OhioLINK is a little unique with our electronic journal collection that we have. But this problem occurs with major vendors of multiple online journals, such as Ovid. (I am not picking on Ovid.) If you have access Brain through Ovid, you still are out of luck, because Ovid has not yet received the online version of the article either.

So despite the article appearing on the publisher's site, implying that it is "out there" and published, libraries who subscribe to that journal by other means are out of luck until it is September and publisher has submitted the article to the full text vendors.
Good business sense you say. The publisher wants you to pay for access to their site for privileged access. I agree with you in theory. But how is a library to keep up with these publishers? We can't monitor every publisher (large and small) to manage access to all of their sites. That is why we have full text vendors.

Ok I guess the conclusion I have come to regarding this example is that unfortunately libraries must sacrifice one for the other. In other words if you want ahead of time access you need to have the staff, patience, and organization skills to maintain access to the publishers' web sites. If you want to try and get the most bang for your buck, time, and sanity then you go with a full text vendor to provide your full text access, thus sacrificing some access to those journals that throw their content up months in advance. We here at our library try to do a little bit of both. We have access through some full text vendors (such as Ovid and Ebsco databases and OhioLINK's EJC) and we subscribe to some publisher's sites directly. So, I guess that mean I go only partially insane with electronic journals.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Somebody's Got a Case of the Mondays...

Yes that it is me today. Sometimes I really feel life in library land is closer to life in the buisness world than we care to admit to ourselves. Somedays I really think Peter Gibbons (main character in the 1999 movie Office Space) and I work for the same bosses.

Finally, our library director has decided (under much arm twisting) to enter into the HealthSci Reference Chat that other OhioLINK medical school libraries are participating in. I should be very happy about this...but I am fearful.

Main reasons I am fearful:
1. I know that the HealthSci chat did not have as much action as was anticipated. I fear that if this is the case this year my director will wonder why it is worth keeping one her librarians off of the reference desk to do chat when that librarian could be better "used" by serving "our patrons."

2. I fear that it will be a huge success and our director will be asked to contribute more librarians or librarian hours to this endeavor, which means that means less librarians on our reference desk for "our patrons."

I do hope this is not only successful but also successful within our library. Not only with the amount of people using the chat but also with the staffing issue. I know all libraries have their sacred cows. Ours just happens to be the absolute rule that "Thou must have 2 people on the reference desk at all times." I hope that doing this chat will not cause problems regarding the reference desk decree, because that would surely cause the chat a premature death in our library.

So here are my questions to you all out there in library land who work with chat ref.
1. Do you have somebody dedicated to chat ref? If so what else do they do? If not how do you handle rotation of the chat ref duty and how do you keep it from impinging on your library's sacred cows or general work duties?

2. Have you noticed that chat ref is getting more and more use as it is available at your library? Or has it just had moderate use and is something that your library could "take it or leave it"?

3. As more and more people jump to online resources as the first line attack when answering an informaiton need, do you see people using chat ref more? Or do you think the just use Google and if they can't find it there, then it can't be found anywhere (in their minds).

I would like to any and all your thoughts.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Medical Electronic Books

Ok I blogged a while back ago about ebooks and how they are being used in public, academic, and medical libraries. This is blog is more about my library's experience so far with ebooks and attempting to seek advice or wisdom about ebooks from you (my blog reader).

Originally we decided to subscribe to approximately seven books within Ovid that are heavily used print books. Things like the Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics that are frequently checked out of the library. We advertised the ebooks on our web page. We provided access links to them in the catalog, and we also provided a web page specially dedicated to online books listing all of the online books our library has. We have books from various other online providers such as Access Lange, StatRef, MDConsult, NetLibrary, and Ergito.

While renewing our Ovid account we noticed that the ebooks that we purchased access to through Ovid were just not getting the usage we thought they would. Some of these books are rather expensive for online access and we would have like to see great usage for the price we were paying.

