Monday, March 31, 2008

Failure to Connect Somewhere

My mom would sometimes say, "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all." She often said this while my my brother, sister and I were squabbling at each other over something. There is only 4 years separating the oldest from the youngest so while we could be the best of friends we could easily be the worst of enemies and our sibling sense of justice demanded that we each got our fare share of zingers in at the others' expense.

After all these years and 600 miles away from home I heard my mom's voice in my head say that exact phrase on Friday after I read the posts MEDLIB-l and the comments on Nature Network about Harvard PhD student Anna Kushnir's hatred of PubMed post. It took a weekend of working on two projects to understand that Anna's post doesn't represent her lack of knowledge, it represents a failure to connect.

Anna is a PhD student, not a high school student or an undergraduate student. She has gone through many years of school where she would have had to go to a library to do some sort of research at some point in her life. However, somewhere in that whole long educational process we (librarians) failed to connect with Anna. We failed to impress upon her that she should (and that it is ok) to ask a librarian for research help.

In one of her comments Anna said, "I don't think I should have to be, or enlist the services of, a medical librarian in order to do a simple search on a literature search engine. PubMed should be an intuitive search engine such as Google, or others. I don't know of many researchers, either MDs or PhDs, who have had extensive training in computer science or search algorithms."

How sad.

David Rothman writes about Anna's complete unwillingness (almost to absurdity) to ask for help from a librarian (at Harvard no less) or look at help documents (easily found on PubMed's site) and it led him to the conclusion that PubMed isn't broken in this instance, it is the user. While I think Anna has a naive arrogance about her knowledge as a Harvard PhD student, I think more than the user is broken. I think the system is broken.

Anna is just one name of the countless number of researchers that we have failed to reach. Don't forget the horrible event at Johns Hopkins that led to the death of a healthy 24 year old woman. Dr. Alkis Togias, made "a good-faith effort" to research the drug's adverse effects, but failed to enlist the help of a librarian to look further in the literature about the drug, possibly preventing the tragic event. There are countless examples of how librarians can help researchers and doctors save time, money, and lives, yet there are also countless examples of researchers and doctors who have wasted time (at best) or lives (at worst) because they failed to ask for help from a librarian.

Clearly Anna's rant just further illustrates how librarians from well funded institutional libraries can even miss people. I don't know how we fix the system, but we need to look at ways to do that. I keep thinking of all the things that the Anna's of the world are missing out on and to that extent what kind of research or cures the rest of the world missing out on as well.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Digital Skills Divide

A recent article in Science Daily mentions a digital skills divide emerging among computer users. Tufts University conducted a study and found that the the "digital divide" in terms of access is narrowing, but there is a "significant 'digital skills divide" emerging. This study focused on the socio-economic digital divide. Tufts researchers examined the socio-economic status and differences in parents' Web use, skills and satisfaction. They found that parents in higher socio-economic levels spent a greater time on the web and had more sophisticated search and evaluation skills. Tufts' full study can be found in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology v29 (2) March/April 2008 p118-128.

It is interesting to notice that the while the digital access divide is shrinking, the digital skills divide is now emerging. What I would find equally interesting is measuring the digital skills divide across age groups. Just how willing is the younger generation to do sophisticated searches compared to older generations? What are the information evaluation skills across the generations? Can you compare different types of information gathering? For example: Compared to older people, are younger people better at finding podcasts of their favorite music, but not so good at evaluating health information or school project information? How are any of the age groups at evaluating scammers and phishers? If you've seen those fake ebay or banking emails/sites you know that requires some definite evaluation skills.

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Web of Science Refresher

Whether you have gotten a new job with a library that has Web of Science or you have been at your job for a while but could use a refresher on WoS, you might want to go to ISI's site to view and register for an upcoming online training session. These sessions are open to all ISI customers and can be quite helpful and worthwhile.

