Personal Disaster Management

I live in a suburb of Cleveland, OH and we used to joke all the time that besides snow storms there really wasn’t much from an natural disaster standpoint that would hit us.  Nobody really thought a hurricane would effect us.  Yeah we would get a lot of rain, but it would be like any other bad storm…right?  Wrong.  Sandy uprooted or split trees causing them to fall on power lines, houses, across streets, etc.  Leaving large areas of the Cleveland area without power for 6-7 days. Areas without power that relied on pumps to either pump water out of locations (as in sump pumps in basements) or pump up to locations (water pumped to upper levels of apartments) had lots of problems. 

I am not trying to minimize the East Coast’s damages from Sandy.  Many people there have huge problems, you probably don’t think much about losing power for 6 days when your house has been swept away.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin if that happened.  But I thought I would take a bit of my blogging time to share some things I learned while out of power for 6 days, hopefully this can help you. 

Note: This is primarily about personal prep for disasters, if you want information for your library check out NLM’s Disaster Information Management Research Center and the latest #medlibs chat transcripts on disaster management.

Things I Learned:

IF you have a sump pump it is totally worth it to get at least one of these two things: generator or water powered sump pump. If you think your battery backup will be fine, it will, but for only 6-12 hours.  So if the power is out for longer and you don’t have generator or a water powered backup sump pump you are either bailing, or your basement is wet.  We had a battery backup. It stopped after 6 hours. Everybody mentions generators or the water power sump pumps as being too costly for those once in a while events. “Consumer Reports’  generator tests show that you can start powering a houseful of lights and appliances for less than $700.”  Our plumber gave us a quote for a water powered back up sump pump for $600-$800, installed.  So if we get both (which we will) $1500 in prevention is worth it compared to the several thousand dollars a flooded basement costs.  Go to to get an idea of how much even 2 inches of water can cost.

Look at your insurance now.  I think most know that regular home owners insurance doesn’t cover flooding from a river, ocean, lake, etc. coming into your house.  That type of coverage if you want it must be purchased in additional to regular home owners insurance.  However there are many who don’t realize regular home owners insurance does NOT cover flooding due to sump pump back ups or sewer back up.  You need to get a special rider for those to be covered.  The costs per month are based on your selected monetary coverage and are usually a minimal increased monthly fee. 

Generators shouldn’t be exposed to the elements.  There is lots of information out there about not having your generator in your garage (its carbon monoxide will kill you), but there is little information about not leaving your generator out in the rain or snow.  Since a bad storm is usually what kills the power, that storm might continue a few days when you need to operate your generator.  The USFA and FEMA recommend operating it on a dry surface under an open canopy like structure.  They also warn NEVER to plug the generator into your home (aka backfeeding) that kills people. Plug your appliances into the generator with extension cords. Only a transfer switch (installed by an electrician) is the appropriate and safe way to have your generator power your house without using extension cords.

Best flipping flashlight I have ever used is the Coleman Quad LED Lantern. It is very bright and each quad of can be detached and used as a personal flashlight, leaving the rest of the lantern lit for others.  Very handy. It takes D cell batteries, we used it a lot over 6 days and the batteries did not die on us. (Don’t know how much life they have left so I did pick up another pack of Ds at Costco).  You can buy it for cheaper than Coleman’s site.

If you decide you have to leave or your just tired of not having power and want to stay in a nearby hotel, make that decision quickly.  The nearby hotels were full after the second day.  We did not stay at a hotel (had to keep the camping generator power the sump pump) but others who did told me that some offer storm rates and other help for people affected by the storm.

If your cell towers are down and voice and data are slower than a snail, then you might want to try texting to get your information.  Check out How to use the Internet when the Internet is gone for tips on how to get email, Google, and news tweets by using text. 

Food in the fridge. Ugh. When in doubt pitch it out.  But here is a general guideline for you to use. 