I have two multi part questions:
1. Are online medical books not "there" yet? If so then what is causing their slow entry in the area? Is it format? Do people just hate using the books on the computer and if so would having them available in PDA format be better? Unfortunately my hospital and library (while well repected and thought of) is not heavily into the PDA scene, so my expertise in that area is somewhat limited. From my limited experience it appears that most medical text books available via PDA are really more marked at the individual PDA user, because they are seperate programs you load on your PDA. I have not seen a lot of web sites that offer "checking out" of medical textbooks for PDA usage like some public libraries do with the popular fiction books. Finally, are even medical textbooks on PDAs the answer? Are we just so used to physically turning pages, highlighting and taking notes that we want the real thing? I realize that some online book sites and PDA book programs allow that sort of thing, but is that just not as "natural" as the actual book?

2. Did we not promote our online books enough? We started acquiring a huge chunk of our online books back before our current more user friendly web page (which was launched this past June). Our old web site was not user friendly. We discovered that we had organized the site from more of a library staff frame of mind than from our user's frame of mind. Plus, our old site and grown unwieldy and cumbersome a home page stuffed with links to everything possible. So I am wondering if our crummy old web page hindered our users access to online books despite our best efforts at promoting them. I guess the only way to be able to determine whether our old web site might have effected usage is to look at the statistics since the new site went live. I will have to do that to figure that out....sigh...I hate Ovid's statistic reporting.

Ok I lied I have another question...It came to me while I was typing the second.
3. Are ebooks not there yet because there is no infrastructure for them? By this I mean there is really no giant online database of books that links to full text access. Heck you are lucky if NLM Locator or some other catalog has chapters listed. I think books are clearly lagging in journals is this area. Since there is no real great online catalog in the sky that has at least abstracts and chapter summaries, there is no real way to jump from the citations to other possible books or articles of interest. Ok that sentence is kind of confusing.... Basically when you search for a journal article and it is full text, some databases link the references to either Medline citations or to the full text. Thus you can read a great article and then be guided by the references to another great article. Since there is no database like or as powerful as PubMed for books, then there is no way or very limited ways to jump to any reference that is a book. Is what I am saying making sense? I wonder if they lack of a PubMed like database for books is hindering their online full text usage.

So there you have it, some thoughts on online medical textbooks. If you have any ideas, please share.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Library Usage Patterns in the Electronic Information Environment

Here is a nice article in Information Research Vol. 9 No. 4, July 2004, by Brinley Franklin and Terry Plum.
Snippet of the abstract:
"This paper examines the methodology and results from Web-based surveys of more than 15,000 networked electronic services users in the United States between July 1998 and June 2003 at four academic health sciences libraries and two large main campus libraries serving a variety of disciplines.
Results from the Web-based surveys showed that at the four academic health sciences libraries, there were approximately four remote networked electronic services users for each in-house user. This ratio was even higher for faculty, staff, and research fellows at the academic health sciences libraries, where more than five remote users for each in-house user were recorded. At the two main libraries, there were approximately 1.3 remote users for each in-house user of electronic information."

Wow, after reading the article I am a little amazed. I had no idea that there were that many remote users of library resources. I knew there were a lot of remote users, but I had no idea that the percentage of remote users compared to in-house users was so high. It makes me think that in some ways the library web site is as important as the library building itself. More and more libraries must become more than just bricks and mortar place where books are kept. Having a web presence is critical. Not only is it critical to have one, but it is also essential that it is user friendly.

That sounds like a no brainer, but I can't tell you how many library web sites that I have been on where I am perplexed as to where to find information. Additionally, most of our users do not think or speak in the way librarians do. How many general library users knows what ILL means? How many people understand what exactly a database is? You would shocked to know that most users don't know what these things are and why they should use them. So you must design and word it at an end user level. I think I remember a journalism professor once telling me that the average newspaper is written at the 5th grade reading level to ensure that as many people as possible can read (and therefore buy) the newspaper. Same principal should be applied to a library web site. Once you have a web site that you think accomplishes that goal, don't forget you are probably going to have re-do it in year or two. Things change, user demands change, so must your web site.

