Free 6 CE Course from South Central Chapter of MLA

The SCCMLA is offering a free 6 CE class called Get Mobilized! An introduction to mobile resources and tools in health sciences libraries

It is a free, self paced, web based class held July 18 – October 2, 2011 and is approved for 6 CE credits from MLA.  You do not need to be a member of MLA to participate. 

Topics covered:

  • Introduction to mobile resources (July 18-24) Maureen “Molly” Knapp
  • Mobile applications (August 1-7) Luke Rosenberger & Julie Gaines
  • Mobile trends and issues in academic & hospital environments (August 15-21) Jaime Blanck & Melissa Rethlefsen
  • E-readers (August 29-September 4) Suzanne Shurtz
  • Promoting mobile resources (September 12-18) Amy Blevins
  • Mobile site creation (September 26-October 2) Wayne Loftus

More Course Info:

The course will be run through Google sites.  The course will consist of self-paced readings, online resources, and reflection activities, will be provided every other week from July – October 2011 on the Topics week by week page.

Each topic focuses on a different aspect of mobile resources in the health sciences library. At the end of each topic, participants will analyze, understand, and gain meaning from the course content by completing a reflection activity, which will be gathered into a workbook and submitted for CE credit at the end of the course. See Resources for the workbook template. This workbook enables participants to create their own customized mobile resource manual which they could use as a reference and build on in the future.

Instructors and participants can also make use of the Google Group Get Mobilized – MLA for discussion during their learning module. Links and resources discussed in this class are available via the Delicious tag

 To Qualify for the CE credit:

Participants must complete the reflection activity for each module in the course workbook. At the end of the course, participants will submit their completed workbook to Maureen Knapp for CE credit. In addition, participants must complete an online evaluation, which will be posted at the end of the course.


Registration is open June 23 – July 14, 2011. Register here

This continuing education course is brought to you free of charge from the South Central Chapter of the Medical Library Association.

Will Data Plans Squash the Cloud?

Today I noticed an article on IT World stating Verizon will soon eliminate unlimited data plans.  The article does have an update stating that they discovered a yet released screen shot of Verizon’s site stating that current customers will be grandfathered in with unlimited data plans.  That is similar to what AT&T did. 

However the smartphone market is growing.  According to my mother (an avid dumb phone user) it is getting increasingly more difficult to find a plain dumb phone.  I know mom’s situation isn’t exactly scientific, but the Technolog reports smartphone shipping in the fourth quarter of 2010 rose over 87% compared to fourth quarter 2009.  Now I would never say my mom is wrong, but Technolog does, they say smartphones haven’t cannibalized dumb phones yet.  However, mom’s experience trying to find a replacement dumb phone could be the canary in the cave.  Because Technolog reports interest in dumb phone is lagging in some areas of the country.  Now  if you were a cell phone maker what type of phone are you going to make, the hot smartphone or the stagnet dumb phone? 

Right at the time the smartphone market is growing, the two largest cell phone companies will have capped dataplans or high cost overage dataplans. 

Enter the cloud.  As David Pogue mentions in his blog post, everything now days is referred to as being “in the cloud” so much so that marketers and people are just using it refer to things being online.  But as more and more people get tablet devices like the Google Chrome or the iPad where you can’t store things on the hard drive, the cloud begins to really emerge.  In fact Apple’s iCloud is a free service that syncs your email, address book, calendar, bookmarks, photos, songs, etc. to all of your Apple devices using the cloud. 

The cloud can be great but it requires Internet access and that is being actively throttled or capped by cell phone companies.  But that is using 3G or cell networks to get your data.  You can still hop on a wifi hotspot like at home and download data to your glutonous content.    Oops not anymore, Pogue reports home data plans are starting to get capped. (I can attest to this, 4 months after we upped our home data plan and dumped Uverse for TV service but kept it for Internet, they are talkinga bout capping data to home data hogs.)

So if the trend in data providers is to cap our data, or make it outrageously expensive to download large amounts then how is the cloud supposed to continue to thrive.  How is a a service like Apple’s iCloud full of all sorts of data heavy items like music, photos, movies, etc. going to work with a restrictor plate on?

Something to think about.  Perhaps it is wishful thinking that we will all have to go to the library to access the cloud in the future.  But the library doesn’t get its Internet for free either. Some institutions already have restrictor plates on the Internet, many hospitals prohibit video and multi media downloading to due to bandwidth issues.  What will happen if academic and public libraries are forced to do the same?

Do You Really Want Flash?

“Flash…aaaah, Flash aaaah…”

Ok I am not Freddie Mercury, but as soon as somebody starts mentioning Flash and mobile technologies I immediately here Freddie singing in the BlackBerry PlayBook commerical.  It is no secret that I will be dumping my iPhone for an Android on VirginMobile very soon. (First we have to get my mother-in-law off of our AT&T account, and get her set up with something simple and cheap.)  The whole reason I am leaving my dear iPhone is primarily for money reasons.  I simply can’t see the rationale for keeping it at $85/month when I can get a smartphone that does all of the same things (not as intuitively, but it does them) for $40/month.  However one of my biggest complaints about my iPhone (aside from the declining battery life) has been no Flash.

David Lee King recently wrote a post stating he really hasn’t missed having Flash on his Apple devices.  He states that most of his browsing is through RSS feeds and he gets most of his videos through YouTube.  But he asks the question, “How about you? Do you find yourself missing Flash? Is it a problem?”

Uh Yeah…both professionally and personally

I work in a different library than David where YouTube is blocked.  Hospitals and a lot of other non-public and non-academic institutions block YouTube.   So if I or a doctor wants to watch a video of a medical procedure we either have to turn our Apple device to 3G (if we can get a signal in the hospital) and bypass the wifi which blocks it or the video has to be on non-YouTube site. 

For a long time Flash was a nice easy way to animate images, many medical resources online show simple Flash videos on surgical procedures, medical conditions, therapeutic excercises etc.  All of those videos are unavailable to doctors using iPads on rounds.  For example MedlinePlus surgical videos are in Flash and AccessSurgeryvideos are in Flash (I think I remember a McGraw Hill rep say they were gradually converting them from Flash.)  These are just a few of the high quality medical videos that are unusable to iPad docs.  

Steve Job’s stubborn refusal to allow Flash to work on iPads and iPhones is a pain in the butt professionally and it impacts what videos doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals can access while on the job treating patients.

My iPhone is my computer when I am not at home, I am browsing way more than RSS feeds and I am watching more than just YouTube.  I am a power user of my iPhone, a total data hog.  I use waaay more than 2GB of data.  In my general surfing I run across more “No Soup For You” messages because I can’t get Flash.  It is annoying as hell and I hate it.  Like many typical American GenXers I want what I want NOW!  Don’t tell me it is Flash and I can’t see it, I don’t care, I want it to work.  Perhaps it is overly narcisitic of me but I don’t see that “I want it NOW!” mentality disappearing.  The Millenials are even more demanding and impatient about getting things online.

Now my the LG Optimus V on VirginMobile doesn’t get Flash but then again I will be paying $40/month for 1200 min of talk and unlimited texting and unlimited data (crucial to this data hog).  So while I will still have the lack of Flash frustration it will be at half the price of my iPhone.  For the amount I paid to get an iPhone and to use it on AT&T, the damn thing should have Flash.  Once, I can find a smartphone that can do Flash at the right price, I will definitely go for it.  And as much as I want an iPad, I keep hearing Freddie in my head and thinking about the BlackBerry Playbook.  I don’t know much about the Playbook other than “Flash…aaah” but that alone would me to look at it and consider it over an iPad.

What about you? Are you like David and don’t seem to mind not having Flash?  Or you frustrated by the lack of Flash?

Smartphones On the Cheap

If you were at MLA you would have seen the latest in librarian accessories, the smartphone.  Everywhere I turned it seemed everyone was whipping out their phone to look at their calendar to find their next meeting, monitoring the Twitter feed, tweeting, or texting somebody. 

I bumped into a few friends who were still stuck with “dumb phones” and many of them said the main barrier to getting a smartphone was cost, as they glanced at my iPhone in my hand.  That is when told them that they didn’t have to break the bank to get a smartphone.  In fact, after the meeting (and at the end of my billing cycle) I will be dumping my iPhone and getting an Android. 

Why am I moving?  You know me as the Krafty Librarian, but you could also probably call me the Thrifty Technology Librarian (or just call me cheap, that is fine too).  Currently my iPhone has unlimited data.  Still, I pay about $85/month for it.  Add my husband on to the plan and our cell phone bill is well around $170/month.  As a mom of three kids on a budget…ouch. 

Theoretically we could go back to dumb phones, but really both he and I are hooked on smartphones like kids to sugar on Halloween.  So my husband began the process of looking for a cheap smartphone.  Oxymoron, right? Not really.  He discovered that there were pay as you go plans for smartphones.  Until recently there just weren’t a lot of pay as you go smartphones. 

One such pay as you go outfit is VirginMobile.  If you buy the phone out right you have your choice of three pay as you go models.

  1. 300 minutes talk, UNLIMITED text, UNLIMITED data for only $25/mo.  
  2. 1200 minutes talk, UNLIMITED text, UNLIMITED data for only $40/mo. 
  3. Unlimited EVERYTHING: minutes, text, and data for $60/mo.

Yes you read that correctly you could get a smartphone plan with unlimited data and texting for $25/month.  Now I know you are saying, “what savings is that if the phone isn’t free and I have to buy it?”  If you got an iPhone you still would have to pay $200 for the phone and anywhere from $60-$100/month (depending on your minutes, text, and data plan).  Many times, depending on the phone, you are going to end up paying for the phone in one way and sometimes multiple ways. You have realize that if you get the phone free and are on a plan, that plan is always more expensive because they are supplementing the cost of the phone.  So pay as you go is almost always cheaper than cell phone plans. 

For us, moving to something like VirginMobile gave us a savings of around $100/month.  That was too much savings for us not to try out.  Mike, my husband, jumped ship first and tested the LG Optimus V and VirginMobile to see if it worked well as a smartphone and got reception.  I was chicken, I stayed on AT&T with my iPhone and watched his experiment.  Afterall, I am a data hog, I use at least 2GB of data each month (sometimes more) and I did NOT want to lose being grandfathered in with AT&T unlimited data plan if the experiment failed. 

VirginMobile is on the Sprint network and it does pretty well in most major cities, but if you live in the country or out in the Western Plains States it might not be the network for you.  Mike was able to get a signal and service everywhere we go in the Cleveland area.  So he let me take his phone for a week to test it.  I wasn’t able to get a signal everywhere in my building at work but I could get signal outside no problem.  The phone itself is ok.  If you once had an iPhone you will think the LG is a little clunky and not as intuitive (I really like the one home button concept on the iPhone) but it worked and it had all of the apps I like and use. 

In the next few weeks I will bid a teary farewell to my iPhone and begin to use an Android.  For a savings of $100+/month I can’t justify staying with AT&T and my iPhone. 

So if you have been wanting to get a smartphone but just felt it was too much money, you might want to check out VirginMobile, at $25/month it is cheaper than some dumb phone plans.

Online MLA Schedule

I am sure you are all wondering why on Earth I am fussing so much with my MLA schedule and writing about the online program planner.  Well this MLA I am a little busier than others.  I am the soon to be the Section Chair for MIS, Co-chair of the NPC 2012, and I am an incoming MLA Board member.  All of it is doable, but I need a damn good schedule to keep my head on straight.

My entire personal life revolves around Google Calendar.  EVERYTHING is on it and it can be seen online by me or my husband and is synced to our smartphones.  So when I am sitting at my son’s baseball practice and the coach tells us  a game’s location and time has changed, I can easily pull up the calendar on my phone and make the edits.  The changes are saved on Google itself not on my phone.  That is important because the information is instantly updated and can be viewed on my husband’s phone or computer.  

Since my personal life is organized by Google Calendar it is natural that I would like my library life to be as well.  The online program planner in is a good idea, but it fails on a lot of common tasks that I wonder if it was tested before it went live.  There are many more events at MLA than those that are on the Official Program.  People also like to program hop.  Attend one program to see a specific speaker then dart out to see another speaker at another program scheduled at the same time.  Unfortunately you cannot add your own events to the online planner, nor can you select certain speakers to watch within programs for purpose of hopping. 

At first I thought I conquered this problem.  I uploaded my online planner to Google Calendar with the intention of adding the new programs into my calendar.  At first glance this seems to have worked but as I tried to sync to my iPhone and give the link to my schedule to friends, flaws started to appear.

The online planner imports into Google Calendar as a totally separate calendar AND doesn’t allow you to edit that calendar. (It is hard to describe so look at the photos I link to as visual references.)  If you look at this pictureyou can see that my Google Calendar and the events (that aren’t in the Official Program) I added are listed in green under my Krafty Librarian account.  The events in purple are the events that imported from the online planner under my online planner account kraftm.  The purple events are listed as “other calendars” and are not “owned” my the Krafty Librarian account, therefore I can’t alter them. 

Why is this a big deal?  Well if you sync your calendar to your smartphone (which many people do) then your phone has problems picking up your “other calendar” because it is not owned by you.  Therefore you don’t see those events in purple on your smartphone.  Also, if you are like me and need the phone to buzz you 10 min. prior to remind you of an event, you won’t get that reminder buzz.

There were a lot choice words that went through my brain when I discovered this.  However, I found out a way to add the purple events to my “owned” calendar.  Look at this picture.  If you click on the time of the purple entry you get a dialogue box with the link “copy to my calendar.” Doing that will add that event to your “owned” calendar.  Yippeee!  Now for the downside.  I haven’t figured out how you can do this en masse, the only way I have found that works is clicking on each event individually.  Yeah no more yippee.  But the process works.  If you look at this picture, you can see that I was able to successfully add all of my purple events to my “owned” calendar.

By doing all of that my calendar now syncs nicely with my phone.

However, this is a big pain in the but.  I would have given up long ago if it weren’t for how crazy busy I will be and my obession with scheduling and syncing everything through Google and my phone. 

Additionally, one of the biggest features of the MLA online planner is that your friends are able to see your schedule.  This is very helpful if you are trying to meet up with somebody.  For example Nikki Detmar plans to do some geocaching while at MLA. I have been interested in doing this because I think my boys might like it.  So tweeted back that I would be interested in going with her and she said she would check my schedule on the online planner.  Ooops, that totally isn’t going to work.  If you look at my schedule on MLA’s online planner it appears that I am much more available than I really am.  

I realize my example was not exactly a work related example, it was scheduling fun at the conference.  But all work and no fun makes Krafty a very dull girl.  Plus it was a very good example of how the online planner’s inability to add other events really makes the sharing part of it pointless.  Why am I going to share a schedule that isn’t correct?  So now I have gone into Google grabbed the URL to share my calendar so that I can post it on Twitter, my Facebook, here on my blog, and Crowdvine.   

When the online program planner first became live, it was never my intention to devote any more attention to it other than to say, “Hey it is live.”  However, I have to believe that I am not the only person out there who is struggling with the thing trying to add events, trying to get it to sync correctly, and trying display it properly so that easier to schedule a few fun or meeting related things in between MLA events.  I write this post so that others can benefit from my trials with the product.  Good luck, and next year I cross my fingers that my only post about the online planner will be, “Hey it is live.”

Tweeting at MLA

The MLA’11 folks have big plans for Twitter this year.  At Annual Conference Twitter will be used to help create discussion, to connect with colleagues, and to facilitate in-person meetings. MLA’s “Rethink Conversations” process will offer display monitors that are strategically placed around the convention center so that attendees can watch and respond to live conversations.  The committee is even hosting three specific ReThink Conversations Sunday-Tuesday 10:00-10:30am (following the Presidential Address, Doe Lecture, and MLA ’12 Invitation). 

Tweets can be made using a mobile device, laptop, or a computer in the Internet Café.   In order to get to know your fellow Twitteres (since Twitter usernames do not always reveal the identity of tweet authors) there will be a “Tweetup” event on Tuesday, May 17th, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  At a Tweetup, you can meet other MLA Twitteres in person.

New to Twitter? Not a problem. A special Twitter Tutorial has been created to help get you started. Attendees (Twitter newbies or old pros) who complete the MLA-sponsored Twitter tutorialby April 29th will receive a free drink ticket at the Tweetup. Even if you are not new to Twitter, complete the tutorial and get a free drink!

You must complete the tutorial by the end of April 29th.

The tutorial is pretty straight forward.  But if you have questions you can email the MLA Twitter Tutorial folks (listed in orange square on the first page of the tutorial). You can also follow me at krafty and direct message me if you have questions. 

DON’T FORGET!  If you want to participate in MLA’s twitter conversations:

  • Make sure you uncheck the “protect my tweets” box or else your tweets will not be seen by others tweeting at MLA.
  • Use the #mlanet11 hashtag so everbody can follow the tweets better


I find Twitter’s site clunky for tweeting a lot.  If you think it is too you might try TweetDeck on your laptop or smartphone to help manage the conversations.  TweetDeck is a third party application that you can install on your laptop or smartphone.  I like it a lot.  If you know you will be bouncing around on computers (using the Internet Cafe) to tweet, you might consider using Hootsuite.  It is a web based application that doesn’t need to be installed and structured similarly to TweetDeck.

Mobile Applications for Medical Education

John Halamka recently wrote a post about mobile applications for medical education on his blog, Life as a Healthcare CIO.  Every year the Harvard Medical School medical students get a survey about their use mobile devices.  The students are allowed to use whatever mobile device they choose/buy and then HMS supports all of these devices with software licenses and “controlled hosted applications.”

Wow!  Many institutions do not give their students or employees such broad leeway in selecting mobile devices, I’m impressed.  Many colleges support a couple of devices and many hospitals do not support anything but a very specific make and model of a device (often some specific type of Blackberry). Additionally, many hospitals don’t do much support or coordination of online medical apps for its employees.  Usually the doctor or nurse is on their own.

However at HMS, students can access the mobile resources from their learning management system and can download the applications.  So what are the most popular applications among the HMS students?

John lists them.

  • Dynamed
  • Unbound Medicine uCentral
  • VisualDX Mobile
  • Epocrates Essentials
  • iRadiology

For anyone who is starting to get involved in mobile applications, this is could be a good starting point list of resources to investigate and possibly add.  I look forward to when John posts the complete 2011 mobile applications survey.

Show Off Your Apps

The National Library of Medicine is holding a Show Off Your Apps: Innavative Uses of NLM Information Challenge.  The challenge is open to individuals, teams, and organizations.  “The purpose of this contest is to develop innovative software applications to further NLM’s mission of aiding the dissemination and exchange of scientific and other information pertinent to medicine and public health.”

In order to be eligible, apps must use the NLM’s colelction of biomedical data, including downloadable data sets, APIs, and/or software tools.  Basically it looks like you have to have an app that uses NLM stuff, not just some cool medical app that doesn’t have any content from NLM. 

Apps will be judged via the following criteria:

  • Quality and Accuracy (data are presented accurately)
  • Impact on Potential Users (data presented clearly to target audience)
  • Usability (operation of program requires minimal training and has the potential for repeated, regular use)
  • Innovative Design (creativity and originality of concept)
  • Platform Neutrality (operates on major web browsers, systems, and mobile devices)
  • Extensibility (potential for further development)
  • Alignment with Section 508 Accessibility Guidelines (see standards at:

Submission deadline is August 31, 2011.

Winners will be honored at NLM awards presentation in Behtesda, MD on November 2, 2011.

For more information go to:

On a personal note, I really hope they will list all of the submissions and have links to them so that we can test them and play with them.

Get Your Library Site Mobile Without a Mobile Budget

Last week I ranted “The Mobile Web is Not an Alternative,” our current or soon to be current patrons are increasingly using their mobile devices to access the Internet.  In 2010 43% of students used mobile devices daily to access the Internet compared to 10.2% in 2008 (The Chronicle of Higher Education).  I mentioned this is big increase in mobile Internet usage and as the article in the Chronicle mentioned, many colleges and university are still treating their mobile sites (if they have one) as an afterthought or “low-stakes experiments.”  I believe if there are a lot of higher education institutions treating their mobile sites this way, there are probably just as many medical libraries and library resource vendors doing the same. 

As I mentioned some medical libraries are beholden to their institutional IT departments.  For those libraries it may be difficult to get a mobile site.  However, if you don’t HAVE to go through your institutional’s IT department for web pages or strictly adhere to their web design, then there are ways to get your library site mobile.

Check out “Edupunk goes mobile: Mobile library sites with zero budget,” where Tiffini provides some suggestions how librarians can make their website mobile for little to no cost by using things like LibGuides or WordPress (examples and screen shots are provided) .  In addition to the suggestions, she addresses mobile library web skeptics who say mobile library websites receive little use therfore providelittle ROI.  Her belief (and mine) is that “everyday information needs are increasingly being met by searching apps or web browsers.”  While there is explosive growth we are still at the beginning of mobile searching and usage.  It may have little use right now which is all the more reason to look for inexpensive or free ways to create one, but as people’s searching, strategies, and usage evolve they will become more aware of available apps, resources, and mobile sites such as the library’s site.  We are already seeing this in the medical world, the website is perfect example along with its most recent post, “Finding the best PubMed search app for the iPhone & iPad: Review of 6 PubMed applications.” 

Best to get our toe in the door now than to have it shut in our faces later.

The Mobile Web Is Not An Alternative

Wednesday’s post on medinfo alerted me to this interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “As the Web Goes Mobile, Colleges Fail to Keep Up.”  The article states that more and more college students access the web using the mobile devices.  From the graph in the article, in 2010 43% of college students use mobile devices daily to access the Internet compared to 10.2% in 2008.  That is a huge jump in mobile web usage.  Yet according to the article many colleges “treat their mobile web sites as low-stakes experiments.” 

Of course right away my mind is thinking, “If colleges are treating the mobile web as a low stake experiment, what are the libraries doing?”  Depending on the library’s relationship with the college, it may beholden to the college IT department or it may have its own IT department.  That relationship will help drive a lot of the mobile web direction.  However, what is also driving the libraries’ mobile web direction are the library resource vendors.  How many ILS systems have GOOD mobile web platforms?  In the days of shrinking budgets (state and institutional) how affordable is it to add these ILS companies’ mobile platform to the library’s system?  How can a library justify that extra cost when it is faced with a flat or shrinking budget and may have to cut journals, books, hours, staff, etc? 

How many databases and online books are available/optimized for mobile devices?  Let’s ignore the Nook and Kindle like devices, students ARE NOT using them as mobile devices.  They aren’t carrying them around all the time like they are their smart phones.  They are going to use their smart phones to order Chipotle, text a friend about meeting up or an upcoming test, then they are using it to do research (usually on Google) to find a title/resource and read it.  So how many online medical text books are smart phone optimized?  Not many.

Libraries are beholden to not only their institution’s response to the mobile web but also to their own profession’s resource vendors’ response.  I remember talking to one rather high ranking sales rep for a major medical database/journal/online book provider.  I asked him if his company had created an mobile optimized version of their search database and whether there were plans to gradually optimize their many online books and journals.  He said that quite frankly that he couldn’t see why anybody would want to search that way or read an article or book chapter that way.  He didn’t see as important.  That was about a year ago.  I was gracious and said that I don’t think that way of searching and reading is for everyone but I see it as a large growth area and I know we would eventually get people asking about it.  

Well guess what Mr. Sales rep, the college students of today are my residents and staff physicians of tomorrow.  They are also the current users of your products in college libraries NOW.  Their mobile web usage has jumped tremendously and you along with the libraries are missing out.  If my users don’t usage statistics on your resources drop below a certain line, guess what we drop your resources.  If people aren’t accessing your resources that I subscribe to because they aren’t mobile friendly and they are using the mobile devices, your usage statistics will drop.  How far?  Is it below that magic dropping line?  I don’t know but usage won’t grow, and you and I both want usage to grow.

Just to be fair, NLM’s PubMed smart phone app isn’t burning up the 3G networks either.  Just today, Wouter Stomp MD and Nick Genes MD, PhD who reviewed the 6 of best PubMed apps for iPhone and iPad for said, “Although Pubmed has a mobile version of its website, it looks outdated and is not the easiest to use.”  So just because a library or vendor creates an app or mobile interface doesn’t mean that rest easy.  They need to find out how users use it and what other competitors or libraries are doing to improve their product. 

Are we starting to feel that we are missing the users?  I don’t know, I would guess it depends on your users and your library technology.  But I don’t think this mobile web access is a passing fad.  I think librarians, libraries, and library resource providers are behind the curve on this.