What You Missed on Last Thursday’s TweetChat: Alternative Reference

Last Thursday we had a lively discussion about reference services, more specifically alternative reference.  At first we had a little discussion about the definition of alternative reference and what really is alternative.  Is eliminating the reference desk alternative?  Is embedded librarianship a type of alternative reference.  Lots of people discussed their ideas and I think the term alternative reference for this chat pretty much determined to be “anything outside what has been viewed as traditional roles for reference services” and included things people are doing different with reference.

(Please let me know if I misunderstood any tweets, I am using the transcript along with my memory to provide this brief synopsis.)

@Eagledawg mentioned how they used to have on call reference hours but have moved to chat based reference & consult appointments.  She also mentioned how they are working on providing reference based on the READ scale http://t.co/dqhA3Vel.

Some like @CarolinaFan1982 has done such a great job extending his reference services outside of the traditional library that he cannot even be on Twitter without the nurses he serves asking him questions. But some like @hurstej find their users just aren’t interested in connecting/asking questions via social media.

Much discussion (at least to me) seem to center around abandoning the reference desk and going to something like office hours, consultation services, etc.  There were a few of us like @blevinsa and me who spoke up about doing reference (as well as other things) at our single service desk. 

@BerrymanD and I had a very lively discussion about the importance of the reference desk.  I believe in my institution it is still very important. In his institution it is not used as much.  During the discussion I often referred to the reference desk at our institution.  That was sort of misleading.  We have a single service desk from where patrons can ask reference questions, check out a book, or ask for the bathroom.  In my institution we all call it the reference desk.  I don’t think we ever considered it anything more or less than a reference desk. So part of the reason our desk is so busy is that it is the ONLY desk in the library you can ask questions or get service from.  I think if we had a reference desk and circulation desk our reference desk would be slow. 

It was also mentioned that reference is reference and one doesn’t need a desk to provide it.  That brought up the topic of roving reference and whether anybody was doing that with mobile devices, which would make that ideal. 

All in all it was a great discussion. Very interesting.  I admit I got a bit too focused on the reference desk part of the discussion.  I have a lot thoughts and opinions on the benefits of having a single service desk and every library staff member staffing it at times.  I think that makes an excellent post for next week.  So sometime next week I will write about the things I see at our single service desk and why I think it works for us. 

In the mean time, don’t forget about tonight’s #medlibs chat 9pm est. It is on embedded librarianship.  I hope to see you online.  If you are new, don’t sweat it, just say hi and lurk for a bit.  We are a great group and willing to help you out if you are hesitant with the technology.

You Don’t Need the iPhone 5

You don’t need to rush out and upgrade to an iPhone 5.  Now clearly over 2 million people probably don’t agree with this blog post, but hey why try and be popular. 😉  According to Chris Taylor’s Mashable Op-Ed piece, if you haven’t already joined the millions vying for an iPhone 5, you don’t have to. Chris gives two main reasons for not joining the herd, iOS6 and the S series. 

The new iOS6 will be available in a few days (September 19th) and it apparent is a “quantum leap forward” for Apple’s operating software.  It will included better social integration with Facebook and Twitter, a new Maps app providing turn by turn navigation (but no public transportation), and a “smarter” Siri. 

Chris brings up an interesting good point about the S seriews of iPhones.  “The S cycle, we can start to see after two of them, is where Apple tweaks the iPhone to perfection. Because the number isn’t changing, the company tends to add more features to justify your upgrade. ”  So by waiting for the iPhone 5S (which we assume is the next version) people get the upgraded device with the new “S” enhancements. 

For my husband and other non-iPhone people Chris thinks Android’s 4.1 OS (Jelly Bean) is far more powerful than Ice Cream Sandwich and he really likes Galaxy SIII, the Nexus and the HTC One X and the Windows Nokia Lumia 920. If you don’t have one of those phones and you are wondering when/if your Android will get Jelly Bean you should check out ComputerWorld’s Jelly Bean upgrade list. It is a huge list of almost every Android device and whether it is in the process of getting  or have already gotten the upgrade, expected to get the upgrade, or unlikely to get the upgrade.  (This is my big problem with Android devices, you never know if you are going to get the latest OS upgrade.  Just because you got an upgrade doesn’t mean you will when Key Lime Pie is available.) 