Heat…I can live without air conditioning but no heat is such a problem.  If you have a generator that can handle your furnace and you have it hooked up properly to prevent backfeeding you are golden.  For the rest of us, remember to get your chimney cleaned (don’t want a chimney fire to add on top of your power outage) so you can have a little warmth from the fireplace.  Getting the chimney cleaned was on our “todo” list which hadn’t been done before Sandy.  Previously we were warned it was very dirty and would be dangerous if we had a fire, so we learned our lesson. Regularly clean your chimney.  If it is below freezing and you are worried about pipes freezing let a small trickle of water flow through the taps.  Thankfully it wasn’t that cold in Ohio following Sandy, but those out East got socked with a snow storm following Sandy. 

Gas up your cars and portable gas tanks before the storm.  The long lines in New Jersey and New York are a reminder of that.  Consider getting a generator that runs on propane instead of gasoline. 

Kids…. School will most likely be cancelled for some time.  If the weather is nasty or if there are still downed power lines in the area, they will stuck indoors with you without power.  Get creative.  I am not creative and the boys were nearly trying to kill each other every 5 minutes while the 2 yr old girl hit them both with her sippy cup.  You can only do so many board games.  We ended up going to friends houses with power for long play dates.  We went to the rec center to play baskeball and swim.  We went to a movie.  It wasn’t just the fact that we had no power, it was the fact that we had no power and we couldn’t always go somewhere to do something due to weather or trees or power lines being down. 

I realize this is long, I hope some of it was helpful.  If you have any ideas you want to share please comment.  I know I didn’t cover everything you should consider in times of a disaster, these are just some of the things I learned from this event.

Vote for MLA Leadership

Now with the Presidential election over with, it is time for MLA members to set our sights on voting within our membership.  This is the membership’s opportunity to help guide the direction of MLA.  By electing the MLA President, Board of Directors and the Nominating Committee the membership chooses who will represent MLA and the members and its future.

The position of President is an easy concept for members, but Board of Directors and Nominating Committee aren’t always as clearly understood.  The MLA Board of Directors are people who “act on behalf of the membership according to the (MLA) mission statement, goals, and objectives, and strategic plan within parameters of the bylaws.  Direct business of the Medical Library Association (MLA), establish policies and procedures, foster the growth and development of MLA.” In a nutshell the Board of Directors act on bahalf of the MLA members, represent MLA, and work really hard to continue the growth and development of the association.  The Nominating Committee are nine people who select MLA members to run for President and Board of Directors. 

Before you vote, make sure you look at the people who are running.  You can do this at

Make sure you vote! You have until December 7th.

Disaster Preparedness

Hopefully I will resume posting in the next week.

Monday night Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.  Because it was such a big storm, its outer circle came over Cleveland.  What made matters worse for Clevelanders was we were already dealing with another storm at the time.  So Sandy and our storm overlapped in sort of a venn diagram to create a bigger storm that hit Cleveland.  I am not trying to minimize the destruction that hit New Jersey, New York or the rest of the East Coast.  I am just explainning that the combination of the other storm and Sandy made for a stronger storm that you normally don’t see as far inland as Ohio. 

As a result Monday night was interesting.  We had sustained 40 mph winds with frequent gusts at 70 mph (hurricane strength) which snapped trees in half, uprooted trees from saturated ground, ripped off siding, bent flag poles flat, etc.  We lost power at 10pm Monday night.  After seeing a neighbor’s tree split in half and fall across the road we worried about the two large trees in front of our house and moved everyone to the first floor family room to sleep.  Thankfully our trees stayed up.

It is Wednesday and we still don’t have power.  Cross your fingers we get it soon because I don’t know how many more nights I can go waking up every 3 hours to run the little camping generator to power our sump pump to keep our basement dry. 

I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t for personal disaster planning.  After some time, power, and rest I might post about the things I learned so that others can benefit.

Do Top Hospitals Have Libraries?

This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I have tweeted about it on #medlibs tweet chat. Every hospital is very proud (and rightfully so) to be listed as US News Top American Hospital and a lot of work goes into making those hospitals as good as they are. It is my belief that there are certain qualities unique to top hospitals that helps make them a top hospital. They have a certain infrastructure so to speak, that encourages education, innovation, and excellence. I believe part of that infrastructure of those hospitals is library (specifically the librarian) that help make the hospital be the best they can be and a top hospital.

I am not saying that every hospital that has a library is a top hospital. There are hospitals that aren’t top hospitals that have libraries. What I am thinking is that in order to be a top hospital you must have the necessary infrastructure, which includes libraries. My guess is that at least every hospital listed in the top ten have a library but the Top Hospitals list is over 900 institutions long in many specialties, so who knows how many in that large group have a librarian.

US News and World Report states “death rates, patient safety, and hospital reputation were a few of the factors considered,” for the top hospitals. I want to know more. What goes into making a top hospital a top hospital and are there libraries in each one? There is a phrase, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” (I would also say the phrase can be flipped to say behind every great woman is a great man too.) I want to know if the same applies to hospitals. Behind every great hospital is a librarian.

Originally my idea was to look at the Top Hospitals and determine whether they have a librarian. I also wanted to do more than just make it an attendance sheet. After all librarians do more than just show up, they support their hospital’s endeavors and mission. How do I quantify that? (Oh the question we always ask.) Well I assume that a top hospital in a certain specialty probably employs the thought leaders in that specialty and as thought leaders they would have published a about their specialty. So my thought was to take a specialty like cardiology, look at all the hospitals and determine if they have a librarian and how much they are publishing on that broad topic. I realize that isn’t perfect but it was an idea.

As much as I want to look at the Top Hospital list and try and see if they have librarians helping the hospitals be the best, it is a huge project and I am certain there are better ways to do it or better measures. Finding research is my specialty, conducting research is not. However I know there are a lot of librarians and non-librarians out there who are good at doing research. So, I am practicing what I preach, I am reaching out through social media about my research idea. I don’t care if you want to help and have a better way of doing it or if you want to do the whole thing on your own and “scoop me.” I think proving that good librarians are a necessary part of a Top Hospital is very important, I don’t care who/how it is proved.

Online Program Planner Available

I just finished writing my post on the Official MLA’12 Blog about the online program planner. Good news the online planner is live and ready for you to use.  Unfortunately you can’t add your own personal items in the planner, BUT you will be able to do so soon.  That feature is something that will be added.

In the post I also included links to instructions for saving your itinerary and uploading it into Google Calendar, Outlook, and Lotus Notes.  So if you are going to MLA, check out the blog post and start getting your schedule together in the program planner.

MLA Twitter Tutorial Now Open

There was a bit of confusion when I last posted about the MLA Twitter Tutorial, people were all excited and started trying to do the tutorial right away even though it wasn’t live yet.  The wait is over, the tutorial is now open.   Go to and watch the videos, complete the tutorial, tweet, and learn something new while getting a free drink ticket to the MLA Tweet Up.

(One thing to note, most of the videos are on YouTube, so if it is blocked you will have to watch them at home.) 

Each year the discussion on Twitter has grown considerably.   A lot of the pre-conference chatter is about events people would like to attend or questions about the meeting.  During the meeting people tweet interesting points during a presentation, pose questions back and forth among the tweeters, or just tweet in general to communicate.  This kind of discussion is often called the “back channel.”  The tutorial has some great articles for people to learn  about things like the back channel, live tweeting best practices, and a guidebook on Twitter.

A few years ago when Twitter came out, I remember I mentioned I couldn’t think of how Twitter would be used professionally in medical librarianship.  Now I use it daily.  I have a program that is running in the background (just like my email program) that pops a message box up when I get a tweet (again just like my email).  I have used it to answer reference questions, follow speakers/conferences, answer tech questions, and just share information.

It might take a bit of time to figure out your “voice” and know your work flow to see how it naturally fits into the way you communicate.  Take a look at this image of “The Four Stages of ‘Getting’ Twitter” and you can see how it is an evolution as to how it can fit into your life.

