Ebooks and Usage

Recently I have been writing a series of posts on ebooks.  The blog posts didn’t start out as a series.  It all started from an update post about our video from the MLA webinar where I added a few things that we wanted to say on the video but didn’t due to time constraints and where I answered a few questions from the #mlaebooks Twitter discussion.  Then I followed it up with another post on ebooks for small libraries because I realized I accidentally missed a question from the Twitter discussion and it was easier to blog the answer than to write a really long comment.  By then my brain was thinking ebooks and the next two posts Ebooks: The Library Catalog and Federated Searching Part 1  and Ebooks: The Library Catalog and Federated Searching Part 2  looked at some of the things I think we (librarians) need to help manage our ebooks and make them more findable for patrons.

It seems the MLA webinar has definitely inspired some discussion about ebooks, because I am starting to notice a little more chatter regarding promoting ebook usage among library patrons. 

Promoting is very important and I think there is no one size fits all method to promote your library’s ebook collection.  Some librarians report their patrons respond well to emailed alerts, others report their patrons get so much email that anything sent to a large group is often deleted.  Some librarians have good results with brown bag lunch and learns, while others can’t get anybody to attend even if they fed them. Promotion methods vary and all I can say is that we should all be sharing our ideas, what worked, what didn’t, and possible reasons for success or failure.  The larger the idea pool, the more ideas others can draw upon. 

Usage statistics are a key way to determine whether your promotion efforts are working and people are using your ebooks.  I have a few things to say about ebook usage statistics that librarians just entering the ebook fray should think about.

Don’t compare your ebook usage stats with your ejournal usage stats.  We are familiar with ejournals and we use their usage statistics to help guide our collection development decisions.  So naturally we would do the same with books and in a way it is hard (maybe I just find it hard) to not look at the overall ebook usage and compare it to overall ejournal usage.  That is like comparing apples to oranges.  They may be fruit but they are not the same.  Ejournals publish new articles weekly, monthly or quarterly.  Ebooks do not have nearly that type of publishing pattern.  Most books are published every few years.  Traditional books that have new updates added to the ebook version are updated as frequently but not usually as often as ejournal gets new articles.  Content is constantly changing within an ejournal.  New information is added many many times through out the year.  This is not the same with ebooks.  For example, you have people who subscribe to the TOC of journals to see if there is an article they may want.  I don’t know of the same type of interest in the TOC’s for ebooks. 

So not only does the constantly changing content in ejournals drive more people to their sites, but it is a lot easier to find journal articles than it is to find book chapters.  Let’s face it MEDLINE is way more robust at finding information on a topic than LocatorPlus.  That is because MEDLINE has articles that are indexed individually.  Unfortunatley there is no MEDLINE for books.  The best we can do is have the TOC for books.  While that is helpful, that is not giving books and book chapters the same methods of findability as journal articles have. 

Those two things alone are most likely going to drive your ejournal usage higher than that of your ebooks. 

Personally I would look at your ebooks by title and begin to break down how much your ebook costs you per download or chapter view.  If you have a ebook that costs you $500 for a single user license and it was accessed five times that year, it cost you $100 per use.  The goal is to get the cost per use down as low as possible.  It is up to you determine what appropriate cost per use is.  If it is an ebook that you happen to have in print then look at your circulation statistics. Look how often the book was checked out and compare it to an ebook’s cost per use .  This may prove to be helpful.  If it is reference book, look at how often you are reshelving the book instead of circ stats. 

The usage of ebook packages are little more difficult to evaluate.  For example MDConsult has multiple books and you really can’t cherry pick among the books.  If you can get usage statistics per title that is great.  But instead of being frustrated about the books that don’t get usage in that package look at the ones that get the most usage.  Their usuage has to be better than if they were available ala carte because they are carrying the cost of the under utilized books.  Not every book in your package is going to be a home run.  The key is making sure that you have more books in your package carrying the usage burden than those that are in the package but may be out of scope for your institution. 

The last thing to remember, acceptance, adoption, and usage of ebooks will take time.  It took time with ejournals, but I think we sometimes tend to forget that.  We assume our users are already savvy to online literature because they are using ejournals, ebooks are different.  They may be literature but they are different and it takes time for people and things to become common place.

Ebooks: The Library Catalog and Federated Searching Part 1

After participating and watching the MLA ebooks webinar two things became very apparent to me. 

  1. Patrons do not use the catalog
  2. We need a federated ebook search system

If I tried to address both of these issues it would be a very long post, so today I will discuss the catalog and tomorrow I will discuss federated searching.

Patrons do not use the catalog:

We aren’t the only library to notice this problem.  When most of your library’s information content is in the catalog and when patrons aren’t using the catalog, they aren’t finding the information.  I blame librarians and ILS companies. 

Why do I blame librarians?  We are on the front lines, we should be seeing how our patrons are searching (or aren’t searching) and adjust accordingly.  Yet we really don’t completely do that.  If we did then we wouldn’t be cataloging in MeSH!  I like MeSH, I really do, I think it is the best way for me to search for literature in database like Medline.  But really only librarians are the ones who speak MeSH.  The general population does not.  MeSH is the Esperanto of the medical library where only a select few of learned individuals know and use the language yet the vast majority of the population doesn’t. 

Honestly, I only really use MeSH when I search literature databases which contain millions of articles on various subjects.  When it comes to searching the catalog I usually search using keywords, like most of the library patrons.  So why are we even bothering adding MeSH terms to the catalog itself?  Most of my keywords (and I am a librarian) and certainly most of the patron keywords aren’t MeSH, they are at best general subject terms. 

Earlier this week Julie Stielstra posted on Medlib-l a question about alternative cataloging systems.  She described how a public library began to catalog their nonfiction differently by using “plain language” subject headings with author lables.  For example: SPORTS BASEBALL Bouton or COOKING FRENCH Child.  She wondered if her patrons wouldn’t be better served if she cataloged items like this as well.  Her example was NURSING PEDIATRIC Wong  2010 and I kind of agree with her that it is much more intuitive than WY 159 W559e 2010.

Perhaps we need to really investigate why we insist on using MeSH when clearly our patrons don’t want to use it.  Teaching them to use MeSH for Medline searches is at best a challenge, getting them to use MeSH to search a library catalog is sisyphean. 

For those who are ready to strip me of my librarian stripes, you can still have your MeSH cake and eat it too.  Go ahead keep the MeSH in the record but start adding some general terms that make sense to patrons.  I would love to say, let the patrons add the terms, but that won’t fix the problem.  Patrons don’t use our catalog, and by doing that we would be relying on the few that do search it to take it upon themselves to do the tagging of the collection.  Librarians should start tagging the collection themselves so that there is at least a skeleton set of terms for people to work with and build upon.  Giving them a blank canvas and telling them to paint a master piece is not fair to them.  We have to get them started with paint by numbers first.

Why do I blame ILS companies? 

Because librarians can only do so much.  Most of medical librarians are not programmers nor have the time to create a robost ILS that is required these days.  Therefore we need ILS companies to do that.  However, ILS companies are still designing systems with librarians as their primary users not the patrons.  The librarians are not the primary users.  We are the primary users of the back end but not the system. It seems ILS companies don’t know how to design a system that marries the back end necessities to a patron centered front end.

Patrons want an Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble like system, and quite franklyI have not seen an ILS out there that provides that experience.  Some systems are trying to do better, for example Innovative Interfaces just released a news statment about their AirPAC product for smartphones and its use in libraries.  Those kind of enhancements are helpful but the over all experience of ILS products is still pretty dismal.

Here are examples of different libraries or library system’s catalog records for Hurst’s the Heart.  (Names of libraries have been removed.)

  1. Example 1 from a group of small hospital libraries.
  2. Example 2 from an academic medical library.
  3. Example 3 from an large library system.

Which one is better for the patron? 

Example 1 is just a mess of words with no break for the eye and a bunch of gobblty gook that the patron doesn’t care about.  The call number is in the upper left hand corner like a card from a card catalog.  In fact the whole record is pretty much organized like a card from a card catalog.  Get rid of this design/organizational and display method.  Most patrons these days have never used a card catalog so they don’t “get it.”  Hell we have librarians now who never used a card catalog. It is just more of a mess for them to look at and they have to hunt for pertinent information.

Example 2 is better visually but is still kind of a jumble of words (especially in the TOC). Other things that are odd to a patron, do you really need that many words to describe format and does that all make sense to a patron?  Notes does not mean the same thing to patrons as it does librarians, do we need to show that?  I don’t know, I was always told in library school that people like to know if it has an index, bibliographic references, or illustrations but I have rarely had patrons ask me this when I am looking for a book for them.  They want to know if we have it and if so where can they find it.

Example 3 is the best of the bunch, but it too could use some improvement.  I love the picture of the book in the right, that is helpful to see.  (I realize the other examples were to the online book and may not have had images, but why can’t they if they are the online version of a printed book?)  The two biggest things that the patron cares about, does  my library have this and how do I get it are up top just below the title information.  I am not a big fan of adding links to Google Books if the book isn’t free or available through there.  I think “Limited Preview at Google Books” is not helpful to the patron (How limited? One time only? Can I print? Just the first chapter or TOC? etc.)  This is a large consortia of libraries so the call number which is unique to each library is not listed at the top, but patrons can click on the link to the libraries that have it to see the call number.  (I’m not sure that this is intuitive but I am also not sure how else you would do that within a large group catalog.) Finally the TOCs are arranged in a readable manner with links to the authors of the chapters.  That is very helpful.  Only at the bottom of the screen is the librarian cataloging information, patrons are rarely interested in it and it should be that far down.

I realize that some of the examples not only reflect on the ILS but also the library or libraries that set up their catalogs, but do you see any that are as easy as Barnes and Nobel or Amazon.com?  If so I would love to take screen shots and list them here as good examples.  I would also like to know how their usage is and what those librarians report about patrons using the catalog.

Ebooks and Small Libraries

This morning I was scrolling through the #mlaebooks Twitter feed to help fill in my notes from yesterday’s webinar and I ran across a tweet from LibrarianLizy asking for any advice I could give to small hospital libraries just getting started with ebooks.

I think Mark, Elizabeth, Meg, Karen, and Michael had some great ideas that can definitely be adapted to fit smaller libraries, but here are some of my thoughts which might or might now echo theirs.

The thing I think that is most important they mentioned is to know your users and their/your needs.  Are you a small nursing school library and do the test prep books get stollen or marked up?  Are you a small hospital library that serves people in many areas where a non-circ reference collection isn’t helpful/practical to users?  The type of library and the users needs will determine the “flavor” of your ebook collection.

In general in a small hospital library I would most likely start by looking at my current electronic resources.  Do you have MDConsult?  If so there are ebooks within there that you need to get people aware of and have them start using. 

Personally I think having as many access points to an ebook collection is good.  This is why I think an HTML list of your ebooks by title and general subject is helpful.  If you are a small library just starting out with an ebook collection, creating a list like this is totally doable (assuming you are authorized to create a library webpage) and isn’t too hard to manage.  If you have an online catalog, by all means add the URL to the ebook to the current record. 

*Note* I am not a cataloger so some of my ideas for adding things to the catalog don’t always jive with current cataloging practices. 

If you have a book in print and electronically, I tend to favor adding the URL to the print record in the catalog.  Most of our users want one record, they get confused as to why Hurst’s the Heart is showing up multiple times, especially if dates are similar.  They will often just click on the record that is displayed first and that is it. 

(Here is where I get into some cataloging heresy) If you have the print version of a book and the electronic version is a newer edition, I still think it might be helpful to put the URL of the newr edition in record of the old print book.  I would put the link with wording that says something like, “Click here to connect to the full text of the newer edition online.”  I might add a second record for the newer electronic book edition, but again I really think our patrons don’t like seeing multiple listings for what they interpret as the same book. A lot depends on how you set it up and how your catalog displays things and how prominent the date of publication is on the results list and the bib record.

If you don’t have the print edition of an electronic book, then obviously I would add the record to electronic book in the catalog.

URLS in the catalog. Please make sure that the link the patron sees is clearly explained as the access point to the full text of the book online. This is an area that can be a total pet peeve of mine.

While the following phrases all mean something to librarians, how many patrons will see these phrases (or url) and easily know to use it to get to the online book? (All of these are from real catalogs, libraryname is a blinded name to keep offending libraries annonymous.)

No wonder patrons don’t know how to access our ebooks!  

While I am at it I will go into another one of my major pet peeves which is the location of the URL or hyperlink.  Listing the link to the full text of the ebook at the bottom of the record or mashed in the middle of the meaningless word junk of the record is not helpful to the patron!  The link to the full text should at the top of the record right below the actual title and author.  HELLO this is the is the most important information to the patron and some librarians and catalog systems bury it!  There is one specific ILS which is geared toward small medical libraries that despite having excellent customer service has the most abysmal catalog display.  Their display is more of a hinderance to users than a help and they are long overdue for a new catalog display look but have pushed it back multiple times over the years. 

Bottom line with linking. Be clear and put the link at the top of the record if your ILS allows it!

Usage statistics are also very important to libraries, including small hospital libraries.  Know how much an ebook is being used.  Mark made a very good point about the cost of ebooks and printed books.  Often an ebook is more expensive, but the cost per use is much cheaper than the printed book.  An ebook can be accessed and used by multiple people a day whereas once a printed book is checked out it is only being used by one person.  Your usage statistics will help you determine if an ebook or ebook package is worth keeping.

Finally start small and do your best promoting and displaying that collection.  It is a lot easier to manage and promote a smaller collection than start off the process with a large collection.  As more people buy into your ebook collection they will start looking and wanting more.

MLA E-Books Webinar Update

As I mentioned Marian and I only had about 5 minutes max to describe what we are doing at our library and why.  There was a lot of stuff we just had to leave out for the sake of time.  So here are some of the things we could have talked about if we had more time.

Why did we have an HTML page with titles and subjects of ebooks?

Many patrons don’t use the catalog to find things.  They preferred looking on a web page that listed the books and browsing through that list either by subject (very general subject) or title.   We actually have usage statistics supporting this.   When we looked at our annual usage statistics for the library website the ebooks title and subject web pages had some of highest usage statistics for our site.  Therefore we felt it important to have the ebooks listed on a web page in addition to the catalog.

You mentioned that having a website list them all by title and subject became difficult and time consuming, how does the ERM help?

The ERM allows us to display resources by subject or by title. We created the very general subjects such as database, ebook, alternative medicine, EBM, etc. and assigned those subjects to each resource in the ERM.  People can browse for resources (ebooks, databases, internet sites) according to subject and title.  Please note the linked page in the previous sentence is still under development, so what you see is not the final product.  Instead of people typing in the title they will be able to browse titles by A-Z and we will actually have two subject search boxes, one for resources and one for just ebooks. That way people can just browse the ebooks not all of our resources (databases, internet sites, etc.).

Ideally we will be able to link to the page featuring the alphabetic title list option and use that as our “browsable web page of ebooks by title.”  Same idea for subjects.  We are in the process of setting everything up and we have been making several changes since we recorded our webcast video and I predict several more changes to come.  So this is by no means final, but it offers you a glimpse of how we are trying to still meet our users’ needs by having a browsable “webpage” but also make it more manageable for everyone as we acquire more ebooks.

How can I get an ERM, do I have to have an Innovative Interfaces ILS?

Innovative can be a pretty big and expensive system so some smaller to medium hospital libraries may not have it.  However there are several ILS companies that offer ERMs for their systems, one company specializing in small hospitals that offers an ERM as a part of their system is Cybertools for Libraries. 

One thing to note: We have found that cost is just one of the factors involved in an ERM.  The other MAJOR factor that few fully understand is time.  It takes A LOT of time to import the data of your resources into your ERM.  We were able to get a lot of it imported in during our initial set up and training, and that did save some time.  But that doesn’t mean that everything was able to be imported and the stuff that was imported was correct.  If possible you will want to have your information imported during set up and prior to training (that will help a lot), but don’t think that this will solve all of your time issues.  An ERM is only as good as the information you supply it, so not only do you have to make sure the imported information is correct but you have to MAINTAIN and UPDATE the information within the system. 

Personally, I liken ERM system to when a library first begins the process of getting their electronic journals into a Open URL system and maintaining that system.  Once you have the guts of the data in, you will find you need to go into it to update subscription information, invoice and payment information, usage statistics, changes in contacts, etc.  Are you in it everyday doing something?  No but you may be in it several times for several days depending on what time of the year it is and what needs to be done (renewal time, budget time, your sales/support rep emails you saying they are leaving and somebody else is your new contact).

I was following the Twitter discussion #mlaebooks while I was watching the webcast and one person mentioned “An HTML list or an Electronic Resource Mgt system does not seem scaleable to me. Seems self limiting.” 

The HTML list is indeed limiting and not scaleable.  It really only works well with a small list of ebooks (about 100 or so I would say) after that it becomes a pain to deal with (from the librarian side of things) and a pain to browse (from the patron side of things).  The HTML list was really one of our first method of organizing ebooks for discovery (besides the catalog).  While we are technically moving away from it, I think it is still a good option for small libraries with small ebook collections.  As I mentioned many users just don’t search the catalog, but they will browse a web page. 

The ERM is scaleable.  You can add almost as much information as you want in the system and you can remove or hide resource records (ebooks or whatever else) as you want.  However as I mentioned the ERM has a lot of up front work and does require maintenance to keep it running, but once you start having a lot of ebooks and other online resources that you need to display and make available to patrons, it offers a lot more options than a simple HTML list and it is scalable.

I really enjoyed watching the webcast and found a lot of stuff to be interesting.  Following the discussion on Twitter was also interesting and I am sure a lot of discussions on and offline will follow.  If you have questions with what we are doing please feel free to comment and I will do my best to answer them.

Electronic Resources: Does Your Library Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is?

I remember listening to a discussion a few weeks ago about library budgets and how dollars are allocated.  If you take away salary and benefits much of the library’s budget is used on resources like databases, journals, books etc., which isn’t much of a surprise.  Also not a surprise is how much of this money is now put towards electronic resources and how less is put towards printed resources.  I do think libraries in general have a way to go before they are entirely online and have no printed books or physical materials on the shelves.  (As to if and when that ever happens, it will probably depend on the type of library and its scope.)  But there is no doubt that we are collecting more online and the amount we are spending for online resources has increased significantly.  Depending on how your library classifies resources you might find that at least 70% of the total resource budget goes to online resources. 

What was kind of surprising was the percentage of staff costs that go toward the non-electronic resources.  What do I mean by this?  Well on a very simple model (one person library) think of how much time a person spends checking in printed journals, binding journals, ordering and processing printed books, photo copying, routing table of contents, etc. 

Now ask the question, “Is your library staff structure in balance with your resource spending?”  While the amount staff time may not be exactly equal to your spending, it should not be completely out of whack.  For example how effective is it for your library to have people focusing on BackMed to fill out a collection when your library is shrinking its print collection?  Do you need to have somebody checking print issues in when you get the journal online? How indepth do you need to process a printed book if it is available online? 

Let us look at it from another angle.  How many people access your website and how many staff do you have to maintain it?  How many staff are doing the high touch outreach services and also adding online tutorials to those they can’t reach?  Now compare that with the how you staff the reference desk where you pay your staff to sit and wait for a question. 

These are overly simple examples, the true answers can be a little more trickey.  There are also exceptions to every rule and there are reasons we do what we do, but one of the reasons should not be, “We’ve just always done it this way.”  It is easy to fall in to ruts and continue what we have always been doing.  We are creatures of habit.  But every now and then we need to step back and look at our library from a different perspective, look at where the majority of our money is going and whether we are appropriating staff time, knowledge and skills accordingly.

MLA E-Books Webinar

This morning my colleague and I finished recording our brief video that will be a part of MLA’s ABC’s of E-Books: Strategies for the Medical Librarywebinar on November 10th.  You can see the agenda for the presnterson MLA’s website.

Marian Simonson and I will have a brief 4-5 min. video presenting how we manage our ebooks at the Cleveland Clinic.  We will talk about how/why we add them to the catalog and how we originally created a plain old web page listing all of our ebooks by title and by subject.  Then as we started to collect more and more ebooks the web list became difficult to manage, time consuming, and too long to scroll through.  So we decided to manage our electronic books using our Electronic Resource Management system.  Our ERM is through our ILS which is Innovative Interfaces.  In the video we discussed how we are using our ERM to manage our ebooks and what our patrons will see and how they might use it as well as what the librarians will see and how they use it.  (Side Note: We didn’t mention this in the video but you don’t have to have III to have an ERM, many other ILS providers have ERMs, including systems specializing in small to medium size medical libraries.)

Our video was only meant to be 4 minutes and I feel like we could have talked longer on the topic. After the webinar on November 10th I will post about some of things that I think I would have liked to have said or expanded upon if we had more time.  It is easier to do it after the webinar so I when I refer to things, you will have already seen the video.

Life After Bloglines, Is NetVibes the Answer?

Bloglines will be gone soon and I have used these last few weeks to try and find an adequate replacement.  In the back of mind I knew I could always use Google Reader in a pinch but for some reason I haven’t been a fan of Google Reader (that is why I always stuck with Bloglines) so I wanted to see if there was something that seemed to work better for me. 

First off the reader had to be web based.  I jump on too many computers through out my life to be tied to any installed software or to rely on IE’s feed reader.  I also wanted something that could search for keywords, save that search and automatically update me on any new blog posts, news stories, press releases, etc. that mentioned those keywords.  Not all feed readers do this (Bloglines did) and I found this feature to be crucial in keeping up to date for my blog, librarianship, and my day to day job. In a pinch I could always find specific search engines and create a search and save it as an RSS feed (similar to what people can do in PubMed), but I do like having an integrated search box in my feed reader to actively search things out there not just within my subscribed feeds.  I was also interested in seeing how some feed readers are handling Facebook and Twitter.  As the pundits at TechCrunch stated that those two products seem to have changed the face and flow of information. 

After looking at several products (and already saving my Bloglines feeds in Google Reader just in case I didn’t find anything before they pulled the plug) I found NetVibes.  Registration was a little clunky for me.  I first tried registering using my usual webmail address and for some reason I never got the authentication email from NetVibes.  It wasn’t in my inbox and it wasn’t in my bulk.  NetVibes does allow you to resend the email or change the address (in case you mistyped it).  I checked the email and it was correct but I still never received it, so I tried changing the email to a different one but that didn’t work.  So I ended up completely re-registering using a different login name and email address.  With that change I was able to get the authentication email. 

Netvibes has two frontpage looks to it, the “widgets view’ and the “reader view.”  The widget view is similar to iGoogle.  I am not a big fan of iGoogle nor the widget view, it is too distracting to me.  I like the reader view the best.  Of course this is totally a personal taste issue, so if you like the iGoogle style, you will probably like the widget view.  However for this post, everything I refer to will be as I see things in the reader view. 

Uploading your feeds from Bloglines is very easy.  However be forewarned that when you first upload them, it will treat everything as new feeds.  This means you will have lots of unread items going back to the dawn of time.  I had some crazy number in the thousands of unread items.  So you are going to have to have mark a lot things as read and make sure you click the tab “Show only unread items” or you are going to be met with a lot to sift through.

Unlike Bloglines, Netvibes lets you keep things once you have read them. Google Reader, as well as a lot of feed readers, allow you to keep already read items, but it is worth mentioning because if you are a heavy Bloglines user you are used to things disappearing after you click on them.   I like this save feature but it is going to take some to get used to for me.

Netvibes feed reading is good and while I haven’t explored every nook and cranny of this area, it appears to do what many other feed readers normally do.  What sets NetVibes apart from many feed readers including Google is how it treats sharing feeds via social media.  You can email a feed to somebody (Google allows emailing feeds) and you can click on a feed and share it to your Facebook page, Twitter Account and several other social media platforms liked LinkedIn.   I had problems the first day emailing feeds to people, but I think that is because that was the same day I activated my account.  I have had no problems emailing feeds since.  I had no problems posting feeds on my Facebook personal page.  However I have two pages, my personal page and my fan page.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to get NetVibes to post to my fan page not my personal page.  This is a problem with the Facebook “like” button and Facebook icon on other regular web pages so it doesn’t surprise me that NetVibes has problems knowing that I have two pages.  Most people only have one Facebook page so they wouldn’t have this similar problem.  If you have a library Facebook page, you might want to consider two NetVibes accounts (one with the library information) for easy posting of feeds from the library.  I am still having difficulties sharing feeds via Twitter.  My Twitter account is open, anybody can subscribe to the feed, so it should be able to work.  I can tweet within NetVibes, just not share a feed on Twitter via NetVibes.  This was a feature I was most excited about too. (*see note at bottom, the Twitter share feature is now working.)

So how does it do with the keyword searching?  Pretty good.  Of course nothing is as sophisticated as Medline and you can do some pretty intricate web search strategies within Google Advanced Search.  But all in all it handles basic keyword searches pretty well.  You can also create a keyword search in another program (PubMed, Twitter, MedWorm, etc.) and save it as an RSS feed and upload that feed into NetVibes. 

NetVibes widgets allows you to try and get creative with search feeds.  You can use certain widgets to create your own keyword search.  The widgets I looked at specifically were the blog search widget and the Twitter search widget.  These widgets are supposed to search for information within certain platforms or social media (podcasts, blogs, Twitter, Flickr, etc.).  I don’t like the blog search widget, the search engines they use are too generic for my tastes so I will stick with using things like MedWorm and other blog search engines and saving them as an RSS feed to import into NetVibes.  The Twitter search widget is fairly good, I am comparing it to my TweetDeck searches and it appears that it retrieves the same results in a timely manner. 

Theoretically you can use the widgets to search for Podcasts as well but when I started the process of adding the widget and adding my search terms I noticed that all of the podcast search engines it profiled were no longer available.  So if you like to keep up to date on the latest podcasts, I recommend going to your favorite podcast search engine and grabbing the search and importing it as RSS feed into NetVibes.

While it appears that the widgets in NetVibes have the potential to be a fairly strong components to their service, they are also problematic because there seems to be no authority control like removing of old non-functioning widgets or editing widgets with non-functioning components. 

NetVibes is quirky and I think I like it for now.  It is definitely more beefed up than Bloglines or Google Reader, I like the potential it has for sharing feeds and news items using email and the social network, this is a huge feature for me (if I can ever get the stupid Twitter share thing to work). But if you are looking for a straight feed reader then NetVibes’ bells and whistles, along with a lot of their broken or clunky bells and whistles can be a bit of a pain and it is best to probably stick with Google Reader.  Google Reader already has the email feeds feature, and if it comes out with social sharing then it will hands down my feed reader of choice.  While I don’t like Google Reader’s searching features (for searching for posts, tweets, podcasts, etc.) using keywords, NetVibes inconsistantly faulty widgets is worse. I am going to stick with doing a searches via my specific search engines (Twitter, blog, podcast, etc.) and save the strategies as an RSS feed.  Time consuming to set up but once it is set, I don’t have to touch it that often. 

The social sharing stuff has me liking NetVibes just a little bit more than Google Reader and even old Bloglines, but the overall clunkiness might have me using Google Reader eventually.

**Note: I am now able to share my feeds (or share my articles as NetVibes calls it) via Twitter.  I didn’t do anything different or change anything, in fact I have spent this time searching online for possible bugs, fixes, incorrect settings, etc. for this.  All of a sudden it now works.  I wrote this post on Monday September 27th.  I set up my NetVibes account Thursday September 23rd.  My only guess is that it takes NetVibes some time to get things set up and working all together. 

I stand by the fact that I love the social sharing part to NetVibes, I am less than thrilled by their apparent bugginess and quirks.  If it does take them time to validate email, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever that should be noted in their FAQs.  Like I said if Google Reader starts implementing social sharing, NetVibes better get their buggy act together because I think might switch.

Videos Indexed in PubMed

Did you know that there are citations to medical videos in PubMed? It was news to me and several other librarians today.  I was at the New England Journal of Medicine Library Advisory Board today discussing many things, among them the difficulty of finding good medical videos.  That is when one of the people with NEJM mention that their Videos in Clinical Medicine, were indexed and in PubMed.  Almost all of us were stunned, we said, “No they’re not, we’ve never seen them.”  So we grabbed a laptop found the title of one of the videos from the NEJM website and searched for it in PubMed.  Low and behold it was in there.  

It turns out that videos are being added to PubMed and they are indexed under the Publication Type: Interactive Tutorial which was added to the database in 2008.  So why didn’t we librarians in the room know about this? Well if you search for any PubMed citation where the Publication Type is an Interactive Tutorial you will notice that there are only 758 citations.  In a database of over 20 million citation, 759 is less than a drop in a bucket.  It is more like a drop in the ocean, no wonder we didn’t know the videos were there. 

Finding good medical videos is always difficult, it is nice to know that PubMed is indexing some of them and PubMed is another tool for discovering them.

Facebook and Twitter Have Killed Bloglines

I logged on to my Bloglines account over the weekend and was greeted with the message that Bloglines will shut down October 1st.  According to news update from Ask.com, information is “gained through conversations, and consuming this information has become a social experience. As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch last year, being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow.”

Ask.com continues to state that Bloglines usage has dropped off considerably as RSS feeds have moved from the consumer side of things to more of the backbone/infrastructure resource for other social information products.  While I completely agree with Ask.com that the rise of Twitter and Facebook have led to more or different methods of information sharing, I still need my RSS feeds.  I have developed quite a list of blogs, news feeds, and Internet search queries that I monitor.  I do pay attention and monitor Twitter and Facebook, and I have noticed that I grab a lot of real time news and information from them but  I have not figured out how to gather topical information to me using something other than my Bloglines feed. 

People have asked me where I have found my information and how do I stay on top of it all.  The simple answer is that I have about 5-10 search strategies that I developed in my feed reader.  These search strategies look throughout the Internet for information, news, blog posts, etc. Whatever it finds is then listed under that feed on my Bloglines and I scroll through it every day like others read the morning newspaper.  I have been able to somewhat duplicate this information retrieval method using TweetDeck (a Twitter application) .  It picks up good but different information from my Bloglines search strategies.  

So what about Facebook?  That is also an interesting method for learning about new information, but it only picks up things that my friends like or post on their walls.  “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  If information is out there and nobody Facebooks it or tweets it, will I hear it?  I relied on my Bloglines feeds to hear it.

Have feed readers started the path to extinction and I am one of the few still hanging on to it?  Are there other tools out there that I am unaware of that will actively retreive and report information without my friends tweeting or posting it on their wall?  Are there add ons or widgets to these social tools that will find things that my friends don’t? 

In the last year or two people have reported that the blog is dead that people are sharing information via Twitter and Facebook.  So far I have clung to the idea that the blog isn’t dead, but it has evolved and is no longer the blog of old.  The blog of old is dead, the new blog that is integrated into a website, posts to Facebook and Twitter, is still around and important.  It doesn’t take more than 140 characters to share or forward information, but people do communicate in more than 140 characters.  However, the closing of Bloglines is definitely a sign of how things have changed. 

I have no idea how Facebook, Twitter, and things yet to be created will shape how we find and share information in the future. One thing I know is that if you still have a blog (personal or professional) and you haven’t integrated it with Facebook and Twitter you better, and if you have a bunch of feeds on Bloglines and still rely upon them you need to move them before October 1st.  Perhaps moving my feeds to Google is a little akin to arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and feed readers will disappear.  Who knows?  But I am definitely going to be looking at other methods to find information that isn’t always tweeted or posted on a wall.