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.


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.)


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.)


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.


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


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., 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?

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.

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.

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 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.


.@EagleDawg How was the mocha milkshake?


#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. 


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.

Medlibs Tweet Chat: Social Media

Last week the #medlibs chat focused on disaster planning and @NLM_DIMRC (NLM’s Disaster Information Management Research Center) participated in the discussion.  Disaster planning seemed to fall into 2 primary types, personal and professional.  You need a personal disaster plan so that you and your family are safe.  Once you are safe then you can deal with your professional disaster plan.  In this case since it was the #medlibs chat most of the professional disaster plan stuff dealt with medical library disaster plans.  The #medlibs chat transcripts can be found online. 

This Thursday the #medlibs chat will be on social media.

Website? Check. Facebook page? Maybe… is it your library’s or your public relations department’s? What  about Twitter? Are you using Twitter solely for your personal professional development (and fun)? As an automatic electronic news channel? Engaging with your users via their hashtag chats?

Come to the Thursday, November 15, 2012 #medlibs chat at 6pm Pacific/9 Eastern as we explore together how things are evolving for medical librarians and libraries in social media, including these chats! 

Never participated in a Twitter hashtag chat before? Check out this overview and come on in, we’re a supportive community.

Believe it or not I use Twitter to communicate with medical librarians now more than I use the listserv MEDLIB-L.  I get quicker responses from librarians AND library vendors.  If I posted something on MEDLIB-L about a database flaw, it would often be several days before I heard from the vendor’s rep.  However, when I tweet about it I get a response within a day (usually within a few hours).  When the government was about to shut down I had a patron ask mewhat would happened to PubMed if the government shut down.  I sent the question out to MEDLIB-L as well as Twitter.  I got a response within an hour from somebody working at NLM via Twitter.

So if you are interested in discussing social media within libraries, join us tomorrow on Twitter.

Getting The Internet During Disaster

Hurricane Sandy sucker punched the Cleveland area last week leaving me and others without power for 6 days. As frustrating as it was to deal without power, a very cold house, no fridge and rising sump pump waters threatening to flood my basement, I was lucky.  We were safe and my house was fine (no falling tree damage or worse). Additionally there were pockets of areas within the Cleveland area that had power back on within a day or two.  So while we were without power, I could go to the neighboring suburb rec center to warm up, charge my phone, and let the kids run around the basketball court or swim in the indoor pool. 

We also had a basic little camping generator that we used to power the sump pump intermittantly and to power a TV or recharge cell phones.  (Remember it is a camping generator, it was meant to power a small TV and light. A sump pump definitely had it at its limits.)  We have been off cable and satellite for almost 2 yrs.  We get our TV over the airwaves and use Netflix or Amazon on Demand to get other cable type programs.  We have AT&T Uverse for phone and Internet, just not TV.  We save a bundle doing this.  We also learned that it can also help in an emergency.  Sandy not only killed the power but it killed AT&T service as well as other cable and phone providers.  That meant no Internet for us, but for a large portion of our neighbors that also meant no TV as well as no Internet, even if they had power.  With only a small radio, you feel cut off from the outside world. 

Thankfully we had our cell phones and we could charge them.  While Sandy took out a bunch of cell phone towers, there were still enough left  for us surf and find information via 3 and 4G.  However, this is not the case for many on the East Coast.  With fewer cell phone towers left standing and a larger population, people’s smartphones aren’t very smart.  People aren’t always able to call somebody, their data stream has gone down to a data drip and their battery is quickly moving toward dead because the phone boosts battery power to try and help the signal.  The only thing that works is good ol’ reliable SMS texting. 

However texting can only do so much. Right?  Wrong! I read an article yesterday about how people can leverage SMS texting to surf the Internet (Google), get email, even use Twitter and Facebook.   Doing this allows you to stay in touch with events without relying upon your phone needing a decent data stream from a cell tower.

How to use the Internet when the Internet is gone” is a good step by step article on how to do all of the things I mentioned.  Some things like Facebook and getting your email via text requires you do some things while the Internet is still up, so if you did it Monday morning before the storm, or if can find a place where you can get online then you can set yourself up.  Google and Twitter doesn’t need any advanced set up, it can be done all via texting.

Here is what I got when I Googled the hours of the rec center in a nearby suburb.


While I didn’t get the hours I did get the phone number to call them.  It isn’t perfect but if you can’t even get online, it is better than nothing.

I am not sure how medical libraries can leverage this information to help provide services during a disaster.  However it is something good to know and librarians might want to add it to their disaster plans or at the very least let their users know about it.

Share Your Tools

Have a cool tool, website, article, or idea that you think other medical librarians could benefit from?  The MLA Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) is working to help shape MLA’s social media presence by promoting and mentioning things that are useful to medical librarians.  One idea was for people to share what things they find useful for their job and then we would mention it on MLA Facebook or other social networking venues.  Basically create a crowd source resource that can be distributed to others. 

Sharing your cool tools has never been easier.  There are several ways you can do it. 

  • Tweet #mlatools with your favorite or newly discovered tool.
  • Comment on my blog or EagleDawg’s blog and mention MLA Tool somewhere in the comment.
  • Post on the MEDLIB-L email list and mention MLA Tool in the subject line.

Our hope is that we develop a repository tools, ideas, websites, etc. useful to medical librarians and we can profile them on our social sites for people to learn about and further discuss.


Is NetVibes Your All In One Social Media Resource?

A while ago I discussed the usefulness of third party apps like Hootsuite and TweetDeck for integrating Twitter into your workflow.  Twitter apps like Hootsuite or TweetDeck vastly improve the social nature of Twitter.  Due to their design they allow people to better participate and follow tweets and conversations than the website Twitter can.  If you decide to use Twitter for professional communication I highly recommend finding a third party Twitter app like HootSuite or TweetDeck.

Catherine Voutier approached me shortly after my post, about using Twitter on Netvibes.  I am a Netvibes user for my RSS feeds and while I know they have a Twitter integration, I always used the integration to share stories from my RSS feeds with people on Twitter.  I had never considered using as I would TweetDeck or Hootsuite.  I was intrigued, so I asked Catherine to write up something about her experiences and I repost it here.

Catherine’s Netvibes and Twitter:

I first came about Netvibes earlier this year when I took up the challenge of Library Day in the Life, hosted by Bobbie Newman. This biannual project captures the daily doings of librarians working in all sorts of information environments across the globe. Many social media tools are used and to keep track of them, Bobbie created a public Netvibes dashboard. Netvibes is a monitoring tool which can be used to capture social media updates, rerun search alerts in search engines, keep track of new videos in YouTube and other services, and it can even keep track of incoming emails from various accounts. I was redesigning the evidence section of the RMH library website and I had left the various RSS feeds and other alerting services til last. I hadn’t included videos at that stage either. What could I use to bring all of these together? I tried using Yahoo Pipes but various experiments were unsuccessful. Then I remembered Netvibes – perhaps that would work? So I created an account and made a public page. It was immediately populated with items which were not useful so I went about redesigning it. There are tabs across the top which cover individual social media tools: Twitter, Podcasts and Videos. To add a new page, click on the + on the top right. The tab will be highlighted and this is where you can choose layout. On the top left is a button which says ‘Add Content’ – this is where widgets and feeds are located. You can also add pages that are already populated by choosing topics. To select a widget, click on it and it will ask you if you want to add it. Once added to your dashboard, click on the wheel to edit content. You can easily move the content on the page around by click and drag.

I then read Krafty’s post about using Twitter in everyday workflow and how she prefers to use third party software to read and send tweets. I thought – I wonder if I can use Netvibes to read Twitter conversations? I have a Twitter account but didn’t use it because of its clunky nature. I had to find instructions on how to do it but once I did, it was easy enough to replicate. This is how I did it: I made a basic page for myself and added a Twitter widget to bring up my own account. I then dragged and dropped Krafty’s name onto a blank section of the screen which brought up all her tweets. Krafty participates in a #medlibs chat on Twitter that has had some promotion and she participates and sometimes leads, so it was bound to be mentioned. Looking through Krafty’s tweets I found the #medlibs conversation link and dragged and dropped that onto an empty space on my dashboard – success!! Hooray! Now I can’t wait until the next live chat happens.
Below is a snapshot of my still-to-be-completed Netvibes page:
Catherine Voutier is the Clinical Librarian at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Health Sciences Library.
Catherine also posted about her experience (also has better, clickable image of her Netvibes page) at
Interesting!  It definitely gives me some ideas as to how to use Netvibes.  I am kind of busy these next two weeks but I may just try and play with it while I am traveling to Chicago later this month while waiting in the airport. 

Do Library Vendors Feud Like Apple?

Yesterday I read on the Cult of Mac, Mike Elgan’s “How Apple’s Obsession with Google is Hurting Apple.”  Elgen describes Apple’s Maps and the removal of Google Maps from Apple’s new iOS 6 as an example of how the company operates when faced with competition. 

Apple removed Google’s (far superior) Map and YouTube programs from its new operating system.  It also created a more seamless integration with the other social networking tools Twitter and Facebook but not Google+.  Many, including Elgen, have said Apple’s actions have more to do with Google’s Android system competing with Apple than the operating system itself.  He even mentions this type of behavior is not new with Apple.  If anybody remembers Apple in the late 80’s and 90’s, it was not the powerhouse company it is today.  It was locked in a battle with Microsoft to the detriment of Apple and consumers. 

“…they become obsessed with Microsoft, and were throwing all kinds of spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick. They became blind to the truth that great products bring more and better customers, and instead tried to beat Microsoft and the larger PC industry at its own game. They tried to litter the market with narrowly targeted product lines just like the clone companies did, even though most of the positioning was just a bullshit series of lies. The Centris, Quadra and Performa lines were more or less the same line, and the consumer electronics products had the Apple logo on them but weren’t Apple products.”

Elgan sees Apple history on the verge of repeating itself and it is an interesting thought. It was after an hour or two after reading the article that another thought popped into my head.  Are there library vendors that follow Apple like practices with competitors?  The idea is intriguing to me.  It would seem to me this ideology is not unique to Apple, they are just one the largest most well know companies so it is more obvious.  This probably happens in all areas of business, including libraries. 

I think competition is healthy.  It is what brings better products and services to the consumer.  But what happens when competition mutates and you aren’t focused on a better product but focused on destroying another competitor.  When the focus of the competition leaves the product or service, it negatively impacts the company, product, and consumers. 

Do we see this with OPAC companies competing for libraries, or has that area settled out?  Do we see it with traditional publishers and OA publishers?  Do we see it with point of care tools?  How about ebooks and all the uncertainty and upheaval in that area? 

Let’s forget about libraries for a brief second and think about healthcare.  I certainly think we see this type of behavior with healthcare at large, but do we see it within our own health systems? Do we see it within our own hospitals and departments?

Competition is good but there is a fine line between it and obsession and the slope can be slippery. If you find yourself in that situation within your institution/company what are your options? Do you have any?

Just some deep thoughts that my silly little iPhone has made me think about.