Another point this article makes is "The fact that more literature in the medical sciences is available electronically may help to account for why medical library users, and especially faculty, staff, and fellows, choose to use electronic services remotely. They may find that virtually all of their information needs can now be addressed from outside the library. This may be a trend that will re-occur in other disciplines as more networked electronic resources become available in those disciplines."

I can see this as a possible can of worms for some research. A lot is available online, but everything is not online. For the most part an article written before 1997 is not going to be online unless the journal was in the forefront of electronic publishing and started slightly eariler or the journal has started adding their back content. The Journal of Biological Chemistry is a rare journal, their content goes all the way back to 1905 in PDF. Most journals simply do not do that. Their online content begins from when they decided to go online.

So, there are vasts amount articles before that are not online in any shape or form. Because users are so used to getting things electronically, are they more prone to ignore citations to articles not available online? I seem to think they are. In my time as a medical librarian I have been told by more and more patrons that they just want whatever is online. Whether their reasons are because they only want recent articles or they are lazy and don't want to photcopy, more people tell me to they just want something that is already full text online.

One has got to wonder that this phenomenon of "oh just give only online articles," is going to affect research in possibly a detrimental way. We all are reminded of the death of Ellen Roche, a healthy, 24-year-old volunteer in an asthma study at Johns Hopkins University. As in Information Today and The Baltimore Sun the doctor did what he thought was an adequate Medline search on PubMed (which only goes back to 1966). It turns out that a majority of the journal articles on hexamethonium inhalation lung injury were published in the 1950's before PubMed. Had this researcher gone and dug a little further back in the literature, had he gotten a librarian to do his research (which would have most likely indicated even more so to look at early articles) perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided.

Like it or not remote user online research is here to stay and it is growing rapidly. Not only does a library have enhance and revamp their library web sites for their users, but they should also try and remember and remind (when necessary) users that not everything is online.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Computer Empowerment

No I am not talking about HAL or the Superman 3 computer who become sentient and refuse human demands and control. However, if your computer stops connecting to the internet for some reason or various presets have mysteriously changed, most people are ready to swear that their little desktop has morphed into a mini HAL and is bent on taking over the home.

Actually, I am talking about getting your friends and your family to have a feeling of empowerment over their computers. Arming them with enough basic information and skills that when their docile desktop rears its demonic head, they can perform basic trouble shooting instead of calling you (usually at dinner time when your 2 year old throwing food and feeding the dog).

Reid Goldsborough from Information Today has a nice article entitled, "Empower Others to Solve Computer ProblemsTips for helping friends and co-workers." It provides some nice tips such as making sure they have programs that can prevent major boo boos, such as anti virus protection and firewall software and keeping that up to date.

For example: My father, I love him, but not his computer skills. He has dial up and probably will never go to highspeed access. One day he called me (when the 2 year old was having a full scale temper tantrum) and was worried about how he thought his computer got a virus. After talking to him I discovered that he hadn't updated Norton in a year! You see it turns out he thought it took to long to download the updates over a dial up connection, so he just never did it.

Goldsborough article also mentions showing your friends and family how to download patches and create a troubleshooting step list, such as rebooting, undo, or system restore. Personally, I think the undo (thank you whoever, came up with such a brilliant button) or rebooting has solved a majority of the problems.

For those who are still technically challenged, one might investigate a third party support service. There are quite a few of these and they very in service and price.

For my parents a patch is for clothes. We (my brother, sister, brother inlaw, husband and I) have all had to serve our time as phone support to them. I have to admit we haven't gotten as many calls now that we (the kids and significant others) all chipped in to by them a new computer for Christmas, replacing their 6 year old on deaths door computer. Because the new computer has less software or hardware compatablity problems (because it is new and running new operating systems) there are less major computer meltdown problems. This has caused my parents to be more adventurous. Just this week they decided to buy a new scanner (they did ask my brother inlaw to recommend one) and that is a huge step. I am not sure if they or my brother in law installed the scanner, but I got 4 new emails with giant pictures from my mom. She was learning how to scan pictures and try and optimize them to send them via email. Way to go mom! Of course that was followed by an email for help (at least I can choose to respone when my world isn't hectic) from my dad because the wheel on his mouse doesn't scroll anymore.