Decisions, Decisions, iPhone or Android

It is the gift giving time of year and some people are looking at smartphones as gifts.  Since the three major carriers have the iPhone, people now have to decide whether they want an iPhone or Android.  David Gewirtz at ZDNet provides a fairly good pros/cons list on the iPhone and Android to help you with your decision. 

I only have a few things to add to his list.

Support:If your hospital or institution supports a certain type of phone, that can weigh heavy in your decision making.  However, a lot of medical institutions are still clinging to Blackberrys and many don’t allow personal devices (i.e. your own smartphone) to access or sync to their network.  If this is the case then you might want to look at what a lot of your peers have and possibly consider getting what they have.  Ok, I know that sounds like a popularity contest of buying what your friends or coworkers have, but there is safety in numbers.  The people in your group will be talking about the best apps they use for certain things.  If you are a doctor or nurse then it will most likely be the best apps your colleagues use to help treat patients.  If you are librarian, it might be what most of your patrons are using so you can provide better customer service.  As David mentioned there are a lot of apps on both platforms but not all apps are on all platforms.  Knowing what apps they use can be helpful and having the same platform means that app is available for your device AND it will perform the same (not all apps perform the same on Android and iPhone).  If you don’t have institutional support, your mobile peers might also be your second line of tech support.  When your phone is misbehaving and an Internet search does not reveal the cure, you are more likely to ask around your group for help before you spend money at the Genius Bar or Geek Squad.

Customization: I know David mentioned that the Android beats the iPhone hands down on customization, and he is totally right.  But what you have to ask yourself is whether you really can/should customize. An iPhone is an iPhone is an iPhone, there is no difference between them except for different generations.  Heck if you sync through iTunes they all are running the same OS version.  Androids are the Wild West of customization.  Not all are created equally, not all phones are running the latest OS and not all are going to be upgraded to the latest OS.  You can download things to further customize your phone such as different fonts, icons, widgets, web browsers (I’m loving Dolphin right now), change/customize the boot animation (usually the carrier’s logo that shows when you reboot your phone), customize the lock screen, etc.  With great customization comes great responsibility, you can really accidentally do something that makes your Android a real pain in the butt and is hard to undo.  Right now I am trying to figure out what on earth I did that screwed up my Android so that my camera doesn’t work.  My camera won’t take pictures, every time I tap the camera icon I get the message “The application Camera (process has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.” I can sort “fix” it by rebooting the phone.  But that only works if once the phone is rebooted I go straight into camera (waiting an hour later I get the same error message) and I can only take 1-3 pictures before the camera app freezes and fails.  Now I did very little customization, but was it something I did that screwed it up?  Is it the OS?  Do I need to buy a bigger memory card?  All I want is for my camera to work. 

Not everyone should customize.  I personally would trade all of the damn customization in my Android for my camera to work again.  There was something very nice about having the limited customization of an iPhone.  I didn’t have to think, my phone just worked.  That is very enticing to a lot of people, many of which who don’t realize it.  But some people LOVE exploiting all of the possible ways to customize their phone…if that is the case then they need an Android.  But if you are an average person who just wants their phone to work and thinks of phone customization as the color of its case or different ring tones then just skip the whole customization argument and look at other arguments for iPhone vs. Android.

Address Book:  I would make this a mini point.  The Android uses Google Address book for your contacts list.  If you don’t use Google Address book or don’t want your Google Address book added to the contacts then get an iPhone.  iPhones also do a MUCH better job importing and syncing your contacts than Androids.  Just do a simple search on the Internet for Android and contacts and you get a whole bunch of pages about people having problems.  However, if there are other reasons why you like/want an Android the address/contact mess isn’t a deal killer, it is just a real pain in the butt that you will have to work at to fix.  It took me forever to straighten it out but once I got it fixed, it has since stayed fixed.

Hopefully the ZDNet article and my thoughts can help you decide if you are on the fence.  Both the Android and the iPhone are good devices that are making huge inroads in the medical profession.  Although work doesn’t pay for my device and it isn’t supported, I think I am better at helping the doctors and nurses in my institution with their (personal) smartphones and suggesting helpful tips, ideas, and apps.

