NLM Georgia Biomedical Informatics Course

I recently attended the NLM Georgia Biomedical Informatics Course at the lovely Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris, GA. This week-long semiannual course is hosted by the Robert B. Greenblatt, M.D. Library, Georgia Regents University and funded by the National Library of Medicine. If you’ve ever heard library colleagues talk about the Woodshole course, this is the current version of that course. The content changes every session, which is necessary in such a fast moving field.

Attendees were a nice mix of librarians, clinicians, researchers and others involved in medical information technology. Instructors who are in the forefront of their field came from around the country to teach in this prestigious course. I found it to be a great overview of current important topics in informatics, and I learned so much about the breadth of this essential field from both the instructors and the other attendees. We also did some networking and shooting pool at the local watering hole, Brassies.

Read more to see what was covered (and some cool pictures from a field trip we took)

Continue reading NLM Georgia Biomedical Informatics Course

Join an MLA Committee….NOW!

These last few weeks I have been traveling to the chapter meetings (and participating in the virtual chapter meeting) and during my MLA Update I remind people that engagement within MLA is important to members building their own value within the organization. One of the best ways to be engaged is to join an MLA Committee.

Time is running out, you must submit an application to join a committee by October 31, 2015.

Over the years I’ve written several posts about joining an MLA Committee,  here is a “Behind the Scenes” post which gives a detailed account of the process.

Primary things to remember when joining a committee:

  1. The process is kind of similar to the Match for medical students.  The MLA President elect officially assigns members to committees. However, we go by the requests and input from the committee chairs and the member application requests.
  2. When applying for a committee pleas list your interests or experience for the committee you wish to join.  This helps the committee chairs who are looking for people and it helps the President elect.
  3. Apply for more than one committee. Some committees are very popular and there may be several people for 2 spots. Applying for more than one committee increases your chances of being on a committee you want.
  4. Seriously consider selecting “Any Committee”. This is very helpful to chairs and the President Elect. This also increases your chances of being on a committee.

We try very hard to make sure everyone is assigned to a committee but if you don’t fill everything out or list only one committee it makes things very difficult.

Last year when I assigned committee members I worked with a giant spread sheet of member requests, a giant spread sheet of chair requests, and a spreadsheet listing every committee applicant so I could check off that they got assigned to at least one committee. Thankfully I have 2 computer monitors so I could keep track of it all.

So please apply to join a committee it is a great way to get involved.


First ever all-virtual conference

I love conferences: meeting other librarians, learning about new products and services, and getting great ideas from others’ innovative projects. However, it is always hard to get away to go to conferences. Both the time and funds can be hard to find. This is why I was so excited for the first-ever virtual conference by the Midcontinental Chapter of the Medical Library Association (MCMLA). This was also the first ever all-virtual meeting of any MLA chapter in the history of the organization. I did not have to find money in my budget or time in my schedule, but still was able to attend many informative conference sessions. And, I got to attend the conference while wrapped in my fleece blanket.

I know the virtual conference has been years in the making from many dedicated librarians, but they made it look easy. Also, Elsevier, McGraw-Hill, Wolters Kluwer, and Rittenhouse agreed to participate in this experiment and gave presentations about their new products. Overall, the conference had great presenters, engaged participants, and moved smoothly past the few, small technical glitches that occurred.

Check out #MCMLA2015 to see the Twitter discussions during the conference and go to the MCMLA conference page for more details about the meeting and the poster that was presented at MLA 2015 about the virtual conference. I hope this is only the beginning of associations experimenting with virtual conferences and exploring alternative ways of sharing ideas and research with each other.

Going down the one person library rabbit hole

My only other co-worker is transferring to another hospital at the end of the month so I will soon becoming a truly one person library, hopefully only temporary but it could be permanent. In any case, at least for a few months I’ll be on my own.

Now I need to figure out how to organize my workday to cover two set of job duties. I have so many questions. Do I sit at the reference desk every day, or do I split my day between the reference desk and my office? I’m not full time. Do I work 4 8 hours days and one 4 hour day, or do I spread my hours evenly over 5 days?

Then comes the fun stuff – prioritizing my work. Figuring out how to balance ILLs, searches, technical issues, renewals and other library administrative tasks. Oh, and I forgot to mention the library is moving. Every task is a priority but some have more visible results than others.

Hopefully this will be a temporary situation but on the off chance it isn’t I’ll be documenting my journeys down this rabbit hole. Any comments or thoughts are more than welcome!

Preparing for National Medical Librarians Month

Several years ago, the Medical Library Association declared October National Medical Librarians Month. The theme for this year is “Are you a Risk Taker? When you need to be right, ask your medical librarian.” Check out the free available materials at
Will you use those materials or design your own using your library logo and colors? Will the library logo show up on your giveaway pencils, pens, totes, flashlights, caps, magnet, or drinking bottles? Will there be a contest to guess the number of gummy worms in a jar or a contest to guess the number of your institution’s authors displayed on a table trifold? Have you put together quick facts about the Library? Have you designed a special banner for your website?Have you scheduled product demos, a book signing, guest speaker or an art show reception? Will you introduce a new service, a new product or your staff members?

Take advantage of this opportunity to promote and celebrate your Library.

Happy National Medical Librarians Month!

Join this conversation and share your plans with your colleagues.

Helen-Ann Brown Epstein

The Incidental Informationist is officially an informationist!

I recently found out that the NLM Administrative Supplement for Informationist Services that I am included on received funding! This opportunity is very exciting to me because I will be working on an interesting project with a great group of people.

I will be providing data curation services for an R01 project by Dr. Katerina Kechris that generated a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) dataset from an inbred mouse panel. The mice are closely related, but have known genetic differences. They also exhibit an array of behavioral traits that relate to alcohol use disorders, such as ethanol sensitivity, tolerance and consumption. The NGS dataset is limited to a small RNA molecules known as micro RNAs (miRNAs). These molecules typically regulate gene expression rather than getting read by ribosomes to make protein, as the central dogma dictates. The goal of this project is to discern whether expression any of these miRNAs correlates with the alcohol use phenotypes mentioned above. Additionally, these miRNAs are closely related to those in humans, which could give clues to the mechanisms of alcohol use disorders in humans.

The mouse panel that the NGS samples came from can be used for much more than this alcohol use disorder study, and Dr. Kechris had already written in her R01 proposal that she wanted to share this resource with the research community in the PhenoGen database. Thus, we proposed the following Aims to increase the usability of this dataset by other research groups:

Aim 1 Make the NGS data, appropriate metadata, and code publicly available.

I will deposit the raw data in the NCBI databases along with appropriate metadata, or data that describes their data, to give it context and reusability. I will also deposit the code that they have used to clean and analyze their data to GitHub, so other people can repeat their analyses. This aim also supports a web programmer who will add functionality to the PhenoGen database to support this new dataset. We are also creating an entry for our institutional repository to link all this information together and to our campus.

Aim 2 Create tutorials to show other researchers how to use these data.

All the information is on the web, so it should be usable, right? Well we’re going to make it even easier to use these data by making tutorials in a variety of formats: video, text/static images, and Guide on the Side. These resources will also be referenced on the repository entry.

Aim 3 Evaluate the efficacy of Aims 1 and 2.

Finally, we will evaluate whether the first 2 aims are effective. I will do this by tracking data download and citation statistics, and by including assessments within the tutorials to evaluate their efficacy.

I’m so excited about this project! I can’t wait to get started. Now I just need to figure out how grant funding works here.

Questions and feedback are, of course, welcome.