I guess my point is that it is great to empower your users, your friends, and God yes your family. A little bit of confidence can go a long way and soon they might be able to troubleshoot some of their problems. However, be forewarned, it doesn't eliminate the help calls. It just leads to more complicated and different support help calls.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

What is Wiki!?!?

What is wiki? Good question, that is exactly what I was wondering the other day when I was reading all of these emails flying by me about wiki.

Wiki is a hawaiian term for quick, and wiki wiki is really quick. According to Bo Leuf and WardCunningham authors of "The Wiki Way", "Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly." Leuf's and Cunningham's web site, http://wiki.org says, "Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users."

Ok but how does this fit into libraries?

Dave Mattison, Access Services Archivist for British Columbia Archives, Cananda wrote a great article in Information Technology Today entitled "Quickiwiki, Swiki, Twiki, Zwiki and the Plone Wars Wiki as a PIM and Collaborative Content Tool." In the article he further explains what wiki is and its possible uses. He also notes that the Canadian National Site Licensing Project and National Science Digital Library [ http://eval.comm.nsdlib.org/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WhatIsThis,http://annotations.comm.nsdlib.org/cgi-bin/wiki.pl, and http://sourceforge.comm.nsdlib.org/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WikiResources ] use wiki.

It is a great article and if you ever wanted to know about wiki, it is a good resource, especially because it provides examples of wiki use on the web.

But doesn't it terrify you a little to know that anybody can go in and change whatever you slaved away at? It may not be the best idea for every application. However, it is being used among groups to share and write documents together and share information amongst each other.

What is stopping some guy from trashing your wiki site? Well nothing really, but others on the wiki site (because they too have total design control and access) can fix it or redesign it better. It is truely a group collaborative site.

Finally, there is a good commentary by David Weinberger on NPR on wikis from July 21, 2003. As he says, wikis are a "social software" that allows all to create, develop, change, alter a web site. Wikipedia.org is a perfect example of wiki of at work.

Friday, August 13, 2004

New Kids on the Block

I am not referring to the boy band of the late 80's (oops showing my age), but Search Engines the Next Generation.

Ok enough of my references to pop culture.... an article on CNET, "Next-generation search tools to refine results " mentions how search tools need to be reworked and refined to adequately search and find the vast amounts of information that is being put up on the web at an exponential rate. One new search engine called Flamenco (where do people get these names?!) is geared towards making it easier to search for works of art and antiques. Art and images in general is an area in my opinion, that is very difficult to search effectively on the web.

Another new idea in search engines is, Kozoru. (To me the name sounds like what you would get if Godzilla and Zorro were crossed.) According to their site "Kozoru is also a new way of looking at search technology. We focus not on the ability to index information and produce results, but on the deeper questions around providing meaningful information in the form of answers."

Oh my God is this some sort of search engine that will help me be more Zen?!
No, according to Kozoru, they are seeking to create a natural language search engine, free from the pit falls of boolean logic and search terms. Instead of search results one would receive the answers to their questions. (Ok that sounds a little Zen, or like AskJeeves...where did that go?)

I am a little skeptical of Kozoru....call it the controlled vocabularly loving MeSH librarian I am, but I just don't see a natural language search engine working yet. Of course I would love for Kozoru to prove me wrong, because I realize that I (like most librarians) am odd and freaky. I think in search terms, I live with boolean (don't tell my husband), and speak controlled vocabulary. However, I realize the general searching public doesn't have these unique qualities that I and other librarians posess. So if Kozoru can come up with a natural language search engine that works...more power to them.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Web Page Usability and Library Lingo

There is a thread right now on Web4Lib regarding library lingo and how patrons are unfamiliar with our terms. As Ranti Junus of Michigan State University posts in an email,