MeSH 2012: Implications for LocatorPlus, NLM Catalog and NLM Classification

The National Library of Medicine adopted the 2012 MeSH for cataloging.  Therefore MeSH heading in LocatorPlus have been changed to reflect the new 2012 vocabulary.

NLM will publish an article soon “What’s New for 2012 MeSH and MEDLINE Data Changes for 2012” (will provide link as soon as NLM provides it).  However the Technical Bulletin did mention a few of the changes.

Medical Technology vs. Biomedical Technology: The specialty term Technology, Medical changed to Medical Laboratory Science so that it was less ambiguous.  “In examining the cataloging records assigned the heading Technology, Medical, we determined that it was better to change the MeSH heading to Biomedical Technology, rather than Medical Laboratory Science because, in the majority of the cases, this is the heading that better reflects the topic of these works. About 400 records where Medical Laboratory Science is more appropriate have been identified programmatically and will be changed after YEP.”

Publications Types: Addresses can now be used for PT.

New MeSH descriptors: “Cataloging does not use MeSH terms that represent corporate names or uniform titles that reside in the national authority file. Therefore, HapMap Project has the annotation: CATALOG: use NAF entry. Catalogers should use the NAF heading: International HapMap Project.”

For more information about the changes go to the NLM Technical Bulletin.

Few Posts This Week and Next

Yesterday our old Honda CR-V finally died.  It was 9 years old, had a 150k miles on it, and it lost the a/c 3 years ago. It wasn’t a huge surprise that it finally went, but still I had hoped to get at least 1-2 more years out of it.  So what does this have to do with library blogging?  Well right now all of my free time is now spent looking for a new car so that leaves little time for blogging.  Even when I do have time to blog, unfortunately my head is not in the right place because every 5 minutes my brain starts to obsess about the car situation. 

Next week is Thanksgiving week and not only is it a busy personal time, but there tends not to be a lot of earth shattering medical library news coming out either.  So I just wanted to let you all know that I will be posting, but for the next two weeks the posts may be few and far between.

Make Your Own QR Code and Mobile Website

Last week was a busy week for me.  Monday I attended a great class, “Information Anywhere: Mobile Technology, Libraries and Health,” taught by Technology Coordinator of the Greater Midwest Region, Max Anderson.  It was very interesting, we learned about various apps and devices used in the medical and health science workplace.  We also got a chance to create our own mobile friendly website using Google Site.  Google Site might be the perfect resource to create a quick and simple mobile website, but it would work in a pinch for most places that don’t have a lot of tech people who can easily create a whole new mobile website for the library.  The big thing to consider when beginning to create a mobile website is to remember that the mobile site is not a mini version of the full website.  It is a unique site that is used differently because of the size of smartphone screens AND the way/why we use our smartphone to access a resources. 

Another interesting part of the class was the discussion of QR codes.  I have been seeing these square codes everywhere, from grave markers, party busses, hotels, in the back of a book, and out on the street.  While have seen them  in a lot of places, and I have been thinking of the various ways they could be used in a meaningful way in libraries.  During the class we learned how we could not only create a QR code but also brand the code by adding our logo. Max slides showed a blue one with NLM in the middle, I couldn’t find that online but here here are some other examples of QR codes with logos. We also did some brain storming on how QR codes could be used in the library.  One example that really resonated with me was posting the QR code on the book shelves letting people to scan the code to learn about online textbooks that aren’t on the shelves.  Our library just discussed this problem last week in a staff meeting.  As we buy more and more online texts and even online reference texts how to we guide people to the updated books that aren’t on the shelf.  There are an awful lot of people who still do a lot of shelf browsing and don’t use the catalog to find books.  Perhapswe could add the QR code in an obvious area  on the shelves and have link to that stack’s subject area to online text books.  It is a thought.  I’m not sure how it effective it will be but if you could figure out how to measure usage of those codes that could be one way to measure if people are clicking on them. 

Is your library using QR codes, if so how?  Perhaps you aren’t using QR codes but you have an idea on how they can be used, leave a comment so we all can learn.