– Tobin

Demo-ing Apps in the Classroom

Does anyone have any handy tips they use for demo-ing mobile resources in their workshops and presentations to students, residents, nurses etc? I just happened upon a very neat new (at least to me) feature in Chrome that I had not noticed in the “inspect element” development tool, which I occasionally use to look at source code for troubleshooting purposes. If you’re not confident about, responsible for, or interested in coding intricacies, you may not have ever explored this set of tools, and while there are a number of interesting and useful features for the non-techie person, this trick really jumped out at me as being something that I could immediately incorporate into my everyday work.

Apologies in advance for the many readers who are in institutions that don’t support Chrome. I weep for you daily. For the rest, here are the instructions:

When you right-click on a page in chrome, or CTRL-shift-I, you’ll see an option at the bottom of the list to “inspect element”. There’s an icon in the lower panel of the display, which shows the code, that represents a mobile/tablet device, and which, if clicked, resets the page to display as if it were on such a device. At the top of the page, there is also a drop-down menu with options for specific devices, so you can display a page which emulates the display of different iPhone models, iPads, Android devices- even BlackBerry (in case you are going back in time to do an instruction session.)

While, obviously, the display on-screen in the classroom will be small, if one is discussing mobile resources, there’s something to be said about showing them in their native habitat. Does anyone have a favorite tip or tool that they like to use? I’ve struggled with this in the past and basically given up, because the various emulators that were on-line for this kind of use were not especially reliable and certainly weren’t integrated into the instructional process in the same way. Comment away.

I need a vacation after my co-worker’s vacation…

As I stated in my introductory post, I work in a One Librarian Library. I have a .24 FTE library tech. Time manages us more than we manage it.

I dread the middle of August. That is when my co-worker goes on vacation every year. So, last week I was alone. The time alone caused me to gain a greater appreciation of actual One PERSON Libraries. I don’t know how they manage to get everything done. Everything is important to everybody.

So I sat down each morning and had to decide who I would make happy and who I wouldn’t. Do I do searches or do I process Interlibrary Loans? I think the only thing I new for sure that week was that journal renewals would not be on my radar. Especially after I discovered that EBSCO had migrated us over to their Full Text Finder product.

I finally decided that I should try to make each group at least a little happy. I divided up my day into three parts. I spent the first 3rd of my day doing searches. Spent the next 3rd processing article requests. Spent the last 3rd getting myself up to speed on the new product. Did it work? As best as it could I suppose.

I would love to read in the comments how other OPL’s or OLL’s do it. What are your tips and tricks that keep you sane?

Searching in a Comparative Effectiveness Research Way

I know you have been thinking and searching in an evidence based way, but have you switched to thinking in a broader comparative effectiveness way? The mantra for EBP is “based on the evidence available to me today, I will practice.” The mantra for CER starts there and pays attention to real life settings and can have different sizes to the populations. So, for CER, the mantra chatted is, “what works best for what populations in real world settings.” EPB and CER involve experiences of the health care provider, what the literature shows and the preferences of the patient.

There are 4 main ways to search for CER information, PubMed Health, PubMed Topic Specific Queries-Comparative Effectiveness Research, ANDing effectiveness[sb] to your strategy, or just ANDing the phrase “comparative effectiveness“ to your search strategy.

PubMed Health searches in an clinical effectiveness way. It is geared for the lay public. It has topic reviews, systematic reviews, guidelines and a drug database. When you search PubMed Health, you are searching PubMed at the same time. Be more general in your search topic. It is not a huge database.

Get to PubMed Topic Specific Queries-Comparative Effectiveness Research from the PubMed front page or Put your topic in the search box and click on All for CER results. Notice also you can select a type of study, health disparities, costs and cost analysis or CER as topic.

ANDing effectiveness[sb] to your search strategy is the same as clicking on the Topic Specific Queries-CER page.

Remember you want to search PubMed with words, phrases and MeSH to retrieve all the citations, including inprocess, supplied by publisher or PubMed Central papers. So the phrase “comparative effectiveness” will bring citations for all of PubMed, including the MeSH term, comparative effectiveness research.

Try out any of these methods and send in your comments and questions.

Helen-Ann Brown Epstein