One of the reasons iPhone has started to become more popular with IT departments as RIM circles the drain is that there is little diversity within the iPhone world.  An iPhone is an iPhone, they all get an upgrade (unless you have an iPhone 3 or 3G then it is too old), they all have the same manufacturer and they all operate pretty much the same way.  The downfall of the Android was its diversity when our IT department tested them.  In an organization with 30 thousand employees, several thousand of which have a company phone, you need as little diversity as possible.  With BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) businesses. That is why some think the Windows devices with its “baked in cybersecurity goodness” might be poised to strike big among businesses.

What does this mean for medical libraries?  It means that we need to keep an eye on these things and think about our resources and how they work.  Can we design for every device? No that is why we need to look at web design not apps for our important systems.

How To Integrate Twitter into Your Workflow

Last week I posted that Twitter can definitely be used as a form of professional communication.  I mentioned how Twitter is just as important as email to me. I discuss library related things on Twitter just as much as I do via email.

How do I do this without it being a huge time committment?  Personally I believe a lot of it boils down to the Twitter program I use.  I use TweetDeck or Hootsuite.  These two programs are very similar and are light years better than the regular Twitter page for everyday Twitter use. 

TweetDeck is installed on a computer and can be an app on the iPhone or iPad.  I use TweetDeck on my personal PC and really it is my preferrred Twitter program.  However, it is a bit buggy my iPhone and iPad and since it must be installed I can’t use it on other PCs.  So when I can’t use TweetDeck I use Hootsuite.  Hootsuite lives on the web and doesn’t require installation.  It also seems to work best with my mobile devices. 

Many people like myself have their email program up and running in the background, so when they are working on something a small pop up box flashes on to the lower corner of their work screen. (Shown below)


TweetDeck does something similar in the top right of my screen.


This allows me to go about my daily work without having to switch between applications to try and view tweets or conversations.  If the box pops up, I glance at it quickly to determine if I am interested or need to respond, which is exactly what I do with an email pop up.  For me, this auto pop up feature has made TweetDeck as integrated in my work flow as email. 

Hootsuite behaves a little differently, it doesn’t have a pop up box (which is the whole reason I LOVE TweetDeck) but it does have a little audio alert (much less annoying than TweetDeck) that tells me there was another tweet. (Always be considerate and where earbuds at work if you are going to have audio alerts.)

There are a whole host of features to TweetDeck and Hootsuite that making following groups of people and conversations easier and more effective than the plain old Twitter page.  You can sort groups of people and topics into columns, making it easier to follow similar people (librarians) or topics (#medlibs). Below is my a picture of the columns I follow in TweetDeck and Hootsuite.

At first glance this looks like  A LOT of information and tweets, but the important thing to know is that  only my Home Feed is moving a lot and showing a lot of tweets.  The other columns only show a tweet every once and a while.



The Home Feed are the tweets of everyone I follow that is why it is so active. It like view hundreds of chats all at one time.  I don’t follow a ton of people so I still have my home feed viewable.  Some people who follow thousands of people don’t have their home feed viewable at all.  They choose to monitor conversations by creating columns based on people or topics.

The column with #medlibs is every tweet where somebody uses the hashtag #medlib, which has become the standard method about medical librarianship questions, issues, etc.  In my TweetDeck image you can also see the column General Health Sci Tweets, this is an example of a column of people I follow. I created  a list of people/companies that tweet on that subject.  I have a General Health Sci list, Medical Librarians list, and Non Medical Librarians list. I usually always have the General Health Sci list going because that include librarians, doctors, vendors ets.  The other lists I check once or twice a day just to see if anything interesting has been tweeted. Creating and lists and adding them as column is a great way to manage your twitter discussions if you follow a variety of different people and subjects.

I hid the DM (Direct Message) column, but that is a listing of all the people who private messaged me.  The Mentions feed (@Me on TweetDeck) is a list of every tweet where somebody includes @Krafty in their post.  This is very helpful if somebody asks a question and you don’t follow them, this feed will catch it and I can respond to them.  It also helpful if a person mentions somebody in tweet because they often include their Twitter name.  I use this method often when I am talking about vendor products. 

Examples of this are:

  • Widgets available for #OvidSP @WKHealthOvid
  • Anybody know how to bold a word within the widget screen of libguides @SpringShare

Vendors monitor their @’s on Twitter and they respond quite quickly.  I have gotten a quicker response posting on Twitter like this than I have on Medlib-l.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it is quite simple to create the columns because TweetDeck and Hootsuite feature column display.  As I mentioned the Home feed is the fast moving active feed and I really don’t sit and stare at it the whole time.  I really rely on the pop up box (in TweetDeck) to view things as they come.  The other columns have tweets but usually those don’t come that often (at most 1 an hour) unless I am monitoring a very active discussion.  For example the #medlibs column is often quiet with about 1-2 tweets an hour, but Thursdays at 9pm that column is very active because that is time when we have a #medlibs tweet chat.

People sometimes tell me that while Twitter is neat they find it hard to follow conversations and discussions.  There are several ways to help make that easier. First, use the hashtag like #medlibs if you are tweeting about a topic or something that would be of interest to a group.  Second, click on the conversation link that is displayed on TweetDeck.  *Note this feature only works if there is a conversation. If it is a single tweet there obviously isn’t a conversation so the conversation link does not show.

Here are two screen shots of how you can follow converstations within TweetDeck and Hootsuite.



 Viewing the conversation prevents me from having to scroll around and search for each individual tweet in the conversation thread. 

There are several other features to both TweetDeck and Hootsuite that make using them far superior to the plain old Twitter page.  I rarely go into the Twitter site because it lacks functionality for everyday use.  There are other programs that you might find are better for your workflow.  For me the pop up notification of TweetDeck is the most important feature for me, it allows me to do my regular job and just look at tweets as needed. 

If you have tried to do Twitter for professional communication but you use it through Twitter’s site and it hasn’t gone well, try TweetDeck or Hootsuite.  A perfect way to see if it fits into your work flow is to go to Twitter create an account (if you don’t have one) and then create a Hootsuite account or download TweetDeck.  Use it for 1-2 weeks and experiment with it.  Maybe it will work for you. 

Finally, I know a lot of what I just wrote about can seem pretty technical and in depth for those new to Twitter.  My advice is to take it slow, get your feet wet, experiment, and follow some great medical librarian twitters like me @krafty, Nikki Dettmar @eagledawg, PF Anderson @pfanderson, Eric Rumsey @ericrumsey, and Sally Gore @mandosally. We can help you along the way as you experiment.

A great way to experiment is to participate in the #medlibs chat every Thursday 9pm est.  Tonight is “Free Range Thursday” where the topic is up for grabs and it can be on anything related to medical libraries. Still nervous about participating in a Twitter chat, here is a great article on The Chronicle, “How (and Why) to Participate in a Tweetchat” to get you started.

Medlibs Twitter Chat: Everything eBooks

This week I will be moderating the medlibs Twitter discussion that will happen Thursday 8/30 at 9pm Eastern for 1 hour.  (I hope I do as well as Nikki!)

Last week, we discussed and shared a link to the book, Rethinking the Reference Collection: Exploring Benchmarks and E-Book Availability.  This week will look at ebooks a little more in depth and their use in general, not just the reference collection.

Some ideas for discussion can be:

  • Findability -What are the best ways for patrons to find stuff? The catalog, A-Z lists, other?
  • Usability – How easy are they for patrons to use?
  • Usage – Are they getting used?  What is appropriate usage stats?
  • Portability and Devices – Where are people using them and on what devices?
  • Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) – Who is doing this and what are your results?
  • Anything else that might be interesting

Anybody can join a medlibs chat, you don’t have to be a librarian, you just have to have an interest in the topic.  For more information on how to join a Twitter chat using hashtags check out this guide created by the usual moderator Nikki Dettmar.

I look forward to see you online this Thursday.  Even if you plan to lurk, please at least tweet us your name and where you are from (on Thursday at 9pm est.) so we can officially welcome you and answer any questions you might have.

PubMed Won’t Support IE7

According to the NCBI Website, the NCBI resources will no longer support IE7 after January 1, 2013.  So medical librarians in Internet Explorer institutions, now is the time to start talking to your IT departments to get IE 8 or greater, or Firefox 4 or greater installed on your computers.

This means that after January 1, 2013 if you are searching PubMed using IE7 and something goes wonky, it is your problem.  They will no longer design PubMed so that it will work using IE7.

For information on other browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Opera check out the NCBI browser check list.

On a medical librarian related note, MLA’s site gets fussy using IE 7 and 8.  Bascially Internet Explorer is a frustrating browser to design for because there is designing for the rest of the web then there is designing for IE.  I am told IE 9 is better, but it is probably worth trying to get Firefox or Chrome added to your computer if you can.  However, it all depends on your IT department and their policies.  So pick your battle to at least make sure whatever browser you are allowed to use is compatible for the NCBI resources.

**Update 8/21/12  10:48am)**

ACGME won’t work with IE7 after September 1, 2012.  For more information on other browsers and versions go to:

ReferencePoint Blog Stops

About a year ago NLM launched ReferencePoint Blog targeting health sciences library staff in the U.S. and abroad.  The postings were intended to:

  • Increase the awareness of NLM products and services available online and onsite.
  • Inform the targeted audiences about health sciences resources outside of NLM.
  • Promote dialogue and learning exchanges between NLM staff and staff at other libraries.

Well according the final post, “blog membership and participation” was lower than anticipated and “lacked dialogue among the viewership.” 

Although the blog is gone, people can still find out about information from the Tech Bull, RMLs, NLM Social Media outlets, and from other libraries’ web and social media.

At first I misread the information about ReferencePointe Blog, I actually thought they were launching a new blog.  It wasn’t until I re-read things did I realize they were ending the blog.  I admit there is a lot that gets by me at times.  But I had no idea that ReferenceBlog existed and I do try to keep on top of that sort of thing.  It is sad that something that looked so promising failed, but I have to wonder what was done to promote it.  I did a very quick unofficial poll in the Twittersphere asking medical librarians if they had ever heard of ReferencePointe Blog.  I figured the librarians on Twitter are usually more in tune with blogs and social media and if something was out there maybe a few librarians might not know but the group as a whole would know about it.  Most of the people who responded to my tweet said they had either never heard of ReferencePointe Blog or just learned about it very recently.  One person who mentioned they knew of it said it was in her feed reader but she felt it unfortunately found its voice.

This brings up several very good points about blogs, social media, and communication. 

  • Market the hell out of your blog, Twitter account, Facebook, etc.  If your many of social media techie librarians did not know about you, then you didn’t reach out in the right ways.  Simply building a site or feed and hoping people will come or comment…those days are l-o-n-g gone.  Regardless if you are making a blog for librarians or Twitter feed for doctors, you are competing against a whole slew of other social media things that are louder and potentially more interesting. 
  • You need a voice.  Whether it is in 140 characters, a look/feeling on Facebook, or longer blog dialog.  Without a specific voice, theme, presence…overall vibe if you will, users won’t identify with you and come back for more.  It can take a while to find your voice, and possibly longer if you have several people who have to work together has one voice.  But without a specific voice or vibe it is difficult for people to follow.
  • Timeliness is EVERYTHING! The half life of a tweet is like 5 minutes.  Obviously blogs have a little longer half life but you really need to keep posts, tweets, Facebook content centered around what is currently going on.  For example in May 2012 PubMed changed Limits to Filters, a good post on a tricky search using Filters would have been great.  Discussing the differences, pros and cons, etc. of search with Limits vs. Filters would be very helpful.
  • Feeback is essential. Commenting, Re-tweeting, and wall posts must be open and easy.  Creating a barrier such as having somebody login to comment, locking your Twitter feed, or preventing wall posts will drastically limit your readership’s interest in communicating and will effect your overall readership.
  • Finally your numbers are only half of the picture.  I would like to think that I am pretty popular blog among the medical library community.  Yet I have only a few comments on my blog.  I have even less well posts on my Facebook page (to be honest I don’t really market my FB page).  I have a reasonable number of RTs, MTs, and @s on Twitter.  But I am no KevinMD.  However I bet his actual comments, RTs, MTs, etc. represent a very small fraction of  his oodles and oodels of readers and followers.  The numbers are only part of the story.  I don’t begrudge anybody for shutting down based on poor numbers but you can’t use the numbers as your entire picture.

So in the end, I am sorry to see that a potentially good resource is gone.  I hope that isn’t the end for people thinking of doing something similar.

Medlib Geekery Chats Every Thursday

For the last several Thursdays, people interested in medical librarianship issues have gotten together on Twitter to discuss topics and voice their thoughts and opinions.  It is an interesting bunch of people, not all are medical librarians, but all are interested in various aspects of medical information. 

The discussion is every Thursday at 9pm est.  It is rather informal as people are tweeting and following the discussion over a glass of wine, while getting kids to bed, or making dinner.  But as informal as it is, it is also very interesting.  There was a great discussion about take home points from the MLA meeting, escience and what it really means people, and a free range discussion about iPads, residents, etc.  Nikki Dettmar has written a nice post with word cloud images detailing the last few chats.  She also has a link to the chat transcripts

So if you are interested, I invite you to hop on Twitter tomorrow at 9pm est and follow the hashtag #medlibs.  Can’t make it this Thursday? No worries, we seem to be meeting on Twitter every Thursday. So try next week.

Mark Funk’s Janet Doe Lecture Video

If you weren’t at MLA in Seattle this year then you missed hearing some great speakers, one of which was Mark Funk and his Janet Doe Lecture.  If you paid for MLA e-conference package you can catch the other speakers from MLA’s online meeting content site. But you can also catch Mark’s phenomenal lecture at https://vimeo.com/45367116

In preparation for the Doe Lecture, Mark chose to analyze word usage from the content in the MLA Bulletin from 1960-2010.  The words we chose while writing in the Bulletin tell a story of medical librarianship through the years.  Mark spend 225 hours analyzing the words came up with 4 basic categories: Environment, Management, Technology, and Research.  It was very interesting as well humorous.  By looking at the word usage you can see how trends have come and gone and how some things like Reference has consistently stayed on our minds through the years. 

Check out Mark’s lecture https://vimeo.com/45367116 and the blog posts from Annie Hughes  and Natalie Clairoux MLA about his lecture.

Personally, it is a freaking great lecture.

Social Media and MLA

Yesterday I sat in on a conference call about various technology things and MLA. One of the things we discussed was social media.  We have to get involved, we have to create a social media strategy to effectively engage in that area of communication.  Based on a survey, it is clear that the majority of those surveyed still prefer the listserve to communicate.  But, it is also clear that other mediums are gaining in popularity and usage and they shouldn’t be ignored just because they are new.  Talking on the phone was once the preferred method of communication among people, now cell phone companies are investigating data/text only plans (no voice minutes) because people just aren’t talking anymore, they are texting and emailing.  As society adapts to new technology they change their behavior patterns. 

I am not saying using the listserve to stay informed is exactly like the evolution of cell phone use, but we do evolve with technology and we would be seriously remiss if we don’t look at addressing it and coming up with a strategy.

So here is where I ask you, the reader….  “What would you like to see MLA do with social media?”

Keep in mind it has to be pretty self sustaining, easy, and require few man hours.  Why?  There are like 10 people who are employed as MLA staff who are all working on multiple projects to keep the organization going.  Whatever plan, thoughts, ideas, that you have, they need to take into account that perhaps a volunteer(s) (similar to the Medlib-l moderator) might be the one doing the bulk of the day to day stuff.  It also should be something that is cohesive and not disjointed.  A LinkedIn account, Facebook account, and YouTube account all sitting out there separately not referencing to each other or interconnected in either way and duplicating work without a cohesive voice or style, does us no good.

Obviously we need to come up with a strategy, but I would like to see what you think we should be doing with these resources in a way to help structure the strategy so that we are serving the members in the most effective and efficient manner. 

So use this blog post as a brain storming area or a sounding board about your vision, thoughts, concerns, etc. on social medial and MLA.

Are Publishers Too Old To Design/Create Effective eBooks?

Wolters Kluwer tweeted a link about a middle school class creating the top selling enhanced ebook on iTunes. The book,  “Creatures, Plants and More! A Kid’s Guide to Northwest Florida,” is interactive and contains pictures, videos and text related to the wildlife found in Northwest Florida.  It was published by a seventh grade class at Woodlawn Beach Middle school, based on a student assignment to create multimedia content around the local gulf-coast wildlife.

Now the book is free, so I am sure that helps keep it at the top of the best “seller” list.  One could argue the press surrounding the creation of an ibook by middle schoolers helps drive the “buys” as well.  However, the book was just published April 26, 2012 and according to a May 1st  article (earliest report on the ebook I could find) on the Woodlawn Beach Middle School’s web page, the book was already the top ranking free book. So, while the press coverage might add to the popularity, the book itself started out strong.

Why is this important, especially on a blog about medical librarianship?  

Maybe I got up on a different side of the bed today, but this report got me thinking about the design of ebooks and whether publishers are just too old, to “get it.”  Are the powers that be and structure within publishing  too steeped in the traditional concept of a paper book to really understand the idea of an interactive ebook?  to further explain this let me draw upon my grade school experiences with computers. (Yes I can remember back that far.)

When I was a kid (2nd or 3rd grade) everyone seemed to be rushing to get computers in school and I remember an old room converted to a computer lab stuffed with Apple IIe’s.  Time in the computer lab was supposed to be important, but since the whole grade school had to share 10 computers, we didn’t visit the lab very often.  The only time I remember visiting the computer lab was for math class, specifically plotting graph equations on the computer.  We would spend the whole math hour inputting coordinates into the computer and at the end, if we did it right, we were “treated” to a green line or triangle.  Booooorring.  I got nothing out of that.  I actually dreaded computer lab time.

In grade school we never used the computers for anything other than that section in the math curriculum.  Yet everyone spoke about technology in the classroom, using computers in education, and teachers were asked to teach with computers.  However the problem was the teachers were using old traditional concepts and marrying them to computers.  They really didn’t adapt the lessons or concepts at all.  The tool of the computer was little more than complicated graphing paper.  They were forcing a square peg into a round hole but not realizing they were even doing that. 

Now the computer has been around for long time and we now have the Internet.  Many teachers today grew up with computers (or at least remember sitting in front of those old Apple II’s).  Their minds no longer think of the computer as a technology, it is a part of their life, a tool for other things.  It is integrated better into the curriculum because it is already integrated into their (and their students) lives.  It is now as common as other things in the classroom like reference books, smartboards (no more banging chalk out of erasers), desks, etc. 

The interactive ebook is the Apple IIe, we don’t know how to create or use it effectively.  The vast majority of us have been programmed with the linear thinking of traditional books.  Many of us talk about converting medical texts into ebooks but we (including publishers) think of the book as a linear progression; start, middle, end.  We throw in movies, pictures and sound but those are positioned in a linear way; within chapters.  Often the ebook is the paper book with multimedia and perhaps added chapters.  But it is usually pretty straight forward.  It is the paper juiced up on steroids, but it is still the paper.

So while the middle schooler’s ebook is still more in line with traditional books it was created only as an electronic product therefore it is free of some of the contraints from already printed version.  Perhaps as tablet devices evolve and people grow up with them and begin to think of them as an everyday thing, our ebooks will begin to evolve beyond the print model.  My 5 yr old or my 1 yr old will be thinking of something totally different regarding an ebook when they are adults.  They will be the ones to see how to publish and distribute content that was once in paper.