Don't have time to attend a class? ISI has several brief pre-recorded training modules available on their Web site as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LinkOut Changes

A new version of the Library Submission Utility will debut the first week of April. On Tuesday April 1st there will be a shut down of the current utility to convert all participants’ holdings information to the new utility. If all goes according to plans, the new utility will be up and running on Friday April 4th. The functioning of your library icons and links in PubMed will not be affected during this period. The new version of the utility has an improved layout and offers new functions, including a management interface for Outside Tool and Document Delivery Service, in addition to LinkOut.

I hope this new and improved version is more stable than what we have been dealing with. At least once or twice a month there is somebody on MEDLIB-L complaining about PubMed and LinkOut not working or displaying correctly. It shouldn't have those kind of problems, you want to set and forget about it until next year when you renew (or not) online journals.

It would also be nice if they would have a sample of what the layout will look like, what the new functions will be, etc. Perhaps if they showed a sample of Abstracts Plus prior to launch they might have prevented librarian freak out when they discovered their full text icons located at the bottom of the abstract (where few normal people would look).

Thanks to Dale we have a link to the screen shots of the new version of LinkOut.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ovid Platform Enhancements

In two weeks (March 31, 2008) Ovid will go live with the enhancements based on customer feedback. Back in February they mentioned they would be making enhancements, and here are some more details.

MARC Records:
You will be able to download the MARC records for any journal or book that you subscribe to for you OPAC.

Annotation Export:
Users can now export serch results to any standard bibliographic citation manager.

Search Screen Position:
After a search has been executed, the search screen will no longer "jump." (Oh thank God! -Krafty thought) The search box will now appear above the search results set.

Results Manager Enhancements:
The "Actions" portion of the results manager will appear at the bottom as well as the top of the Results Manager. Users will no longer have to scroll up to the actions box to select preference.

Additional Interface Enhancements:
Remove Duplicates button will be moved outside the Search History Box
Navigational improvements to inline abstracts
Improved functionality of RSS AutoAlerts- Users will be able to choose to subscribe to a feed using Google, My Yahoo, or Bloglines.

For more information on the enhancements and all things on OvidSP go to the OvidSP Resource Center.

One thing I think should have been included in this enhancement and frankly is l-o-n-g overdue is the option to email results in HTML format. Why do I want this? Because have you ever emailed PubMed results to somebody and then emailed them Ovid search results? There is no comparision. PubMed search results preserve the link to the full text article! Your patrons can get the search, look through the citations and then click on the full text for the article. Miracles of miracles, they don't have to go back to the librarian ask that you send them the full text to citations 2,10, 33, 42, and 57. They just click on the full text to those articles and they have it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Free MLA CE

Say, you didn't sign up in time for the free online course from the MLA? Perhaps you might be interested in another free CE class. Unified Health Communication 101 is a free online course from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Unified Health Communication 101: Addressing Health Literacy, Cultural Competency, and Limited English Proficiency is a free on-line learning experience that will help you:

  • Improve your patient communication skills
  • Increase your awareness and knowledge of the three main factors that affect your communication with patients: health literacy, cultural competency and low English proficiency
  • Implement patient-centered communication practices that demonstrate cultural competency and appropriately address patients with limited health literacy and low English
According The MARquee the Middle Atlantic Region's blog the course has now been approved for 5 MLA Continuing Education Contact Hours.

The course has five modules and is estimated to take a total of 5 hours to complete. You may complete the course at your own pace.

Additional information about the course can be found at:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Congratulations Library Journal's Movers and Shakers

Congratulations to all of the people listed as Library Journal's Movers and Shakers 2008.

I want to specifically mention those in the medical library world who made the list.

Elisabeth Jacobsen Marrapodi - Trinitas Hospital. She is creating a spiritual collection to help encourage, inspire, and comfort patients and staff. She has shadowed physicians inside Second Life has shadowed physicians and produced a short film illustrating the potential of 3-D applications for clinicians and interviewed virtual world counselors on applications of “avatar therapy” and cybertherapy services.

Allyson Mower - University of Utah's Eccles Health Science Library. She is the content management specialist for the Neuro-Ophthalmology Virtual Education Library (NOVEL), worked on the library's wiki, teaches classes on database searching and is coordinator for the university's Institutional Repository ( creating the database, soliciting content and negotiating copyright issues.