"You know, that OPAC (O-whaat?), Indexes (students I talked to think it's only refers to the back of a text book), Databases (Computer Science students scratched they heads because their understanding is about raw data, not articles), Journal (and they think it means "diary")... stuff like that."
This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Our library did a study on how our library web site was being used. We created an online survey for people to give us their opinions on the overall design of the site, if it answered their information needs, and finally we asked them how they think it should be organized and what terms make sense to them.
The results were illuminating. Just like what Ranti's statement our users had no clue as to what a database is, does, can provide, etc. Now remember our users are mostly medical doctors, one would think they have done research before and had to use a database to find articles. Another interesting revelation is with the advent of online full text journals, we are noticing more and more users unfamiliar with the term journal stacks, journal shelves, print collection, etc. For them the print collection means hitting the printer icon.
After our survey, it was clear that we truely need a site re-design. (We had a pretty strong inkling based on our observations and phone querries, but the survey just supported our hunch.) We used a majority of the suggestions provided, those that we did not use were helpful in that it got us thinking out of the box and in another direction. After the site re-design we discovered other little quirks that we had not anticipated.
For example, many libraries use the phrase "Find Articles" to head or represent the page or list of databases because they found that most people are looking for articles on a particular topic and that is how they think. I don't disagree with that logic, it makes perfect sense. But it doesn't quite work in our library. We have a large group of users who already know the exact journal article they are looking for and just want the full text to that article online. We worry if we use the term "Find Articles" to represent databases, will these users go there to find their article instead of our full text journal list.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. We try our best but there are always people who will get confused no matter what. That is why we do user surveys, we try to see if we can at least understand and help them.
If you think the problem of library lingo is in your library, you might check out John Kupersmith (http://www.jkup.net/terms.html). His site is intended to help library web developers decide how to label key resources and services in such a way that most users can understand them well enough to make productive choices. Also, keep your ears and eyes open. Observe what your users are doing and saying...or not doing or saying. As I said we had an inkling that our web page might be in a foreign library land tongue, that is why we did the user survey.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Blogging is Big

Duh like you didn't already know that. What I am looking at today is blogging specifically in libraries and the higher education world.

Blogs are a great way to get information out to your users. Many public libraries are using blogs as news sites, introduce new books for readers advisory, patron events and information, etc. For example Bensenville Public Library -Readers Advisory for New Fiction is a blog guiding readers to new books. The Alexandrian Public Library - What's happening at their library, is more than just about news at the library it has general information that patrons might want to know, such as recent blog entry on voter registration and links to sites regarding the various issues.

In the academic world, libaries are using blogs to inform their patrons of news and information, but it seems the biggest explosion is in the classroom. Increasingly more and more classes are requiring their students to blog. Sometimes the blog is the professor's blog where he holds virtual class discussions. Other times it is a part of the student's actual curriculum. For example, the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism is meeting weekly with the co-founder of Wired magazine, John Batelle, and Paul Grabowicz, the school's new media program director. The students will investigate blogging as a medium for journalism.

Blogs are everywhere and it is interesting the new and innovative ways that they can be used as more than just a glorified soapbox.

The Library's Future

I remember seeing this a while back ago and was reminded of it from an email. Scince I have a blog, I will bring it to your attention. The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition Report looks at major issues and trends facing OCLC, libraries, museums, archives, and others, happening now and in the future. The report provides a high-level view of the information landscape, intended both to inform and stimulate discussion about future strategic directions.

Topics include:

    The Social Landscape - Major society and consumer trends such as moving to self suficiency, satisfaction and seamlessness.
    Economic Landscape - Major worldwide economic trends affecting libraries such as slow economic worldwide growth, worldwide spending in education and libraries, shared infrastructures, and public funding.
    Technology Landscape - Major trends in technology shaping the library's future such as structuring unstructured data, a distributed software environment, moving to open-source software, security, authentication and digital rights.
    Research and Learning Landscape - Major trends affecting research and learning such as reduced funds, explosion of e-learning, lifelong learning, pattern changes in higher education learning, respositories, information access, and the flow of scholarly information.
    Library Landscape - Major trends affecting libraries such as staffing, emerging roles, accommodating users, content, preservation, funding, and collaboration.
    Future Frameworks - Future trends within the framework of libraries such as a pattern indicating a decrease in guided access, disaggregation, collaberation, and other future frameworks.

    This report is very interesting but also very long. It is available in HTML (allows you to browse and click on each section title).

    A June 2004 webcast related to this topic is also available on their site. It is approx. 2 hours long so bring your popcorn and soda and turn off your phone.

    Monday, August 09, 2004

    The Science of Tracking Quarks Could Help the Library of Congress and Others

    Ok I thought this is a really cool article. It is from the Seattle Times and it is entitled, New method could revive old sounds .

    I am a sci-fi geek. So when I came upon this article I thought it was kind of neat to see how the science of study quarks and other subatomic particles could help out libraries and repositories of old fragile sound recordings.
    Scientists happen to hear a program on NPR about the extreme fragile state of old recordings in the Library of Congress. Of the 2.5 million recordings in the library's collection, 1.5 million are on wax cylinders or discs, which are especially vulnerable to damage. Things like Thomas Edisons's first recordings, Queen Victoria, and a sound recording of the assination of President Kennedy are so fragile and that they are unavailable and have never been heard since they were originally recorded.

    Scientists make microscopic images of the grooves that etch the sound into a wax cylinder or phonograph record. Then a computer turns it into a digital soundtrack. The computer is able to subtract the scratches and hisses to let the clear original recording come through.

    This just makes a completely closed collection to be available for the world allowing for people to study everything from Queen Victoria, news casts from WW II, and original folk music.
    Wow very cool.

    Multimedia Creation Software in Online Library Tutorials

    ALA's Emerging Technologies in Instruction Committee is interested in hearing
    about the use of multimedia creation software (such as RoboDemo, Qarbon Viewlet,
    Flash, etc.) to create or enhance library online tutorials. It is for their 2nd installment of the InfoTech Tips & Trends (click the link to submit your tips). If youar interested in submitting your tip you need to include they software used, advantages and disadvantages of it, and any other tips, tricks, ideas that might be helpful or of interest to other librarians. Responses will be collected for 2 weeks, and then posted on the committee's Web site for reference.

    Friday, August 06, 2004

    RFID Chips on CDs Aid Self Check Circulation and Security

    Here is a neat little article I read from RFID Journal, Tags for CDs Get a Boost.

    All to often libraries find that their CDs have walked away. So in order to prevent theft, some libraries shelve the jewel case and patrons go to the desk with empty jewel case to get the CD. This can make the check out process kind of slow, and really limits people's abilities to browse through something like a music CD.

    According to this article a company has come up with a way to attach an RFID chip to the CD and boost its strength so that it is 100% readable from the RFID scanners. The chips do not interfere with computers or cd players and inexpensive to buy.

    Another use of RFIDs is to manage the whole library collection. The Vatican is using the RFID chips (not for CDs) to track and manage their vast collection. They 1.6 million volumes and over 30 miles of shelving.

    Thursday, August 05, 2004


    Ok I realize I haven't posted in a while and I appologize. We are in the midst of doing 2005 journal renewals and renewing our Ovid 2005 license as well. We discovered some serious opporutnities that if all fell into place correctly would allow us to actually expand our electronic journal collection while saving money! Gasp! Get more titles for less?!?! With the help of a consortia for part of it and Serials Solutions Article Linker things we couldn't do before were looking more practical. As a result we were able to avoid A LOT of duplication costing us tens of thousands of dollars and apply that money elsewhere. It was kind of fun.

    Anyway, while I was cutting costs and a redistributing money I wanted to mention this nice little list serv for web managers. It is called Web4Lib. It is specifically aimed toward librarians and library staff involved in World-Wide Web management, but anyone is welcome to join the discussion. They have approximately 3,200 subscribers and about 15-20 messages are posted a day. The list was started back in 1994 so there are probably quite a few messages in the archives.

    I know with all the list servs librarians are on these days it seem like we need to to subscribe to another like we need a hole in our heads. But I say subscribe, try it out, if it doesn't work for you then unsubscribe. That is the beauty of technology we can change our mind and unsubscribe.

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    The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: