Alternatives to Google Reader

I know I am a bit late with the news that Google is killing Google Reader.  I know lots of people who are upset about this.  For me the sky started falling back when Bloglines died.  Back then I migrated all of my feeds to Netvibes.  I could have gone the Google Reader route, but I just didn’t quite like Reader as much as Netvibes.  So while my feeds were both in Reader and Netvibes, I used Netvibes more.

For all of you Readers, you are probably wondering what you are going to do with your feeds.  First, let me tell you this is a really good time to evaluate and weed your feeds.  You also might want to evaluate if you still need a reader.  I have noticed that I have been using my reader less and less.  I don’t know if it is because of my personal and professional life changes and time constraints have made reading my feeds more difficult or if it is because I am getting my more of my news from Twitter.  I have noticed with my adoption of TweetDeck (and Hootsuite iPhone) for monitoring tweets, my reader use has dropped.  I have debated about dropping my feeds altogether.  But old habits die hard.

So if you still need a reader then you might want to check out a few of these sites to see if they suit you.

Netvibes – It has a free and premium version. Free is all you need and has plenty of features  Has very good social media integration.  Makes tweeting or facebooking  blog posts and other feed items very easy.  I still recommend using  TweetDeck or Hootsuite for monitoring Twitter overall.  It doesn’t have an app, but is mobile optimized but that has limited features.  Perhaps that is why I don’t use it as much.  As my husband will tell you, if it isn’t on my phone, it isn’t on my mind. 

The Old Reader - Is free.  Is designed to look and feel like old Google Reader, so if you liked that style, it  might be the perfect option for you. You can also follow other Old Reader users and share with them, similar to Google Reader.  They don’t have a mobile app but are supposedly working on one.  It is looks fine on a mobile device.

Feedly – Is free and has been around for quite a while.  Bad news for IE controlled institutions, Feedly doesn’t work with IE. It only works with Firefox and Chrome. It also requires you to install a plug in and if you have a locked down computer, it won’t work for you.  It too is a social media tool that easily lets you share things with your social network friends.  There are several layouts that are available for you to choose from.  They have the straight top to bottom feed style , full articles, or the Flipboard style.  Easy to transfer feeds from Reader, in fact I signed in using my Google ID and everything migrated seamlessly.  Feedly does have an app for iOS and Android. With demise of Reader there are quite a few upset people posting to the Feedly board about the lack of IE use.  There are many more people with companies that force IE use than just hospitals.

NewsBlur – Premium version costs $24/yr.  They have a free version but it caps the number of blogs, stories and public sharing options.  The blog and stories cap is the deal killer for me.  It caps you at 64 blogs and 10 stories at a time. Additionally they have temporarily stopped free users from signing up. Ptthhbbb.  I normally wouldn’t even mention them (I didn’t link them) but since other sites are recommending them, I felt obligated to at least mention them with their fees and stopping free user registration. Stupid considering this the time to grab users leaving Reader. Once they find a reader they won’t magically switch unless forced to.  Very short sighted of them and makes me thing even less of them.

While I wasn’t using Reader, I also dialed back my Netvibes reading considerably.  So instead of worrying about my Reader feeds from Google, I am going to take this time to investigate whether I even need a reader anymore by investigating Feedly.  I am not a big fan of the Flipboard style of things but that is no big deal because I can use the plain ol’ reader style.  While I like Netvibes, clearly I evolved beyond it for some reason.  My guess is because it doesn’t have an app.  That is why I am giving Feedly a try.  I am going to see if having my feeds synced to an app on my phone increases my use of them.  I am lucky to be able to have Firefox on my computer, but I rarely use it since much of our hospital stuff is IE.  So the whole Feedly experiment will be interesting to me.

Usage Stats: Are They a Double Edged Sword?

Back in the olden days a library bought a subscription to a journal and they paid the institutional price which was often listed on the inside cover of the printed issue.  It was always more expensive than the personal subscription, but there wasn’t tiered pricing, FTE pricing, or pricing based on inpatient admissions and number of specialists.  For the most part the price you saw on the inside cover was the price you paid.

Then came the electronic journal.  At first journals weren’t quite sure how they were going to have their articles online.  Some gave it away free, others were free with a print subscription, some charged a nominal upcharge, while some charged a specific online journal price. Ejournals grew in usage and with tightening budgets librarians began dumping the duplicate print. During that time institutional prices evolved to a Ladon of possibilities.

Additionally, the concept of eresources has moved beyond journals. It extends to books, databases, integrated EMR and patient education products, image databases, etc.  As librarians we demand to know our usage statistics for our eresources.  We need to know what our patrons are using so we can get the most bang for our buck.  However, we aren’t the only ones who see our usage statistics.  The vendors that sell us our products run the reports and it isn’t in their best interest for us to get the biggest bang out of our buck.  I am not trying to imply that all of the vendors are nefarious. I am just saying that if they see that your cost per use stats are so phenomenal that they may be looking how to get more money from you.  For example you are paying $50,000 for a product that you use so often that you have $.05 per use but the average library in your tier pays about $.10 per use,  the vendors think you are getting their product for a $50,000 discount compared to others in your tier. 

Prior to eresources, vendors knew very little about the usage of their product in the institution.  The usage of printed journals and books were often only known by the librarian through shelving studies or circulation statistics.  I remember when we had CD Plus and had to load the MEDLINE CDs on a CD tower for people to search.  Despite not having the type of usage data we have to today, librarians still looked at how their databases were used (Volkers AC. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1995 Oct’ 83(4):436-9.) and even tried to determine journal needs through the database (Dunn, K. Medinfo. 1995;8 Pt 2: 1428-32.) The usage stats were all in house.  So while you might have known what your cost per use was for a journal, book, or database there was no way that a vendor knew, unless you published it in a journal article that they read. 

It seems that with wide scale use of eresources, usage stats have become a double edge sword.  Not only do we still need to know what is being used but vendors now also know what we are using.  They can use this information to their advantage as well.   While neither party wants to have a resource that is a dud, I’ve got to wonder if we are now also victims of our own success.  Many of us have already cut the chaff from the wheat years ago.  All of our eresources are high performers.  Yet because they are high performers are they costing us more than if they were less utilized?  If so isn’t that the exact opposite of what a librarian needs to be thinking about? 

Betsy Kelly, Claire Hamasu, and Barbara Jones wrote an interesting article, “Applying Return on Investment (ROI) Libraries. (Journal of Library Administration. 2012;52(8):656-71.)  Determining the ROI is necessary to measure the value of the library resources to the institution.  Many medical librarians use the NN/LM MCR ROI Calculator to determine the replacement value of services provide by the library.  In addition to quantifying the number of classes, room use, photocopies, and ILL’s the calculator can also factor in the cost of ejournals, databases, ebooks and their usage.  So in order to get a good ROI we want high usage for these electronic resources. 

ROI is what hospital administrators are looking at when it comes to everything.  Hospital administrators are focused on controlling costs and demanding the biggest savings possible.  According to an article from the Daily Beast about the Cleveland Clinic , CEO Dr. Cosgrove is described as something of a “fanatic” regarding controlling costs.

“Our physicians are so engaged in our supply chain that they help negotiate the price down for the things we use,” Cosgrove told me (Daily Beast), and reeled off a list of examples:

  • When I was the head of surgery, we needed a new heart-lung machine, and we decided there were three models that could work, so we did a reverse auction to get the lowest price.
  • We put price tags on things in the operating room: before you open that $250 set of new sutures, make sure you actually need it.
  • We found out that there’s a lot of redundant tests that are done, or tests that won’t be vital to the patient’s care. We know that there are some things that don’t change. For example, the reticulocyte count can’t change but week to week. So if someone’s ordered a reticulocyte count, you can’t ordered another for a week.”

 

I might be going out on a limb here, but I have to think that all administrators are pretty fanatical about costs and keeping them low.  So how does the idea of keeping costs low factor in with eresources?  Are we at a point with some resources that good usage is actually hurting us, costing us more come negotiation time (if we can even negotiate)? In the spirit of the $250 suture kit, do we start adding a price tag to our eresources before users click on them?  That would be kind of absurd and certainly would drive down our usage stats which in turn would drive up our cost per use. 

In this day and age where we use our usage statistics to drop resources and vendors use them to determine pricing, how are we to come to a even playing field when our budget is shrinking and our administrator wants to see increase cost savings?  We struggle to show our ROI on a smaller and smaller budget as our resources increase in price.  We explain to administration that if they didn’t have us to do what we do it would actually end up costing them a lot more in time and money to provide the same resources and services.  But as Kelly et al mention, the “problem with ROI calculations based on cost avoidance is the underlying assumption that users will look elsewhere to purchase the same services and resources they receive from the library. It is not realistic to assume that users could afford or would make the effort to personally pay for all of the services they receive.”   Hospital administrators are essentially already doing this.  By cutting the library’s budgets to the bone they are forcing librarians to not pay for all of the same services and resources.  When a hospital library closes, the budget for those electronic journals, books, and databases (as well as everything else) is gone.  Almost none of the resources are kept by the institution. When administration closes a hospital library, they are not replacing the same services and resources. 

Usage statistics help librarians determine ROI to hospital administration, but what are we to do when administration wants to see usage and ROI go up but vendors increase the price (thus decreasing our ROI) as a result of our usage stats?  It seems as if librarians are between a rock and hard place. Do we need to look at another method of valuing our services and resources?  If so, what?

Chat About Apps and Tablets Tomorrow on #Medlibs

Tomorrow (Thursday 3/7/13) at 9:00pm est, I will be hosting the #medlibs chat on apps and tablets.  What are you doing with apps? Are you creating a library specific app, catalog app, etc? Or do you have a good app guide that you want to share with others?  Is there a push for tablets within your institution, if so which one?  Can tablets access the EMR so that your docs & nurses can treat patients and do research with one device?

What other trends do you see or want discussed about apps and tablets?  Let me know?

Here are some sites you might be interested prior to the #medlibs chat.

Setting up iPad lending program
  • Nova Southeaster University Health Professions Division Library http://bit.ly/HApZqW – tips, resources
  • University of Groningen Central Medical Library http://bit.ly/15vCVqE -finding medical apps, information on adding bookmarks, (side bar has a lot of info)
  • Setting up a library iPad program: Guidelines for Success – http://crln.acrl.org/content/72/4/212.full Full text article in ACRL News by Sara Thompson at Briar Cliff University
  • Continuing the conversation: Integrating iPads and tablet computers into library services http://bit.ly/wgnMRS -ALA Tech Source article by Daniel Freeman

Policies and Procedures

App Stuff

Hope to see you on the chat tomorrow!  If you haven’t participated in a chat before, the easiest way to do it is use the cite TweetChat, login with your Twitter password and the follow #medlibs.

Emerging Technology and Hospital Libraries

Thursday #medlibs will discuss the 2013 Horizon Report- Higher Education edition, “a decade-long research project designed to identify and describe   emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in higher education.”

When we are talking higher education it is barely just a hop, skip, and a jump to think of how all of it will impact libraries in higher education.  While academic libraries will see the impact quicker, hospital libraries aren’t immune to the changes.  Because what is considered trending technology by medical students will be common place when they enter their residency programs in the hospitals and will be outdated when they are staff physicians.

So what kind of technology does the Horizon Report list and what will be talking about on #medlibs?

Happening in one year or less according Horizon:
(I say it is happening now)

  • Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
  • Tablet Computing

Happening 2-3 years:

  • Big Data and Learning Analytics
  • Game Based Learning

Happening 4-5 years:

  • 3D Printing
  • Wearable Technology

As a hospital librarian I have to say that tablet’s have exploded and it is in our world now.  Big Data is the next “big money” thing that hospital librarians need to be aware of.  There are already academic librarian positions for data management dealing with research.  Hospital librarians might think that they don’t need to worry about data management because their institution doesn’t really do research. WRONG?!?!

If your hospital has an EMR, it has tons of data that it needs to manage and most likely that data is either just sitting there in the EMR or communicating poorly with a few of the hodge podge of other computer systems within your hospital.

Hospitals eligible for Medicare EHR Incentive Programs must demonstrate meaningful use of the EHR technology. “Eligible hospitals and CAHs that do not successfully demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology will be subject to Medicare payment adjustments beginning in FY 2015.” Read that as penalized.

Personally I see data management as a natural extension for libraries that have already been involved with IT and the EMR.

Here are two examples of many where hospitals are mining the data within the EMR to improve care.

  1. The Value of Data: It’s How You Use It.
  2. Health Fidelity Receives Grant from National Science Foundation to Support Use of EHR Data to Improve Quality of Care.

Perhaps I am old and my memory is failing but weren’t librarians talking about data mining in 2000? IT was mining for data withing bibliographic databases, but aren’t the principles the same?  Data mining and the EHR are one avenue that hospital librarians who are interested in the future of librarianship need to consider.

The Horizon Report lists other technologies, how do you see them impacting hospital librarians and when?  Feel free to comment below or better yet, join us Thursday at 9pm est. for the #medlibs discussion on Twitter.  (The easiest way to follow a discussion on Twitter is go to TweetChat, login using your Twitter login, then follow the #medlibs hastag.)

 

Seeking Virtual Projects

The Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) has a new annual column describing innovative and notable virtual projects in health sciences libraries. This column will focus on library virtual spaces. “In an increasingly digital world, the library’s virtual space can be as much of a hub as the library’s physical space. Digital content and technology-rich library services are moving the library presence outside the physical building to support users in their digital spaces wherever and whenever needed.”

JMLA is looking for submissions of recent virtual projects for the Virtual Projects column.  The column will be published in October 2013.

Examples of projects that could be submitted include:

  • projects that improve the quality of the library’s virtual presence through webpages or its catalog
  • development of technologies that facilitate information discovery and content delivery (e.g., federated searching products and portals)
  • mobile-friendly resource and service initiatives
  • development of web 2.0/Library 2.0 initiatives (e.g., social networking applications)
  • hosting and preserving digital content activities
  • projects that demonstrate the use of library resources and services through the institution’s electronic health record (EHR)
  • collaborative ventures with campus or other partners to develop new digital resources and services

 

To be considered for this column, please submit a 200-word abstract of your virtual project or a link to your project web page that describes the project and why it is innovative/notable. Send your submissions to Susan Lessick, AHIP, FMLA, by March 15, 2013.

The Future of ePub Browsing

Sunday I got an email from my county library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, about their new online journal platform called Zinio.  Zinio is a company that allows my public library to provide access to many of their magazine subscriptions on to my iPad (as well as other devices) in an easy to read format. 

Here is a screen shot of the magazines that I selected to have on my iPad to read, all courtsey of my Cuyahoga County Public Library card.

 zinio

I was also in the process of finding apps for our medical library’s libguide.  I sent a tweet out asking for suggestions and some people including Third Iron responded.  Third Iron is a company that produces the product Browzine.  Their company which is has many executives with library degrees or significant library experience, works to make online journals available in an easy browsing experience for the online user.

Tuesday I spoke with Kendall Bartsch about Browzine, what it does and how it might work for our library.  Browzine is very similar to Zinio.  Where Zinio is magazines, Browzine is scholary publications and with its share, email, download, features, (not available in Zinio) it quite frankly blows Zinio out of the water. 

Browzine allows people to browse scholarly publications and read the table of contents to the recent issues of journals.  It works with various publishers such as Springer, Wiley, AMA, Nature, etc.  It also works with Open Access publications.  Users download the free Browzine app (currently iPad only but they are working on Android).  When they login to Browzine it asks them to select their library.  If their library has a subscription to Browzine they can login and access their library’s subscriptions via the iPad. 

Browzine is a very new company, they have quite an impressive list of libraries who are either trialing the product or have a subscription, including Welch Medical Library, Medical University of South Carolina, Northwestern, and Washington University.  If your library doesn’t have a subscription to Browzine, or if you want to try it out and play with it you can still download the free app and select Open Access titles which enables you to view the table of contents and PDFs of the open access publications and journal articles. 

There are a ton of Open Access titles and if your library subscribes to Browzine then there are a ton of publisher titles that users can access.  With that large of a number of journals it would get tedious to scroll through or search for your favorite journals that you like to keep up with.  That is why you are able to save those journals in your own personal library shelf.  So when you access Browzine you can go directly to that shelf instead of searching through a bunch of other journals.

Here is a screen shot of Open Access titles in Biomedical and Health Sciences -Medical Science. If your library has a subscription your library’s name is where Your Library Identity is and your list of journals will be more than just the OA titles.  (Note: there are MANY OA journals, the picture below is just a small slice from the OA Biomedical & Health Sciences -Medical Sciences category.)

 oalib

Here is a screen shot of my “favorite” journals that I like to read.  (Pretend I am doctor or researcher who likes to read these scholarly publications.)

 mylib

Here is a screen shot of the table of contents for one of my favorite journals. The yellow inbox indicates I have saved that article on my iPad.

toc

Here is a screen shot of the PDF of an article from the TOC and the options for emailing, saving, sharing, etc.

output

Browzine is compatible with iAnnotate (a popular PDF annotating app) and DropBox and Box as well as other programs. 

To say I was blown away was an understatement.  Finally now after all these years, people will be able to browse the table of contents easily AND connect to the article via the library’s subscription in an extremely easy way.  The concept of my own personal bookshelf is great.  The ability to export the articles is essential and thankfully is easy to do with Browzine.  Currently Browzine does not provide notifications when a new issue is available, however that is a feature that they are adding shortly.  When that does happen, users will see a little red bubble with a number next to their journals. 

As cool as Browzine is, they don’t work with every publisher yet.  (Publisher availablity list here.)  Also Browzine won’t work with database provided journals.  So for example, journals you get full text through CINAHL aren’t going to be available through Browzine. Perhaps that may be why LWW is not on Browzine? (LWW requires institutions to access journals through Ovid.)  However, for databases like ClinicalKey, which is an Elsevier product and has all Elsevier journals, one has to wonder if that will be in Browzine or if it will be considered a CINAHL (ClinicalKey and Browzine are both so new who knows).  If it is considered a CINAHL then that would be a shame since some libraries may look at ClinicKey as their Elsevier journal provider. 

While Browzine currently only does journals, I can see where this type of easy access can be applied to ebooks.  eBooks suffer from much of the same silo content problems as ejournals.  Each publisher has their own way of displaying and providing access.  You have to bounce around from provider to provider to view the ebook on your iPad (or even your laptop).  There is no easy way to find and access ebooks for medical libraries.  Most of our users don’t know how to find ebooks.  They sometimes check the catalog, but even then that is only a brief snapshot of some of the titles available.  PMC titles and other ebook collections aren’t always in the catalog because you are either waiting for the MARC records from the provider (in the case of large aggregators like Clinical Key with hundreds of titles) or you are simply unaware of the latest title that was added to the online collection. 

If we could get our ebooks to display like Browzine displays ejournals, I will jump for joy and quite possibly stop my ranting on the inaccessibilty of ebooks in the medical library. 

 

 

Social Media Tracking Illnesses

Greetings! Happy 2013! This is the first full week after the holidays and I thought I would start off the new year right with a blog post. 

Hopefully you got your flu shot and weren’t hit with the flu bug that seems to have hit hard and early this year. We got a small stomach bug in the Krafty household.  Thankfully it was a 24 hr thing that was gone as quick as it came. 

Over the holidays while dealing with the stomach bug, I noticed a reference to a site that tracks illness via social media posts.  Sickweather.com, tracks self reported illnesses using social media.

“Just as Doppler radar scans the skies for indicators of bad weather, Sickweather scans social networks for indicators of illness, allowing you to check for the chance of sickness as easily as you can check for the chance of rain.”

Sickweather trolls the social media sites like Facebook and Twitter looking for when people post that they are sick.  Using the location based information from the social networks, they are able to map the illness. Their system supposedly is smart enough to differentiate between somebody saying, “I’m sick” and “I’m sick of the Browns losing.” (Interesting little fun fact: According to All Things D, “The company has found it must filter out messages with any mention of the word “fever” that also include the word “Bieber.”  Hee hee)  

There is one fairly BIG caveat.  The social information has to be publicly available.  Most people I know lock down their Facebook accounts which means their posts usually aren’t publicly available.  (I say usually because Facebook likes to change settings and some people like myself might find themselves posting publicly for a bit thinking they were posting privately.) 

Sickweather is an interesting concept, it isn’t the first time people have used the Internet to track illnesses.  In August of 2009 FluPortal (seems to be  no longer active) used the Internet to “collect and curate content from across public media as well as from trusted governement sources.”  They were using the reports from the news media and organizations like the CDC and WHO to build their outbreak maps.  It appears that Sickweather is the first company to use social media to track the spread of diseases.  (Others like Salathe and Christianini & Lampos for example, have studied the use of social media to track illnesses.)

Despite only having access to public social media updates, Sickweather claims to have declared the start of the flu season 6 weeks earlier than the CDC and may have dectected two whooping cough outbreaks.  Clearly there are enough people out there with public accounts (for example my Twitter feed is public but my Facebook isn’t) mentioning their illnesses to make for some interesting results. 

Several people have mentioned that you probably don’t want to rely on Sickweather if you have serious health concerns. Duh.  However, what I find interesting is the data.  There is a boat load of data out there ripe for the plucking and Sickweather is just another example of somebody finding and using the data.  There is already an overwhelming amount of medical data out there, and I’m not just talking about “I’m sick” tweets.  Data management is big right now.  Why? Because as I mentioned there is a ton of data out there.  Do a quick search on data management and librarian. The whole first page on Google retrieves pretty relevant results on data management and librarians, including information ARL’s Guide for Research Libraries: The NSF Data Sharing Policy (top result), MIT Libraries support of management & curation of the MIT community research data (second result), and a position description for a Data Management Librarian at Oregon State University Libraries (fourth result, the third result was a slide presentation). Data management has been mentioned several times during #medlibs chat sessions as an emerging role for medical librarians.   Margaret Henderson (@mehlibrarian) even stated “Data is the new book. That is where we need to go.”

So how are medical librarians positioned to deal with the onslaught of data?  How are library schools teaching librarians or information professionals to work with and manage data?  Or are we still playing around with our cataloging systems and copying the journals tables of contents and routing them?

*update*
Just seconds after this post went live I saw Kevin the Librarian’s post “A Data Management and Data Sharing Bibliography for Librarians” where he compiled a list of all the literature on data management a librarian would find useful.  He and his colleague @fsayre hope to have “Mendeley group where more librarians can join and share their experiences and ideas about working with data management.”  So if you are interested in learning more about data management, go to his site.

Should You Get Medical Books Via iBooks?

Sigh…. I hate ebooks.  I really do.  Dealing with ebooks is worse than refinancing your home loan.  Yeah the home loan has a ton of paperwork and dives into your private financial life, but the hoops you have jump through for ebooks makes me want to repeatedly bang my head on my desk.  (I’d bang it against my iPad but that cost too much to replace from repeated bangings.)

The article “Why you should avoid iBooks for your medical ebooks” on iMedicalApps is just another example of the frustration having to do with ebooks.  My major criticism about the post is that it isn’t news.  I mean really, is it a shocker that you can’t get your iBook somewhere other than your Apple device?  Does music and iTunes ring a bell to anyone?  This problem really isn’t unique to Apple and iBooks. What makes iBooks unique is that it doesn’t have an app that pretends to allow it to be read on another device.  You can’t download an iBook to an Android, Kindle, or Nook.  While that may be frustrating, at least most people should know that going in, which isn’t always the case with Kindle or Nook books.

First off… Downloadable ebooks are device dependent.  Don’t tell me that you can get a Kindle book on an iPad so Kindle books aren’t device dependent.  Pthbb.  I have the Kindle app on my iPad and there have been several times where I have wanted to read a Kindle book only to learn that certain Kindle book requires me to download it first to a USB or to my Kindle device.  Gee thanks, for making it a pain to get it on my iPad. 

All (with the exception of iBook) ebook platforms have free apps for reading their books on your “different” device.  But it isn’t always a simple to download and read the book as the cool television commercials or the apps claim.  It is a pain in the butt. 

If you get ebooks through your local public library the process can still be confusing.  Overdrive, a “leading full-service digital distributor of eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital content,”  enables libraries and schools to provide downloadable books to their clients.  They have an app for downloading and reading books.  Supposedly this app makes it easier for people to download and read an ebook regardless of the ebook format and their device.  All I have to say about the Overdrive app is that it is still confusing to the average user.  I am a librarian for God’s sake and I find it  confusing at times. 

If you aren’t a public library, you might consider Mathews ebrary to offer downloadable ebooks.  However their platform is confusing and clunky, it is difficult to even find the title you want to download.  It doesn’t matter what titles they have if they are difficult to find.  I don’t know how easy it is to download the ebooks to your device because we never made it that far. 

See where I am going here?  I don’t care if you have a Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. I guarantee you that there will be a time when the title you want is only available in a format different from your device.  If you buy direct from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Apple, you run the risk that the book won’t work on your “different” device despite having the app.  Equally frustrating is that the “all in one” ebook reader services such as Overdrive and ebrary are confusing from the design side of things and confusing from the download side of things because they are dealing with ALL ebook types and devices. 

Next…. Institutional subscriptions to ebooks, specifically medical, may not be device dependent but they aren’t the answer either.  This is somewhat related to ebook format and platform problems but like all things bought at an institutional level, the problems are different. 

UnBound Medicine and Inkling are companies that provide access to download ebooks to institutional users.  While it is fairly easy, their titles are limited and can be quite expensive as some charge as if you are buying an individual copy for every person.  

Other ways institutions get their ebooks are through publisher electronic site packages.  These aren’t downloadable ebooks.  You can’t highlight a paragraph or take notes on the ebook because they all live on the web and you are accessing them through your wifi or cellular connection.  These are books within MDConsult/ClinicalKey, AccessMedicine, Ovid/LWW, Wiley, Springer, Rittenhouse, EBSCO etc.  While these books aren’t device dependent they are just as much of  pain, but for different reasons. 

They are all in their own publisher created silos so searching their full text is difficult if your library doesn’t have a discovery tool.  Even if your library has a discovery tool, ease of searching depends on the discovery tool’s set up and your resources’ set up. 

Users are unable to take notes on these book “pages” and at the same users are looking at these sites trying to find the downloadable version.  They now are expecting books to be downloadable.  They see it online and that is nice but then they ask how they can get that same book downloaded to their iPad or Kindle.  Short answer, you can’t.  Long answer…publishers either don’t want to do it or don’t have infrastructure to do it.  Theoretically Ovid or Springer could partner with Overdrive to get their books downloadable. But I’m sure there is more to it than just partnering like that.  I’m not sure if they are only interested in creating their own site for downloadable books or if they just aren’t interested.  ClinicalKey/MDConsult and AccessMedicine probably won’t do downloadable because their books are within their larger information database site.  In other words those sites have more than just the ebooks, they offer videos, patient information, images, etc. 

So you have these major barriers to using ebooks but you also have a group of people who despite the complications are interested in getting them.  What I find most misleading about the iMedicalApps post is that it is directed only at Apple’s iBooks when the problems with ebooks is pervasive and really a pain across all devices.  Quite frankly it is a miracle that users have stuck with trying to get ebooks this long.  We are a society that finds waiting more than 20 seconds for an elevator too long, how long are we going to wait for publishers to get their act together on ebooks?

Internet Explorer, PubMed and the End of the World

If you haven’t heard about the  Mayan civilzation’s calendar predicting the end of the world on December 21, 2012, then you have been living under a rock.  Personally I believe the Mayans were on to something.  Instead, I believe the end of the world will happen on January 1, 2013.  Why?

As of January 1st NCBI will no longer support Internet Explorer 7 and all the hospitals that haven’t upgraded will begin to have problems searching PubMed. You can’t blame the Mayan’s for not warning us.  I think they were pretty close to their prediction considering that browsers and the Internet were not known in AD 250.  I just think all of the doomsday prophets just translated things wrong (wouldn’t be the first time that happened). 

The end may not come as a big bang right on the New Year, but as NLM makes enhancements and changes to NCBI the people in the IE 7 hospitals will begin to have problems with PubMed.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/guide/browsers

The compatibility issue is just going to continue on.  The newly launched PubReader hasn’t even been tested on Internet Explorer and from the looks of the browser compatibilty chart they aren’t dilly dallying around with IE 8 or 9, if they design for Explorer they are going straight for IE 10. 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/about/pr-browsers/

Since PubReader was “designed particularly for enhancing the readability of PMC journal articles on tablet and other small screen devices,” the compatability for desktop and laptop browsers may not be an issue for a while. 

But this brings up the issue of IT departments needing to update the browsers.  Many librarians I have communicated with have expressed how getting IT to upgrade anything (including browsers) is a monumental task.  Just from my average web browsing it seems to me that a lot of web sites are jumping from IE 7,8 to IE 10.  Even more frustrating/interesting for hospital librarians is that there seems to a growing number of people not even designing for Explorer. 

Knowing who is winning the browser wars is tricky and getting good data on browser market share really depends on the site that measures market share.  Network World’s article “Browser battle: Chrome vs. Firefox vs. IE vs. Opera,” says “it’s difficult to say who’s on top in this four-way scrap. For one thing, different methods of measuring market share often provide very different numbers – while data from NetMarketshare.com shows IE in front with 54% of the market for October 2012, StatCounter gives a slight edge to Chrome, about 35% to 32%. W3Schools’ information paints another picture again, showing a big lead for Chrome (44%) over about 32% for Firefox and just 16% for IE.” 

It may just be me and my apocalyptic Mayan frome of mind but I am thinking of the Thunderdome for browsers. Although saying “Four browser enter, one browser leaves” isn’t as cool as Tina Turner’s line, “Two men enter, one man leaves.” 

Basically with the amount of browsers vying for for top spot it makes it difficult for us and IT to keep up.  So it is easy to see how people can be in this predicament.  So instead of stocking up on food and water in anticipation of the end of the world, start working on your IT department to upgrade your browsers.

Social Media and #Medlibs

Last Thursday the #medlibs group met on Twitter to discuss social media and medical libraries.  As usual it was a fun and interesting discussion.  We primarily discussed three areas of social media and medical libraries.  The transcript can be found here.

Vendor Communication 

It should come as no surprise that companies monitor what is said about them on social media.  What used to be a word of mouth activity, “Did you read that blog that blasted that company” has now become quite automated and much easier to find even brief mentions.  Twitter is a perfect example.  Personally, I have TweetDeck and HootSuite set up to look throughout the Twittersphere to find any tweets that say krafty.    I want to know if anybody is asking a question, has an issue, or just how my re-tweets are represented.  I also have those two programs looking for any tweets that mention the terms medlib, medlibs, or mlanet.  The reason I have the term medlib or medlibs is because medical librarians often send out a tweet about medical library stuff by using the hashtag #medlibs.  We are all human and we sometimes mistype it as medlib and there are always new people who don’t remember to use the hashtag, so my search filter catches those as well.  You can do this for any number of words, people, hashtags, etc.  It may sound complicated but it is extremely simple to do using either of those two Twitter programs. 

So if I am doing it for my own personal reasons, you can bet your bottom dollar that library companies are doing it.   It honestly is easier set Twitter to catch all of the tweets on a company’s name than it is to monitor Medlib-l for a company’s name.  The reason, TweetDeck and Hootsuite automate it, and to my knowledge there is no automated way to monitor the listserv.  As a result, a company like SpringShare is notified as soon as somebody tweets their name.  If I mentioned SpringShare on MEDLIB-l either a company rep has to read the post or somebody has to forward it to them. 

Here is what I am talking about:

TweetDeck Search
TweetDeck searches for all instances of #medlibs and puts them into a seperate column for me to look at.

So companies like SpringShare can do something very similar to what I do (depending on their Twitter software) and instantly become aware of anybody talking about them. This results in fairly quick communication between twitterer and the vendor.  For me it is often faster than when I have posted in MEDLIB-l

Don’t get me wrong, MEDLIB-l definitely has a purpose and Twitter can’t replace the longer discussions that happen there.  However, if you are looking to state a quick question or comment such as “What is going on with Ovid Medline? @WKHealthOvid” or “Having problems with stats @SpringShare LibGuides, anybody else?” Twitter is an excellent way to get quick answers.

As with all companies, there are ones who “get it” and ones who don’t.  Regardless of the method of communication; email, MEDLIB-l post, Twitter, Facebook, etc. there are companies that have poor communication skills or take every critique as an attack.  As I mentioned, in my post “Embrace Your Critics,” there are some companies who don’t see criticism as an opportunity for growth and improvement.  Yet there are other companies that are open to hearing from their customers.  For the most part the same companies that I have encountered as open to hearing from people (good and bad about their product) on MEDLIB-l are also the same on Twitter.

Companies that have responded in positive ways to tweets directed at them:

I follow A LOT of other companies, the above list are just ones I have had very good conversations with via Twitter regarding their product, services, etc.  Note, I didn’t always lavish praise either.  There were a few times where I complained about something not working correctly or suggested an improvement and still they responded in a very positive manner.  
 

Patron Communication

Some librarians monitor their own library feeds and respond to patrons questions or provide information.  Many on the list mentioned that their hospitals or institutions had people in marketing or PR who were monitoring the institution’s name.  This area of discussion wasn’t explored as much as I think it could have been.   Perhaps it is because this sub-topic often seems to creep into other #medlib discussions.  I know @CarolinaFan1982 does a lot with Twitter and his School of Nursing users.

Professional/Personal Information Bleed

Finally the group ended with a discussion on whether there was a need to keep professional/personal divide when tweeting.  I think it depends a lot on who is following you, what you primarily tweet on, and your institution.  More and more institutions have social media policies so it is best to read through those and adhere to them. 

For me, I let some of my personal life bleed into my professional life.  So far it seems to be ok.  If I decide to make the official split I can always have two accounts. One personal and one professional.  I know several librarians who have two Twitter accounts. 

I think it is also important how you respond to tweets.  For example if I tweet:

@EagleDawg Great to see you on #medlibs chat

Only people who follow both me AND @EagleDawg will see that conversation.

BUT if you put an character, even a period at the beginning of the tweet then everyone can see that tweet.

Example:

.@EagleDawg How was the mocha milkshake?

or

#medlibs @EagleDawg How as the mocha milkshake?

Those two tweets can be seen by everyone.  The #medlibs just ensures that the tweet can be seen by people following the #medlibs discussion.  Knowing this information might be helpful regarding personal and professional tone within Twitter. 

Overall

It was a very interesting and fun chat last Thursday.  This Thursday is Thanksgiving, so there will be no #medlibs chat.  We always welcome new people to the group, so feel free to join us November 29th.  Twitter isn’t just wasting time, it can be used for professional communication and we who chat on Thursdays are the perfect example.