Annabelle Nunez - University of Arizona Health Sciences Library. She works as to help medical professionals, community leaders and librarians understand the cultural and financial barriers to good health and preventive care among Hispanics. She also works directly with Hispanics at local health fairs and has shown how students at the University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science program can do the same.

David Rothman - Community General Hospital. He is the cocreator of LibWorm which searchs over 1500 library related RSS feeds and allows users set up custom RSS feeds to track topics of interest to help manage information overload. He shares his knowledge on his blog which is dedicated to "web geekery of interest to medical libraryfolk."

Mark Vrabel -Oncology Nursing Society. Supports evidence based practice by keep nurses up to date on research on the best practices in clinical treatement of cancer patients. In addition to doing the research he has written article for clinical practice journals and has participated in ONS's Leadership Development Institute, Research Grant Writing Education Mentorship Program, retreats, and showing members how to find the most trustworthy research and identify the most effective clinical practices.

Congratulations to all of you! Don't forget to submit the names of your fellow medical librarians for the next Movers and Shakers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wanted: Nominations for Hospital Libraries Section Recognition Awards

The Medical Library Association's Hospital Library Section is extending the deadline to submit a nomination for the following three HLS awards; Professional Recognition, Catch a Rising Star, and Scroll of Exemplary Service.

There are a lot of great hospital librarians out there and you probably know somebody who is perfect for one of these awards. So what are you waiting for, nominate them!

Professional Recognition Award

An award presented to outstanding HLS members. Individuals who have contributed to the field of hospital librarianship may be nominated in the following categories: Leadership, Publication, Research, and Technological Innovation.
Nomination Form
Award Recipients

Catch A Rising Star

An award that honors members who have been in the profession five years or less and have already carved a niche for themselves.
Nomination Form
Award Recipients

Scroll of Exemplary Service

An award recognizing exemplary service from 1997 to present. These are activities that made a difference; for example, serving on or chairing a local, regional, national committee, managing a project for an institution or community, contributing to the betterment of those around, taking charge to solve a problem, or offering easier access to quality information.
Nomination Form
Scroll of Exemplary Service Recipients

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hospitals Shouldn't Block Web 2.0 Technologies

I love MEDLIB-L, with the span of 2 minutes I received references to two different articles stating why Web 2.0 technologies should not be blocked by businesses or health care.

The first is a short little article Don't Block Web 2.0 Access, Says Gartner which states that businesses need to address how they can allow safe access to Web 2.0 technologies instead of blocking them out all together. "Strategies to contain and protect the use of new technologies will always be more effective in the long run than security approaches that rely solely on blocking."

The second is a longer article Web 2.0 and Chronic Illness: New Horizons, New Opportunities. Neil Seeman. Electronic Healthcare v. 11(1) 2008 104-110. This article mentions some of the concerns of Web 2.0 in health care such as group opinion and misinformation, limited access to information for under served, illiteracy effecting access and comprehension, and lack authority control. However, it also mentions that Web 2.0 offers opportunities for hospitals and health regions. Yes you read that right. "Hospitals and health regions enjoy an opportunity to harness the power of Web 2.0 by creating trusted communities on already existing Web 2.0 'wiki farms' or by generating their own customized Web 2.0 sites."

Hospitals and and health regions have a perfect opportunity to expand their brand recognition and reach more potential patients. "In this way, hospitals and regions can overly Web 2.0 communities with their own trusted brand, make the Web 2.0 communities relevant for their clients and allied partners and impose a governance model on the community that safeguards the quality and reliability of the information contained on the site." Facebook was also mention as providing organizations with a significant advantage for fundraising and volunteer engagement. These technologies offer huge potential for patient satisfaction, self care, and self empowerment. They offer patients the opportunity to connect to local services, remote health libraries, and allow patient support services.

Personally I think the second article is a great article to save, print off, tag, email, to your IT powers. If that doesn't work send it to marketing, because the marketing department is always looking at ways to expand hospital market share and brand recognition. Let marketing join in the push for IT to allow access to these applications.

Our institution offers "public" wireless Internet access to patients, visitors, and others who don't have institutional computers. Non-institutional laptops are able to surf the Internet, but for security purposes cannot access the hospital Intranet. One would naturally assume patients and visitors would be able to access chat, YouTube, Facebook, etc. since they are restricted from accessing the Intranet. Not so. Those applications are blocked. Despite the fact that patients and visitors have no access to the Intranet and hospital applications, they are also blocked from communicating to the outside world through support groups on chat, Facebook, or MySpace. Patients who find an interesting and reputable video on their condition/surgery hosted on YouTube are blocked from seeing it. Why? Please tell me it isn't a security issue, because they can't get onto the Intranet.

Hospitals not only need to look at ways to use Web 2.0 technologies to their advantage, but they also need address a way for their patients and visitor to access them. For a patient undergoing chemotherapy and for whom outside visitors are forbidden, simple chat communication can be a huge moral booster. Why don't these patients just pick up the phone and call their friends you ask? Because they like to chat, or because their friends are a long distance call, or because they are chatting with other "friends" who are experiencing the same thing.

Web 2.0 technologies should be available in the hospitals not only from a business opportunity but also from a patient satisfaction opportunity. (And isn't patient satisfaction also a business opportunity for hospitals?)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Is User Generated Content Dead?

The article, Revenge of the Experts from Newsweek mentions that user generated content is dead. The power of the people is now becoming the power of the experts. There has been a demand for more reliable and authoritative information on the web, "some of the same entrepreneurs that funded the user-generated revolution are paying professionals to edit and produce online content." Google,, Mahalo, are all companies that have begun to hire experts for their products, and it isn't surprising that they are looking at ways they can charge for it, whether it is through subscription fees or ad revenue.

Don't despair if you just watched MLA's webcast which was primarily all about the social networking applications that help make user generated content. I think this article reflects a little bit of the balancing out of the web. Having the web represent one extreme or another is never a good thing. Too much user generated content makes it difficult for people to slog through the web to find decent unbiased authoritative information. Too much expert information can make it difficult to find unique perspectives and voices on topics. Chocolate comes to my mind. A little bit of chocolate here and there is yummy and makes you happy. Too much chocolate and you have to do an extra work out to fit in your clothes. Too little chocolate makes you crave it that much more when you have had a really bad day or when you just want something sweet for desert after your healthy lunch salad.

I like what Glenn Reynolds says in the Newsweek article, "There's always a Big New Thing, but the old Big New Thing doesn't really go away. It becomes just another layer—like we're building an onion from the inside out." User generated content won't die, it will just be layered to the next thing. I think librarians using these applications represents that type of onion building. Take for example adding user tagging to the library catalog. Nobody wants to get rid of MeSH or LC, that is the expert information within there. Adding the user generated tagging is an additional access point through which people can find material. They can find it through the expert method (LC or MeSH) or through the power of the masses (tagging). Another perfect example is the Citadel's Institutional Author Wiki. The Citadel began tracking institutional authors and their publications.

So, if this whole web 2.0 thing has got you freaking out, don't worry. Think of it as building on to your already good services and resources to make them even better. Mesh (no pun intended) the user generated content with expert content. Build the onion.

Friday, March 07, 2008

MLA Free CE: Register Before Sunday

Don't forget to register for the "Web 2.0 101: Introduction to Second Generation Web Tools" MLA CE course. It is FREE and if you complete the course you will earn 8 hours of CE credit.

The course will run from March 10, 2008 to May 4 , 2008 and it is only open to MLA members. So if you forgot to renew your membership, you might want to do that quickly so you can take the course.

Participants will have the opportunity to learn hands on about blogs, RSS, wikis, social networking, social bookmarking and tagging, web office tools, photo sharing, online hosted video, and mashups. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge of these technologies. The instructional level is for beginner and intermediate uses of Web 2.0 applications.

Remember you must be an member of MLA and register before March 9, 2008. Course participants will automatically be signed up for an email discussion list for the course. You must have access to a computer with the Internet and unrestricted network access to full participate in the course. If you work within a restricted network, you might consider taking the course from your home computer since it only requires one two hours of your time per week.

For more information and to register, visit MLANET members only area. You will need your MLA ID/username and MLANET password to register.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Post Webcast Thoughts

I am tired. My luck with airplanes is terrible. My flights to and from Chicago were delayed significantly. I arrived in Cleveland at 11:30 last night and had to scrape off the 1/2 inch of ice completely encasing my entire car. Forty five minutes of scraping and one broken (now) ice scraper later I was able to go home and sleep.

I enjoyed doing the webcast. It was great to see Bart and Dale again and it was nice to finally meet fellow blogger David. We had lots of interesting discussions about all sorts of things.

I will let you in on a little secret about the webcast... we do a lot of rehearsals. So by the time we are live, it is about 5th run through for us. After a while I began to wonder whether I said everything or if what I remembered saying was actually said in one of the previous rehearsal sessions.

So here are some post webcast thoughts that I want to address.

Micro-blogging - I am so glad somebody asked the question, "What is micro-blogging?" According to Wikipedia, is a "form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates (usually less than 200 characters) and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, MP3 or the web." Twitter is a popular micro-blogging application.
Until very recently I have not seen how it might be useful in medical libraries or research groups. Then I discovered Pownce which integrates micro-blogging with file-sharing, URL sharing, and event invitations. I kind of think of Pownce as micro-blogging on steroids. However, it has its issues with a lot of browsers. Pownce has problems with IE6, IE7, and Opera. It really only works well on Firefox. I use IE7 at work and found that I can post text and URLs in Pownce but I cannot file share. I think the best feature of Pownce as a micro-blogger is its ability to share files among groups, so if you either have to use Firefox or they have to get their act together and fix its issues with IE.
If you can share files...Pownce offers groups of people the ability to share documents and files while carrying on conversations with a group or making and posting notes about the files. I have used wikis and Google docs to do a lot of group work on documents and I find that we usually end up making notes about our work and our rational for the changes we make within the actual document. What is nice about Pownce is that the notes are not within the document, they are posted on your Pownce page.
Will Pownce or other super micro-blogging applications be helpful in libraries or your daily life? Who knows. It was just released to the public in January 2008, so it is still early to know for sure. But I do see how it could be helpful.

The Wiki of Acq -This is a very new article that was just published in January 2008. I had a little trouble getting my hands on it initially so I am not sure if I listed it in the packet as supplemental material. For those of you interested in reading more about what Stanford Libraries did to move their Acquisition Department's Website and information to a wiki, the complete citation is:
"The Wiki of Acq: should you move your procedures to a Wiki?" Arch, Xan. Against the Grain. v. 19 (6) December 2007-January 2008. p. 78.
One interesting note is that it was the IT manager Deni Wicklund who suggested moving the acquisitions procedures and documentation information to wiki program.

Kittens - What started out as a rehearsal joke actually became a great way to describe how many of these applications are free to adopt, but just like adopting a kitten there are costs with the maintenance and upkeep. You must feed these applications to keep them going and to prevent them from being one of the many library related blog/wiki corpses strewn through out the Internet. The costs may just be something as simple as 5-10 minutes a day, or depending on their nature they might be a little more time consuming and some day they might need an investment of money (personnel or products). Think back 10 years ago when people, companies, and libraries had to have a web page, there were many personal as well as library home page corpses littering the Internet.

Questions - We tried very hard to get to all of the questions. At the end of the broadcast we were amazed by the pretty sizable stack of questions answered. However, I know we were unable to answer every question. So, David Rothman agreed to look at and answer some of the questions we ran out of time for. However, if you didn't have time to ask a question or after mulling over the webcast you now have a question, please feel to ask. Leave a comment on either David or my blogs.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

In Chicago

I will be in Chicago for the MLA webcast and won't be posting to my blog until later this week.

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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: