Thursday, April 23, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to be an Official Blogger at MLA

This Friday, April 24th is the last day to apply to be an Official MLA Blogger at the MLA Annual Meeting.

If you are on the fence about being a blogger here are 10 good reasons why you should be an Official Blogger.

10. Snappy Official Blogger ribbons to attach to your meeting badge. Consider it one of your 15 pieces of flair.

9. You can to kill two birds with one stone. Turn the notes you already have to take for your report back at home into blog posts that will get you AHIP points.

8. Free WiFi. Stop using your laptop as a digital divining rod to find a hotspot.

7. You don't have to have a laptop to be an Official MLA Blogger. Type 2 bloggers (those without their own laptop) can post to the blog and earn AHIP points.

6. Where else can you sip Mai Tais and tan on the beach while writing about libraries?

5. It is an easy way to call attention to your award winning photography skills by enhancing your post with your MLA flickr photos.

4. Your experience might give you some great ideas on outreach, technology, and communication that you can apply at your home library.

3. What else are you going to do when you are up at 2:00am fighting jet lag?

2. If we get enough bloggers our numbers might just rival those of the knitting librarians at the conference.

1. Great way to help connect those who had to stay home with the news and information from the Annual Meeting's programs and events.

Hurry, the deadline is April 24th!Follow the blog using the following RSS feed

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Online at MLA

You have just one week left to apply to be an Official MLA Blogger for the Annual Meeting in Hawaii. If you are going to the meeting and are interested in blogging, please consider applying. Your colleagues who are unable to attend will benefit from your experiences. Being an Official Blogger is a great way to get free wifi courtesy of MLA for the duration of the conference. Not traveling with a laptop? Don't worry, you can still be an Official Blogger if you don't have your own laptop. Hurry, the deadline is April 24th!

Follow the blog using the following RSS feed

The Official Blog is just one way to follow the events at MLA. A Twitter account has been set up for the meeting as well. The MLA 2009 Twitter account is mla2009. Following MLA 2009 on Twitter is very easy.

You can follow without signing up for a Twitter account. You can either go to the website and watch the posts, or you can subscribe to the RSS feed at

If you want to interact with people, comment, or pose questions then you will need to create your own Twitter account. Simply go to and join. Once you have joined and created a username go to Find People and type in mla2009. Click on the icon and then click Follow.

Just a few days before meeting mla2009 will "follow" all of its followers. That will allow everybody following on mla2009 to see each others posts and to view what is going on at the convention. If you plan to post about the convention please try and remember to use the hashtag #mla09 before you type. The hashtags index the thread so that it can be found and easier to follow.

Note: The Twitter website does not automatically refresh, so you will either need to hit the browser's refresh button every once and a while or you might want to look at some Twitter clients like twhril or TweetDeck which make managing your Twitter account a little easier.

Are you going to the meeting and are you planning on taking a lot of pictures? Please consider uploading to the MLA 2009 group on flickr. This will allow us to pool all of our photos into one group so everybody can see them.

Anybody can view the photos if they go to

If you want to post your photos to the group here's how:
  • You must have a flickr account
  • Once you have a flickr account and logged in you must join the group
  • Click the Groups tab and then Search for a Group. Search for MLA 2009
  • Click on the MLA 2009 Group and then click "Join?"
Once you have joined the group it is very easy to post your photos to the group. The easiest way to add a photo to a group is to go to your account home page and click on your photo stream. Then click on the photo you want to send to the group. Next, click the "Send to Group" button (located above the photo, between the photo title and the photo). Then choose the group you want to send it to, and you're done!

If you are sharing photos on the MLA 2009 Group please remember to tag them all with the term mla2009.

If you aren't going to the meeting this year, we will miss you. But at least you have some options for staying in touch and following some of the activities and staying up to date. Additionally if there is anybody else on the NPC or any of the Section Programs who is doing something online that will allow folks at home to follow along to, please leave a comment.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Interactive MLA Posters

In the past the posters from the annual meeting have been available in PDF form on a website. Well this year MLA is introducing interactive posters.

This year, MLA is excited to have partnered with Trapeze Media Solutions, a small business out of the University of Utah, in an exciting new effort to display your poster electronically. In addition to presenting in the regular poster session, the PDF of your poster will be displayed on interactive kiosks at the conference. These kiosks will allow other attendees to view your poster throughout the conference.

The kiosks will allow attendees to browse posters, search for keywords, and even ask questions and provide feedback. When an attendee selects your poster, they will be presented with a full view. When they click on any section with the mouse, that section will zoom in and allow the attendee to read the detail. Another click will zoom the poster back to the full view. A menu allows the attendee to switch between your poster and abstract and the text from both your poster and abstract will be indexed for searching. In addition to this new way of presenting your poster online, this new service can allow for more interactivity than printed posters, so you will also have the ability to include additional functionality.

The following things can be added to posters:

  • Movies, audio, PowerPoint presentations, and animations and attach them to specific parts of your poster

  • Include datasets and attach them to graphs or charts on your poster.

  • If a method and dataset is available, other researchers will be able to use that data and method to validate the results. Or they can use the data and their method. (Before making any dataset available, ensure that it is HIPAA compliant and allowed by your institution and IRB.)

  • Additional documents can be attached to specific parts of your poster.

Wow this is like the posters are beefed up and on steroids. I really like this idea. In particular I like the idea of being able to ask questions ahead of time. All too often the poster sessions are chaotic and inevitably I never make to all of the posters I want to make it to. This allows me to contact and ask questions of all the posters I am interested in.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twittering All Over

It seems you can't go anywhere recently without hearing about Twitter in the news. Astronauts are tweeting, a hospital tweeted updates during a hysterectomy, and even President Obama has a Twitter account.
USA Today reports traffic to Twitter has soared within the last few months. "Worldwide visitors neared 10 million in February, up more than 700 percent in a year. In the U.S., Twitter hit 4 million visitors -- up more than 1,000 percent from a year ago." This isn't just for the young. The article reports 45-54 year olds are the 36% more likely to visit Twitter.

I ran across two interesting articles on Twitter, "How to be a Better Tweeter," on cnet news and an article in BuisnessWeek, "Twitter: Building Businesses Tweet by Tweet."

I have a Twitter account and I tweet. I like it but I just don't seem to feel a connection with Twitter as I do with blogging or using email. I feel a like I could be a better tweeter. I enjoy following my friends. But as Twitter has become more popular more people have found me and asked to "follow" me. As a general rule I usually accepted people I knew or who had something to do with medicine or libraries. My smallish group of friends on Twitter has become a larger group of people, some I have met once, some I know of only by name, and others I have not met nor may never meet. As my Twitter world expands I have begun to question whether my tweets about a finding a good fish fry one Friday evening were really Twitter worthy. The cnet article has confirmed my personal suspicions, I could be a better tweeter. Not only do I need to start thinking about what I tweet but also remember to re-tweet interesting tweets within the Twitter stream and to use hashtags for hot topics.

Twitter is not just for individuals. A whole slew of groups, organizations, media outlets, and businesses are creating a presence on Twitter. Twitter is just another method for businesses to reach out to current clients or potential clients. The BusinessWeek article mentions how one consultant found 10 new paying clients within the last six months through Twitter and how a t-shirt company uses Twitterpic to help ordering customers see their designs ahead of time. Businesses aren't the only ones using Twitter to reach clients. Large group of libraries have also set up Twitter accounts as well. Curiosity got the better of me one day and I decided to search Twitter for all accounts with library in the name. There were 605. The vast majority were public libraries but I ran across 4 law libraries and 3 medical libraries. The two medical libraries I found were ucsf_library -UCSF Library Academic health sciences library, MDAndersonLib - MD Anderson Library The Research Medical Library serves the staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, fiumedlib - FIU Medical Library Medical Library of Florida International University College of Medicine.
There are a lot of hospitals and medical schools on Twitter, just a quick search on medical yielded 169 accounts and a search on hospital found 81. While not all of those accounts were medical schools or hospitals, a vast majority were. This got me thinking about medical library vendors, I did a short brainstorming session and did a search for as many companies and vendors that are used in medical libraries.

Here is what I found:
  • MHMedical -McGraw-Hill Medical Updates, news, special offers, and other tweets from McGraw-Hill’s Medical Editorial team.
  • McGrawHillTweet -McGrawHill Tweets Latest updates and news on publications from McGrawHill.
  • mdconsult -Medical news from MD Consult
  • 2collab - Elsevier's 2collab The research collaboration tool from Elsevier
  • SciTopics -Elsevier's SciTopics Research summaries by experts
  • elsmedstudents -Elsevier Med Student Resources for Medical Students from Elsevier, Student Consult & USMLE Consult, Netter
  • ELSORTHOPAEDICS - Elsevier Orthopaedic Elsevier produces the world's finest selection of health care textbooks, reference books, review books, periodicals, electronic titles, and online resources.
  • ELS_RADIOLOGY - ELSEVIER RADIOLOGY Elsevier produces the world's finest selection of health care textbooks, reference books, review books, periodicals, electronic titles, and online
  • pubmed
  • ncbi_pubmed -ncbi pubmed
  • cochranecollab -Cochrane Collab The Cochrane Collaboration: The reliable source of evidence in health care
  • BMJ_latest -BMJ - British Medical Journal aims to lead the debate on health, and to engage doctors, researchers and health professionals to improve outcomes for patients.
  • Scopus -Scopus (Fabian)Literature research database for everyone with a passion for Science
  • BiolSciNews -Wiley-Blackwell Sci The latest updates & news from the books, journals & online resources available from the Wiley-Blackwell Biological Sciences subject.
  • unboundmedicine / Unbound Medicine
  • NatureMedicine - Nature Medicine Nature Medicine is a biomedical research journal devoted to publishing the latest & most exciting advances in biomedical research for scientists and physicians
  • lippincott -Your medical, nursing and allied health resource.

Don't forget your fellow medical librarian Twitter accounts.

  • medlibs - Medical Librarians Group Tweet for Medical Library folk
  • mla2009 - Group Tweet for MLA2009 Annual Meeting
This by no means a complete and thorough search. Twitter's Find People Search is very limited and you are limited to doing only a certain amount of searches. I found their lack robust searching to be the most frustrating. The limit on searches was fairly high and I only ran in to it after to doing A LOT of searching for medical vendors on my brainstorming list.

So what does all of this mean? First I want to say if you aren't in to Twittering, don't worry you don't have to be. It isn't for everyone, even I am not sure if I am quite in to it. Should medical libraries start a Twitter account? For most libraries, no. I know, shock and awe that I said no to something so techie and 2.0ish. Even though Twitter is experiencing some rather large growth with people and businesses jumping into the Twitter stream, it still may not be the most effective place for most libraries yet. That doesn't mean it should be ignored, on the contrary, keep your eyes open and watch for if and when the time is right for your library. If you have a personal Twitter account, it might behoove you to follow another medical or academic library to see how they are using Twitter and think strategically before you implement. It is ok to experiment and play with technology, but I don't believe in adopting technology just for technology sake.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

The Usage, Value, and Impact of E-journals

Peter Scott's Library Blog directed me to the Research Information Network (RIN) report E-journals: their use, value and impact which looked at how researchers use ejournals and the impact and value to intitutions and the contribution e-journals make to research productivity, quality and outcomes.

According to Peter, many surveys have been done on how much researchers welcome access to online journals but until now there hasn't been an evidence based study giving a detailed potrait of the information seeking behavior, usage of online journals, and benefits of that use.

This report examined the log files from journal websites and data from libraries in ten universities and research institions in the UK.

The full report is available here:

E-journals_use_value_impact_April2009.pdf 2.09 MB
Aims_scope_methods_context_CIBER_ejournals_working_paper.pdf 490.02 KB
Journal_spending_use_outcomes_CIBER_ejournals_working_paper.pdf 1.44 MB
Bibliometric_indicators_CIBER_ejournals_working_paper.pdf 254.68 KB
Information_usage_behaviour_CIBER_ejournals_working_paper.pdf 1022.12 KB

I am still going through the report but here are some bits of information that I found interesting or bears repeating.

  • E-journals are used HEAVILY - The 13 yr old me that wants to say, "Duh we know that already." But I think this important to repeat because I have had conversations with librarians who don't think anybody is going to use the electronic journals. This report stated in four months the users of the 10 institutions visited nearly 1,400 ScienceDirect journals half a million times and viewed 1.5 million pages! This type of usage isn't limited to ScienceDirect. Users accessed Oxford Journals over 750,000 times and viewed over 600,000 pages in a year.
  • The vast majority of users get access to journals from third party sites such as PubMed and stay long enough just to download the full text. I think this is extremely important information for libraries and journal publishers. Libraries need to make sure their link resolvers and the PubMed linkouts are working correctly and publishers need to make sure they make it easy for third party sites to access their journals. LWW titles come to mind. If people are searching on Google or Google Scholar they are never going to hit the full text of an LWW title in Ovid.
  • Users are accessing the journals during non-working hours. Nearly a quarter of ScienceDirect use occured "outside the traditional 9-5 working day." Weekend use accounted for 15% of total use.
  • Google is a major player. Once journal content is opened up to Google for indexing, Google is then used by large numbers. Four months after ScienceDirect opened physics content to Google, more than a third of the traffic came from Google. Google popularity and usage further illustrated with Oxford Journals. Oxford Journals have been open to Google for quite a while and over half of their traffic comes from Google.
It is a very interesting report. I can't wait until I am finished reading all of it.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Follow a Conference on Twitter

Next week I am going to try a personal experiment. I am going to try and follow the HIMSS '09 conference on Twitter. I have a Twitter account and I used the "Find People" feature to find the HIMSS Twitter feed and I subscribed to it. There are over 1300 followers and 750 updates so far, and the conference has yet to start.

I am especially interested in following anything on the HIMSS Social Networking 101, Meet the Bloggers, and HIMSS Virtual Conference sessions.

HIMSS Social Networking 101
Facebook...Twitter...Linkedin...SharePoint...HIMSS Connect! With the numerous, and seemingly ever-growing, social networking sites available to us where does one go online to find HIMSS members? Join us for an in-depth exploration of the sites currently being utilized by HIMSS staff (and members) and learn how each provides their own unique way for you to connect online with your peers.

Meet the Bloggers
You've read their posts, you've commented on their ideas, now is the time to meet face-to-face. Join this uncommon experience and hear from bloggers themselves on what it takes to create, maintain and locate blogs regarding healthcare IT. This moderated roundtable is intended to discuss the responsibilities and dedication required to run a professional blog.

HIMSS Virtual Conference

What happens when you can't get away from work or simply don't have the budget to attend large, national conferences? Does it signal the end of learning, networking and professional development? No! Join us for a demonstration the attendee experience at a HIMSS' Virtual Conference & Expo as well as a discussion of the benefits of virtual conferences, such as: Synchronous online learning and live chat Dynamic, real-time participant movement in and out of exhibit booths and educational sessions Interactive attendee networking opportunities Vendor presentations.

The MLA has been working toward making meetings more virtual and available to those unable to attend. In 2008 the Annual Meeting had Webcast one of the Plenary Sessions, they had 10 Official Bloggers dedicated to blogging the meeting, and some some industrious fast fingered librarians started unofficially Twittering the conference which if my memory is right helped bring about the medlibs Twitter feed.

This year MLA will be trying to reach out to non-attendees again. Some of the developments that I know of are:

MLA 2009 Blog -I am still looking for more people. You know who you are, and you know you can blog. Applications are still being accepted so hurry up fill one out and blog.

MIS Top Technology Trends III Program Session - Has plans to have a virtual presenter, will be Twittering the session, and plans to accept Twittered questions.

MLA 2009 Twittered - You can follow the conference on Twitter using the MLA 2009 Twitter feed. It is an experimental method for us, twitterers will be your peers who happened to like to Twitter.

I am not sure of other plans, perhaps those who are in different areas of programing can share some of their methods to making the conference a little more available to non-attendees.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Libraries, Vendors and the Economy

Yesterday I attended my first meeting with the New England Journal of Medicine Library Advisory Board and it was very interesting. We discussed a lot of issues such as the future of medical journals, libraries, technology, and users/readers.
One of the more interesting discussions centered around the future and the transition of libraries becoming more than just repositories holding books and journals (printed matter) and the transition of journals to something more than just the printed hard copy.
This transition has been happening for some time but the economy and tightening of budgets has expedited this process. It has forced all of us to evaluate our ideas about our purchases, services, and roles. Do we really want buy print journals anymore when it costs so much in personnel time and salary to check them in, process them, and claim them. There is also the cost of binding and the cost of housing them. Keeping them on your shelves has a cost, because that space could always be put to use in other and possibly better ways. Printed material isn't the only resource facing scrutiny, databases, ILS, and other online resources must prove their worth as our role changes. Questions like, "Why are we paying for $ a database when we can get it free or cheaper from another company," are taken seriously. One librarian made the comment that libraries that have focused on and built themselves as large repositories could possibly have a lot of problems coming. Because the focus is turning away from the resources within the library and turning even more to the amount and the type of user services provided. Librarians have always provided services, but outreach is even more important now. Services gets you out of your library, gets you and your library noticed and better illustrates your value to the institution than a collection of books, journals and databases does. As libraries begin to increase the type and number of services they still need some resources. But librarians are now more focused on what resources support their services in the most economical way. This might mean that certain sacred cow resources and collections might be cut to keep other more useful or profitable resources.
Obviously this impacts vendors considerably, those hurt by the economy as well as those who have made profits despite the down turn. Just like the large repository institutions facing some very tough issues, I have got to think that the larger vendors are going to be in for some interesting times. Elsevier, Springer, Wolters Kluwer, EBSCO, etc. all are fairly big companies within publishing and library world. They each have various diverse subsidiaries. For example, did you know EBSCO also makes fishing lures? Some vendors have other non library and publishing interests, such as EBSCO, others do not.
There are vendors that are not as diverse and are still very heavy in the publishing and library world. These companies may find themselves in the same boat as libraries. This might get especially interesting when the subdivisions or subsidiaries of the parent company do not communicate. If they don't communicate well then they may not have created a plan as to how the subsidiaries can work together instead of against each other. For example, a significant increase in journal prices might not only cause a library to cut journal subscriptions but it might also impact the textbook division because the library may not also buy as many textbooks in order to afford the journals they didn't cut.
This happens with the purchase of databases. If a needed database becomes too expensive yet is critical to the mission of the library/institution the library usually offsets these costs by cutting other databases, journals, and textbooks. For example, if EBSCO significantly raised the price of CINAHL (which cannot be purchased elsewhere), many libraries who need CINAHL may end up cutting their journal titles (which would impact EBSCO if they were also that library's subscription agent) or quite possibly drop full text Medline in lieu of PubMed.
We are sort of used to seeing this happen with journal collections. For example, if you decide to purchase the online full text of LWW titles and cancel the print, it will cost more to get the online title. If you subscribe to a publisher's collection of titles you might be able to drop a few titles but you are obligated to spend the same amount of money on titles, essentially switching out or trading or titles. However, this method is viewed more as punitive measure among libraries and a preventive measure within the subsidiary, it usually only helps that division not the whole company.
Times could be difficult for these big companies. The reason I think this is that many libraries have already made quite extensive cuts in publications. The scuttlebutt around the library world is that libraries will be faced with even more budget cuts next year and quite possibly into 2011. Three years worth of cuts makes me think that nothing will be safe.
Therefore it is probably more essential than ever that large library vendors with subsidiaries increase their communication and partnership efforts so that they can work together. Because if one division increases their prices significantly they could be cutting the nose off despite the face of the overall company. Yeah that division is pulling down big profits but the other divisions suffer and the overall company suffers. When large companies buy out competitors and assimilate them, there will be some growing pains and communications issues. Once the dust has settled some companies have done a better job than others at communication, letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Some companies have not done so well and the subsidiaries appear to be completely independent of the larger corporation. These are the companies that will have problems.
Of course this is just all just my own speculation generated by a very interesting discussion about the economy speeding up the transformation libraries and journals. The examples I provided were just examples showing how almost everything is tied together. How the price a company's product can impact and directly influence (consciously or unconsciously) whether their other products are bought or cut. In this economy it is essential that we all investigate options.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why 2.0 Tech Fails

Meredith Farkas wrote an interesting post about the failure of some 2.0 technologies in libraries. She had a lot of good reasons but I think the most important reason is lack of strategic planning.
She states, "Some libraries jumped on the blogging bandwagon because they thought (or were told) that every library must have a blog. Other libraries started wikis because staff were really excited about the idea of having a wiki. Neither are good reasons to implement a technology. We first need to understand the needs of our population (be it patrons or staff) and then implement whatever technology and/or service will best meet those needs. We need to have clear goals in mind from the outset so that we can later assess if it’s successful or not. These technologies may be fun, but they’re simply tools. We don’t walk around with hammers looking for nails to smash in."
Exactly. I have been saying these things for quite some time. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. There are a ton of blog and wiki corpses littering the Internet these days and libraries have their fair percentage of them. Knowing about these tools AND when we need to apply them is the important message that gets lost sometimes. However, we can only do that if we keep our eyes and ears open. Running out and starting a blog just because everybody has to have a blog is about as helpful and effective as burying your head in the sand regarding technology. Neither extreme is good and libraries suffer as a result.
If you run out and adopt every new technology without a plan or some clear parameters, you increase the likelihood that your new endeavor might never take off or worse just hang in limbo like all of those out of date blogs, wikis, and delicious pages. How is that helpful to your user population? More importantly what else could you have been doing with that time and effort that would have been better for your patrons.
If you bury your head in the sand you run the same risks of not effectively helping or addressing the needs of your patrons. How many people would like to have a search feed sent to them or the table of contents? Without knowing about RSS and its possibilities you are limiting your patron and your options.

I think sometimes we would be better off if we just stripped the term 2.0 off of technology. We evaluate and plan other technologies, services, and upgrades in our libraries. Sometimes we plan them to death (but that is another topic). But when you throw in the term 2.0 it seems that sometimes we forget ourselves and jump to extremes. We either run out and adopt it automatically without question, or we bury our heads in the sand thinking "not another 2.0 thing."

Forget buzzwords and 2.0 terms. We need to know about the tools but we also need to remember to let the need choose the tool, not the tool choose the need.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Passive and Active Library

There is a trend underfoot. Libraries are moving away from being a passive to more active.
By passive, I don't mean that the librarians or staff were passive and just twiddling their thumbs. I mean that in the past the vast majority of library resources were housed within the library. Books, journals, databases, etc. were all inside the library. There wasn't electronic access. It wasn't too long ago that our databases were on CDs loaded on to individual computers. Even the most active and outgoing librarian who conducted many outreach programs, participated in grand rounds, taught educational sessions, and knew every patron's name still had a passive library, because the patrons had to come to the library to use the resources. The patrons were more active in their research, they came to the library, because they had to.

Now libraries are now becoming more active and the patrons are becoming more passive. With advances in technology a library's collection is no longer restricted to the confines of the library's physical space. The Internet allows librarians to create web pages to showcase resources. IP validation and open URL resolvers make it so anybody on the institution's network (physically or remotely) can access library resources. Patrons don't even need to be searching the library databases to get connected to the library's online collection. A Google search could bring up results from BMJ, JAMA, NEJM, or any other online journal and thanks to the "miracle" of institutional subscriptions and IP validation, the patron can get the full text without even realizing they were using the library. Essentially it is more like the library resources coming to the patron instead of the patron coming to the library, and I haven't even touched upon all the 2.0 technology tools which are supposed to reach out to the patron even more so.

Why is this such a big deal? Well the reason is that we are in the middle of a generation shift within the workplace. Ellen Detlefsen in MLA News (members only) writes about this generation shift within the library workforce. This is also applies to the library users as well. Seniors are defined as being born between 1925-1945. Baby Boomers were born between 1946-1964. Gen Xers were born between 1965-1980 and Millennials were born between 1981-2000. Now if my math is right, we have large chunk Gen X doctors and nurses working in our hospitals, and depending on their age and their chosen profession we have some Millenials too. The oldest Millenial is 28 years old. The vast majority of medical students straight out of undergraduate studies are Millenials. The oldest of the Boomers is 63 years old and looking towards retirement, maybe not in this year with the economy, but sooner than the Gen Xers.

So we have younger patrons, why is this such a big deal. This happens every generation. True, and with each generation are changes in society and technology that the previous generation did not experience. This is very noticeable right now the relationship our patrons have with technology. According to Forrester Research, technology is pervasive the life of a Millennial, using multiple communication devices is essential, and technology replaces the workaholic style.
Millenials are used to receiving information quickly from multiple sources and like process it immediately and have little tolerance for delays and expect speed from the Web. Older workers would rather receive information linearly, think about, digest it and have more patience when dealing with the Web and technology. If you think about it, this is how they use the library and search for information. You all have seen it, the resident who jumps onto Google stating they just need one quick good article on a topic. If they use the library for this, they are in and out of there and off to their next thing before you can glance at their badge to learn their name. Millennial patrons want information more at their finger tips, they don't want to have to go and get it. If they could upload information like the characters in The Matrix, I think many would think the giant plug in the back of their head would be an adequate trade off.

As our patron population has become more passive, preferring information to come to them or at least obscenely easy to find, our libraries have become more active by pushing access to resources beyond the physical boundaries and either finding patrons (RSS feeds) or making access easier.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Libraries Using Different 2.0 Technologies

Saturday I spoke about the promises and perils of web 2.0 technologies in special libraries. I focused on all of the ways special libraries are using technology and the common barriers that librarians encounter trying.
I think showing examples of what others are doing can be extremely helpful. It helps others see new applications of the technologies and perhaps can get them thinking about how some things might work in their institution. One size does not fit all, not every technology works with every library, but just seeing what others are doing can get the mind going. In preparation for the talk, I looked around the web to find examples of what other libraries are doing. I took screen shots of what was I thought was interesting and I added them into the presentation slides.
Librarians are busy! Most use these technologies in three ways general communication, current awareness, and reference.

Here are just a few of the examples I found of how librarians are using blogs, wikis, Twitter, IM, tagging, videos, etc.

Many libraries use a reference desk wiki or blog for internal or external communication such as listing the desk schedule, active issues, tick sheets, product reviews, policy changes, user education, and news and general information.

  • Jenkins Law Library - Their home page includes an information/news blog front and center. People can easily subscribe to these feeds by clicking on the orange RSS box.
  • medlibs and mla2009 - I haven't found anybody specifically using Twitter to communicate to library users I have found quite a few examples of peer to peer communication or chat collab. Medlibs and mla 2009 are two examples of librarians twittering back and forth sharing information and collaborating on ideas. The principle is similar to the listserv medlib-l but conversations are short.
  • Courthouse Libraries BC - They have produced YouTube videos demonstrating research techniques and strategies.
  • Cleveland Clinic Health System Libraries Wiki - The nine hospital system is using an external wiki as their web page for employees to use when they are off campus. It is still in beta as some of the kinks are being ironed before it is officially live and marketed to patrons.

Current Awareness and RSS:
Librarians are using RSS to keep themselves and their users up to date on information. This is seen most often in table of contents feeds, saved searches on databases, new additions to the catalog, and news (from the library blog as in Jenkin's Law Library's home page).

  • Ebling Library - They provide access to over 2400 RSS feeds to biomedical and health sciences journals.
  • PubMed, Ovid, EBSCO, and Scopus - These databases and many others allow users to save their searches as RSS feeds which will help notify them of any newly published research on their topic.
  • Lillian Goldman Law Library - New additions to the catalog are profiled on the library's blog page

Reference Aids:
Wikis and social booking marking tools make great reference aids. Libraries have created subject guides in wikis, subject guides within delicious, added tags within the catalog, and are helping users manage bookmarking the journal literature by using tagging sites like Connotea and CiteULike.

  • University of Florida Health Science Center Libraries - Their LibGuides page contains subject guides, course guides and other resources browsable by Subjects and by Popular Tags.
  • Health Sciences Library, Stony Brook - They use delicious as another tool to guide users to subject resources.
  • Courthouse Libraries BC New Catalogue - (in beta) Doing a search in their catalogue brings up the usual results but also brings up a word cloud on the left hand side that shows you related terms, spelling variations, translations, etc. Clicking on the words in the cloud allows patrons to explore the catalogue contents from that perspective.
  • Duke University Libraries - They have a nice getting started guide for Connotea and FAQs. They also have instructions for users to configure Connotea take advantage of Duke's full text article system, "Get it @ Duke.

As I mentioned these are just a sampling of what other libraries are doing out there with these new technologies. I am sure there are more great examples. If you know of another library doing something neat please be sure to comment to this post so that we may be able to learn from each other.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Medical Applications on Mobile Devices

Alison Aldrich on the Dragonfly blog published and interesting post on medical applications on mobile devices. She notes a report stating, "54% of U.S. physicians own a PDA or a smartphone, and more than half of them consider the device to be an integral part of their practice.

As these devices become more common, more of our patrons will be using them in the medical lives as well as their personal lives. Alison directs us to a newly recorded presentation by Shikun “KK” Jiang, Medical Applications on Mobile Devices, reviewing several free and fee-based applications for health professionals.

I thought I would add to the list:

  • I just received an email from McGraw Hill stating that AccessEmergency Medicine is available for mobile devices. Users can go to to use it. You need to use your MyAccessEM to login even if you are on their institution's wifi.
  • HeartIT Physicians can simply click on a web link sent via email by one of their colleagues, enter their password, and, for example, instantly view movies of a patient’s beating heart halfway around the world. They can even put their colleagues on speakerphone and carry on a medical consultation while simultaneously browsing through the imaging results.
  • Pubget allows you to search PubMed and get the PDF right away (if possible), works with institutional subscriptions to get the PDF.
  • MIMvista provides mobile medical imaging applications and software for radiologists and oncologists.
Libraries interested in providing a list of mobile medical applications should check out LSU Health Science Center New Orleans Ische Library. Their web PDA Resources web page is very extensive listing databases and software available on mobile devices. They also list which devices are compatible with each resource and whether it is free, paid or institutional resource.

There is so much out there, it is always nice to learn about new resources for the smart phone.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

MLA '09 Call for Posters for Late-breaking Poster Session

The 2009 National Program Committee (NPC) invites submission of abstracts for a special late-breaking poster session at MLA '09. Submissions sought include new technology trends that have recently emerged, innovative library programs, and notable projects or research that has taken place (or been completed) since the original October poster submission deadline.

Priority will be given to original submissions. Previously submitted abstracts should only be resubmitted if they include new information or results.

Authors are encouraged to submit a structured abstract and should use the late-breaking poster submission form to submit your abstract by Monday, March 16, 2009.

Twenty-five posters will be selected. Posters will be presented during the regularly scheduled poster sessions. The primary author will be notified of acceptance by email the week of March 23, 2009. The lead or presenting author must be identified at the time of submission and is expected to pay for that day's registration. Presenters will be required to staff their posters at their assigned poster session time.

Posters will be available for viewing during MLA '09. Posters and related handouts will be posted to MLANET prior to the meeting.

See the original Call for Participation (PDF) for additional information about poster boards and other information about the exhibition space. For more information about posters, see the frequently asked questions on the MLA '09 website.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Creating Survey Forms Using Google Docs

I needed to make a simple online form that could be easily linked to online and I could easily share with others. I have used SurveyMonkey and a couple of other products before, however this time I don't think they were going to work for me. As I mentioned I wanted something that I could easily share with others. Enter Google Docs yet again. I must have been snoozing in September 2008 when they added the ability to create, share, and store online forms, because I had no idea they did that too.

If you already have a Google Docs account it is very easy to create a form. Just click New and highlight form. It is a simple form, but it can serve many purposes. Janetta at Fusion Finds has created a very nice Camtasia video on how to use Google Forms. She published 2 screencasts on using this tool. The first one shows you how to create a form. The second screencast shows how to share the form, access the data, and edit the form (sometimes you have to hit the refresh button if it doesn't start right away).

If you are looking quick and simple form you can share that will also import the data into a spreadsheet, you might check out Google Docs Forms.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Going Retro With RSS

Last week Alison Aldrich at the Dragonfly posted a really helpful article on RSS and different delivery methods. She mentions how you can use RSS feeds to assemble PDF newsletters, email alerts, and to listen from podcasts on your regular cell phone.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cochrane Collaboration on Twitter

According to Alan at (the) health informaticist, "The Cochrane Colloboration have had a sudden rush of blood to the head - they are now on Twitter." They just started on Feb. 9th and already they have 55 followers. It appears some of their tweets are actually from their news feed which displays at the top of their web page. Interesting method for getting news out to people, I never quite thought of that.

This has me wondering about what other medical/health organizations or groups are using Twitter. I did a very unscientific and quick search on Twitter for anything with hospital. Here are the results. There are 26 Twitter accounts with hospital in the name, and some have quite a following.

  • HospitalGroup / Hospital Group This list is managed by Ed Bennett of @ummc and follows all official U.S. Hospital accounts - 363 followers
  • erlangerhealth / Erlanger Hospital Erlanger is a non-profit, academic teaching center affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. -272 followers
  • MHA / MS Hospital Assoc. Serving those who serve us all - Mississippi hospital employees. - 205 followers
  • stmarysmadison / St. Mary's Hospital Tertiary care hospital located in Madison, Wis. -155 followers
  • Doctors Hosptial in Columbus has two Twitter accounts OH_Doctors - 105 followers and doctorshospital - 96 followers
  • LakewoodHosp / Lakewood Hospital Lakewood Hospital is a community-oriented hospital located in the city of Lakewood on Cleveland's west side. -23 followers

Typing medical into the search produces 66 accounts, including medlibs - 178 followers.

I am not sure what to do with this sort of information or what it means for the future of medicine, libraries, and Twitter. I just find it interesting and something that I like to keep an eye on in case the future does produce something. The one bummer thing about Twitter is you kind of have to know the name of a person or group to find them and follow them. So unless you know an organization like the Cochrane Collaboration is on Twitter (and frankly I would have never guessed that they were) then you aren't going to find them very easily if at all.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ticTocs Journal Table of Contents Service

Finding a table of contents alert service as been a small ongoing personal project of mine. I still have yet to find a product on the market that does a good job. The most recent to hit the Internet is ticTocs. ticTocs is a free, easy to use site that researchers can use to keep up to date with their favorite journals' table of contents. There are 12,272 TOCs from 436 publishers linking to 333,977 articles. The TOC feeds can be read in your favorite feed reader.

Sounds great right? I decided to give it a try. ticTocs mentions that in order to get the full text of an article users must either have a personal or institutional subscription. I wanted to see how it handled accessing the full text of an article using an institutional subscription. Why did I do this? Most researchers subscribe to a few core journals, but they want the table of contents to more than just those few that they personally subscribe to. They want the table of contents and the full text to those articles. So any table of contents program really needs to figure out how to address people accessing the full text through an institutional subscription. ticTocs does not do this. They just link to the publishers' site. This works well for some journals, but for journals that have publishers like Lippincott Williams and Wilkins this is a problem. LWW titles are only available to institutions through Ovid, not through the the Lippincott site. Linking only to the publisher's site also does not address the myriad other ways institutions access full text articles, such as institutionally subscribed databases.

If a majority of a user's institutional online journal subscriptions come directly from the publishers' sites then they will be pleased with ticTocs. (Unless they are trying to access Lippincott titles. Come on Lippincott get with the program. Forcing institutions to access the full text through Ovid is inefficient and reflects poorly on your product.) However, if a user wants the TOC to one of the many other medical journals that are available through the institutions full text databases, then they are going to be dissatisfied.

I keep telling people that this is an area for some database company like EBSCO or Ovid to hit upon. All they have to do is create a method to see the current TOCs for journals indexed in MEDLINE, a library's link resolver would direct the users to the correct method of full text access. Just because I mentioned database companies doesn't mean the link resolver companies couldn't do this as well. Who knows perhaps a programming librarian could create a neat little customizable mashup that would work effectively.

Until then I will just keep looking for an easy method of accessing the TOCs and the full text articles.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Interactive Science Publishing

Wednesday I co-presented with Allan Cho on mashups in the biomedical library communities at the Association of American Publishers 2009 PSP Pre-Conference. I also had the fortune to sit in and listen to a variety of interesting other presentations. One of the neatest presentations I listened to was on Interactive Science Publishing.
What is Interactive Science Publishing? Think of it as the PDF on steroids. Currently traditional PDF articles aren't that different from the print. It may have links within the article (example: links to articles in the refrence section) but in general it is the same ol' article.

Enter the interactive article.
Imagine having the "PDF" of an article on congenital heart defects and be able to hear the heart sounds plus the video recording of the heart. The video would be more than just a snippet, it would be the entire video sectioned into "chapters" refrenced within the various areas of the article. So while you are reading the article you can click on the link within the text referencing the image, sound, etc. and the image immediately jumps to that section the video. Imagine the data behind a large randomized control trial available in its entirety to all readers to be manpulated, reused, and viewed.

Two different people presented on this new online journal structure. The first person, George Thoma, described the program they created which was one of ten semi-finalists in Elsevier's Article 2.0 contest. The second person John Childs, spoke of OSA's product which was developed in cooperation with the National Library of Medicine. Both products were very similar and very impressive. Currently you must download OSA's free software to view their interactive journals. The have already published several articles in this fashion in OSA journals currently indexed in MEDLINE. If you can't download and install software at your work computer, it is definitely worth trying at home just to get an idea of the all the possibilities and ways an article (and all the data, video, images, etc. behind it) can be viewed and used by readers.

While this type of interactive article is still a little ways away, it is jaw dropping at how the simple paper article can and will become so much more in the future. With all of the possibilities and opportunities this type of article presents, there still some questions to be answered.

There probably needs to be one standard for this new technology to become adopted. Readers are not going to want to download one type of reader to view one publisher's articles and another reader for a different publisher's articles. This is equally true for the submission of articles. Authors are not going to want to try and use multiple programs to submit their articles, data, and images. Changes regarding data sharing also must occur within the biomedical community. In the physics and mathmatical science world, researchers frequently share their data and use other people's data. Not so in the biomedical world, researchers closely guard their data because it is the ticket to their next grant funding. Sharing of biomedical research data would not only help research to grow at a faster and more productive pace, it will also help find those fraudulent researchers who expertly fake their data and publish their results in well know journals like Lancet. Having the data available for the world to look at and go through opens the research to another level of vetting that the actual peer reviewers might not catch.

Libraries and library vendors also have quite a few issues to think about and deal with regarding these new interactive articles. First, how will interlibrary loan work? There will be so much important information within the article that is digital and not available by traditional PDF means, how will that information be shared. A researchers getting just the PDF without the data behind the article would be like getting an article with a few pages missing. How will full text database providers deal with the interactive article within their database? Will they have rights to the videos and data sets? How will they build whatever interactive article software viewer that becomes the standard into their database? Would they need to?

Another big question (one many librarians don't like to talk about) is, what are the implications to the printed journal? I used to think that the printed journal would still be around in some way and the libraries would always get the printed journal. That trend is already beginning to change with just the average vanilla electronic journal. Libraries more and more are dumping printed journals in favor of online access and online repositories. The interactive journal article would speed this process up considerably. A related question would be what would be the institutional subscription vs. personal subscription access implications. There are publishers who give personal subscribers different and more inclusive access to information compared to what institutional subscribers are allowed to access. Would things like all of the research data in the interactive article be only available to personal subscribers?

The interactive article is still too far in the future for any immediate answers, but these questions and others are ones that will need to be addressed, because technology has made it possible for this kind of journal article to exist. It is only a matter of time before it or something like it becomes a reality.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Social Bookmariking Project: Call for Participants

(courtesy MidContinental Regional News)

For those of you in the MidContinental Region (Utah, Colorad, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri), Sharon Dennis, Technology Coordinator, and Rebecca Brown, Technology Liaison, are asking for volunteers to participate in a regional social bookmarking project. Social bookmarking is a Web 2.0 tool. Delicious is a social bookmarking site that allows you to bookmark a web page and add tags to categorize your bookmarks. Delicious can be used to tag any site that you feel is pertinent to your professional work and also of interest to medical librarians throughout the region.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, please e-mail Sharon at
sdennis[atsign]lib[dot]med[dot]utah[dot]edu or Rebecca at rbrown3[atsign]kumc[dot]edu.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rethinking Universal Searching

I was never a fan of universal search engines, after all I am a librarian and according to my husband anyway, I think differently. I find using MeSH and other controlled vocabulary systems to be extremely powerful when searching medical databases. I get frustrated and annoyed by various medical database vendors' universal searching, natural language searching, or basic keyword searching. After all, the medical databases I search were built upon controlled vocabulary and hierarchical subject headings and trees. I am fluent in MeSH, CINAHL, and EMTREE. Indeed searching these databases using the controlled vocabulary is almost like using another language. And there in lies the problem.

Regular searchers don't speak MeSH. For example: Until recently (2008) "cerebrovascular accident" was MeSH speak for "stroke." The term "pediatrics" refers to the medical specialty concerned with maintaining health and providing medical care to children from birth to adolescence, NOT the age group. These are just a few of the many examples of how the MeSH controlled vocabulary is not something regular library users would know.

Many medical databases vendors have built their systems to adjust for this. Many use some form of automatic term mapping to either force the searcher to choose a MeSH term or in the case of PubMed it automatically chooses terms and searches keywords unbeknownst to the user. Sometimes this process works very well for the user, other times the user scratches their head trying to figure out why "the stupid thing keeps spitting out more terms on a new screen."

Gone are the days when the librarian was the medical database and information gatekeeper. Doctors, nurses, and patients are hopping on the Internet searching for answers. Usually they come to the library when they want something beyond what they find on the Internet. They may want results that are beyond normal Internet results, yet they want the search process to be similar to Internet search or Google searching. Many of our medical databases aren't naturally set up for that kind of searching, that is why many of the vendors started adding universal searching, natural language searching, or basic keyword searching. Not surprisingly this created two different types of searchers that database providers must try to please, the expert searcher (medical librarian), and the basic searcher (normal people).

As a medical librarian I would tell you that I never use universal searching, natural language searching or basic keyword searching. Of course that would be a big, fat, red lie. I love Google almost as much as I love MEDLINE (remember my husband did say I think differently than normal people) and I use both almost equally. I use Google to search for things that are particular stumpers in MEDLINE. Often it starts my brain thinking in a different direction and I apply that to a new MEDLINE search which might yield different or better results.

I also use Google to search for non medical resources, and it is during these times that I am most like the average searcher. I am searching something very similar to a universal search engine to find information on subjects which I am not an expert searcher. Sometimes I am looking for an odd news article and while another journalism, public, or academic librarian may know the exact news database that indexes that specific paper, I don't and I don't necessarily have access to it. So I use Google. Other typical Google searches could be on home repair, business information, investments, minor questions about the law, etc. It is at these times that I can understand the easy searching appeal universal searching has for normal library users searching for medical information.

As I mentioned, more and more database producers are creating "simpler" search features for the average person. Libraries are also adding universal searching on their web pages or on their catalogs. For example: OhioLINK's front page features a universal search to find "a few good articles and books." Library users can search the "Next Generation Melvyl" at UCLA Library, a universal search engine that finds articles, books and many more resources. The University of Iowa Libraries' "Smart Search" will not only find books and article but it will also find images in their digital collections including the Hardin MD Gallery Collections.

Christopher Cox said, "boundaries are being blurred between the academic and commercial Web, between library resources, between the citation and the item itself. Students have no patience with these arbitrary boundaries; they want information, and they want it now, wherever it may be located." (An Analysis of the Impact of Federated Search Products on Library Instruction Using the ACRL Standards, portal: Libraries and the Academy. 6(3), July 2006, pp. 253-267.) Libraries users want and use universal searching, librarians need to adapt to provide other methods to help users to search for information rather than freaking out that their beloved database product now has a universal search, natural language search, or basic keyword search feature. Perhaps our education efforts should slowly be changing from always teaching the proper MeSH search strategies to how to find good information fast and to know when you to ask for help when you need more.

I tease my husband that he took the dead language Latin in high school, however what will MeSH and other controlled vocabularies be years from now? Only learned expert searchers seem to be the ones still fluent in MeSH speak, the average person is not. Latin didn't really die, it just evolved into other languages. Our language for searching is evolving too.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Twitter in Health Care

Friday Eric Schnell posted Microblogging the US Airways Miracle about an article in the Guardian by Caitlin Fitzsimmons describing how our society has moved from rapid to almost instantaneous information dissemination. The article points out that much of the early information, pictures and reports of the Hudson River plane crash provided came from the average person with a cell phone. Reports were flying in through the web on sites like Twitter. Janis Krum posted on twitpic (a site to share pictures on Twitter) and uploaded this now rather famous picture of the plane floating on the Hudson while tweeting, "There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy." His tweet was posted only 6 minutes after the plane landed in the river (official timeline: 3:30:30: The plane touches down in the water). According to the Guardian article, within 10 minutes other twitterers were posting about the plane and linking ot Krum's tweet. Fitzsimmons writes, "Twitter proved itself as an excellent news aggregator, pointing me to links to the best media coverage. I particularly appreciated the live video streaming on and among others."

Eric mentions that this news media phenomenon is "referred to as mobcasting or citizen media reporting like that which occurred during the Virginia Tech tragedy, the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, or even a power outage that occurred yesterday in Toronto. A person even twittered while still on a plane as it burned on the runway in Denver in December 2008. Heck, even Santa Twittered. "

I have been twittering for a little while. I have yet to really figure out what voice I want within it. Do I want to have a professional twitter feed keeping people updated with library news, activities, and things similar to this blog? Or do I post about non library events like I did during the inauguration today? I enjoy hearing from other people and keeping up with events, but I am still trying to find my twitter legs.

What is hard to think of is how Twitter might be used within medical libraries or health care. John Sharp directed my attention to an interesting article, 140 Health Care Uses for Twitter by Phil Baumann. The article acknowledges that health care twittering does have some challenges (confidentiality, legal, etc.) but Baumann believes the advantages and possibilities of health care twittering far outweigh constraints brought on by these challenges unique to the health care world. Only by exploring twittering ideas and methods can these issues be addressed and handled appropriately. The list is more of a brainstorm of the 140 possible uses Twitter can play in health care.

I am not going to list all 140 ideas (if you want the full list go to the article), some on the list are similar to each other and really could be lumped together, which is what I did. Here are some I found to especially helpful and could be implemented fairly easily and other uses that I had previously never considered.

  • Disaster alerting and response - You already see this to a certain extent with college campuses and text messaging services. Not hard to think how this can move to the Twitter medium.
  • Alarming silent codes (psychiatric emergencies, security incidents) - Another very good method for informing people that is already texted to people.
  • Augmenting telemedicine - Twittering doesn't have to be by itself, I can imagine it serving as closed caption or commentary for online videos or as a discussion area separate from the actual lecture script/text being shown.
  • Biomedical device data capture and reporting - Interesting. I had a friend who was pregnant and on bed rest, she had to call a phone number so that her medical device could download specific information to some computer.
  • “Quick and dirty” diagnostic brainstorming between physicians (e.g. ’symptom clustering’), Clinical case education for (residents following attendings), Physician opinion-sharing - As long as patient confidentiality is maintained it could be another way to communicate and brainstorm.
  • Remote wound care assistance, Rural area health care communication - Didn't we just have a doctor who performed an amputation following text messages? Is this much different?
  • Transmitting patient data to patients who are traveling abroad, Patient-information retrieval, Micro-sharing documentation for advanced medical directives, Micro-sharing of pertinent patient information, Micro-sharing of diagnostic results (blood tests, echocardiography, radiological images) - Not for Twitter per se but it might work within a closed microblogging application unique to the institution.
  • Updating patient family members during procedures, Live-tweeting surgical procedures for education - Holy crow, this has already been done. First Live-Tweeted Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital @HenryFordNews.
  • Real-time satisfaction surveys with immediate follow-up for problem resolution - Huh never thought of that.
  • Live-tweeting medical conferences, Following ad-hoc conferences on eHealth like HealthCampPhila - There are conference twitterers already. A few people at MLA Chicago experimented last year and MLA Hawaii already has created an account.
  • Posting quick nursing assessments that feed into electronic medical records (EMRs) - Defintiely can't be Twitter, but can definitely be a closed system that works within the EMR. Might be useful area within the chart with certain guidelines and such.
  • Discussing HIPAA reform in the age of micro-sharing - Of course!

Just some interesting ways that people are thinking about using Twitter in the health care world. Do you have any ideas that Phil missed? What about libraries, how can libraries might use Twitter?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Libraries and IT: Why Can't We Just Get Along?

This is a common reoccurring topic among libraries, especially among hospital libraries. There is a very interesting podcast from the Chronicle, "Tech Therapy: Why Can't Librarians and IT Departments Just Get Along?". It is a little more focused on academic library relationships with IT departments, but there are a lot of interesting points and questions raised that hit across the board to all types of libraries. The co-hosts Scott Carlson and Warren Arbogast discuss some of the differences and similarities among the two departments. Some of the differences are social (male and female, older generation and younger generation) while other difference are primarily department focus (libraries tend to be mission driven while IT departments are task driven). Surprisingly to some people, there are some striking similarities between the two groups. These similarities can be how the interact with their clientele, rapidly changing work environment, job/profession security and value to the overall organization. I think what is most interesting are the anonymous comments the co-hosts solicited from librarians and IT regarding each other.

Max Anderson at the Cornflower blog posts about Social Software as a Malicious Tool. He describes the difficulties many medical libraries have accessing social software tools like blogs, wikis because their IT departments.

Perhaps by knowing the a little more about the differences and similarities between the two departments we can have a better understanding as to how we can get things done together. I am often asked by various people how they can get IT to listen to them or to approve of something. There is no magic formula and it might take a long time for success to happen. But you will increase your chances for better communication and getting the services you need by educating yourself about the product, going to IT early (before you decide to actually adopt the product), polite persistence, and presenting the big picture.

This doesn't work every time. There have been plenty of times I have sent emails repeatedly to my IT guy and they go unanswered. I wonder if he left the company, then out of the blue I get an email from him about something totally different. Frustrating, unfortunately the library isn't always their top priority. That is when I resort to calling them or sending the email to another IT person while CCing the non-responder. Sometimes this helps.

In the end I have found patient persistence to be the best way to get things done with IT.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Mobile Web

Ok, I am back in Cleveland after my brief one day trip to Boston. I wish I could have stayed longer but previous plans kept me from extending my trip. As it was, I almost didn't make it back home. Me and six of my airplane buddies literally had to run from one terminal to the end of another terminal to try and make our connection to Cleveland departing in 15 min. (It also happened to be the last flight of any airlines to Cleveland.) The airline industry has definitely changed, no help from gate attendants who handed us a new ticket for a flight leaving at 7:00am the next day and told us we weren't going to make it in time to our gate last night. My six new friends and I decided we would rather give it a shot and see the door closed rather than accept defeat. While the airline was less than helpful, I have to say other travelers and airport personnel were very helpful as we sprinted to our gate.

Now after a few Advil and a mental note to workout a little bit more, I have begun to think about some of the other speakers and their presentations.

I found the presentation from Andrew Yu, the Mobile Devices Program Manager for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, especially interesting. Andrew and his team are responsible for developing MIT's integrated mobile web site, The site is designed work on several mobile devices (i.e. smartphones) to assist with basic services on campus. Here he describes his vision for mobile computing at MIT. The site focuses on providing faculty and students with necessary information at their finger tips. It is not research information, it is information that makes working and attending school at MIT just a little easier. Shuttle bus schedules, class information, professor contacts, maps, etc. are all available and very very easy to read and access.

They recorded our presentations and I will link to it when it is available, because my little description just won't quite capture how cool his project is.

I found his presentation so interesting because I could immediately see how hospitals could implement something similar for patients and families. Many of these people spend lots of time in the hospital with their sick relative. Think of how helpful it would be to have a map of the hospital (interior and exterior) along with parking information, cafeteria information, doctor and appointment contact information, all available on the phone. Hospitals could expand that by including a map of the nearby surrounding with hotel and restaurant information.

Take a look at the site, see how easy it is to navigate and how potentially informative it is. Then think about the possibilities something similar might do for your hospital or quite possibly your library.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mobile Medical Applications

Today I am speaking in Boston at Simmons College for the New England Chapter of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (NEASIS&T). The program, Mobile Mania: Developing Information Services for Portable Devices, will have five people (including myself), speaking about portable digital devices. I will specifically be speaking about mobile medical applications. I want to share one very good and interesting article that I found while preparing for this talk. (Here are my slides if you are interested. I just found out that they will be recording me. If it works out I will try and add the audio of my presentation to the slides.)

Surfing the web: practicing medicine in a technological age: using smartphones in clinical practice. Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Jul 1;47(1):117-22. PMID: 18491969. (not free full text)


Mobile technology has the potential to revolutionize how physicians practice medicine. From having access to the latest medical research at the point of care to being able to communicate at a moment's notice with physicians and colleagues around the world, we are practicing medicine in a technological age. During recent years, many physicians have been simultaneously using a pager, cellular telephone, and personal digital assistant (PDA) to keep in communication with the hospital and to access medical information or calendar functions. Many physicians have begun replacing multiple devices with a "smartphone," which functions as a cellular telephone, pager, and PDA. The goal of this article is to provide an overview of the currently available platforms that make up the smartphone devices and the available medical software. Each platform has its unique advantages and disadvantages, and available software will vary by device and is in constant flux.

I like this article for two main reasons:

  1. It specifically speaks about smartphones. Most of the research out there is about 2-3 years old despite having 2007 and 2008 published dates. These older articles mention PDAs as the main handheld devices in use. This is no longer the case, we are in the midst of a major change from PDA's to smartphones. In 2007 PDA sales fell by 43% while smartphone sales increased by 60%.

  2. They review 6 out of the 7 smartphone operating systems, Google's G1 Android and the 3G version of the iPhone were unavailable. The authors mentions each operating system's strengths and weaknesses as a whole. Additionally they mention which systems tend to have the most medical applications available.
If you are helping a doctor or nurse decide what smartphone they might want to purchase you might want to forward them this article. In addition to the phone's operating systems and medical resource compatibility, they have to be aware of cell phone plans/charges and what their institution supports. Interesting note: A lot institutions only support Blackberry's for institutional email access, but according to the article, "Blackberry devices still lag somewhat in availability of medical software." So one might have to make some trade offs in functionality and institutional access depending on the device and institutional support.

For those of you who have IT's ear or any IT department readers, you might want to check out the following article:

CIOs will need to support an array of mobile devices and applications. With no dominant applications, healthcare IT executives must provide clinicians with maximum flexibility for their mobile needs. Healthc Inform. 2008 Feb;25(2):54, 56. PMID: 18320880 (free full text)

Perhaps those IT departments that only support Blackberry access might take a lesson from this article as well as from Yale who supports email access for several types of phones but does say to those who "have a need to use a PDA or SmartPhone to send or receive ePHI or other information that may be considered confidential or sensitive, please consult with their IT support provider for recommendations."

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Kindling Medical Texts

Kindle is's e-book reader which according to various market reports has been flying off of Amazon’s shelves. Released November 2007 the first Kindles were sold out after five and half hours, even with $399 price tag. Kindle users can download content from's Kindle store and Amazon offers an service that converts HTML, Word docs, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP to Kindle format (AZW). Audiobooks in MP3, Audible, and Audiobooks can be listened to on Kindle through USB or SD card.

Some libraries public libraries have already started circulating Kindles and there are some questions among the public library community about the legalities of circulating them. According to Rochelle Hartman customer service agents have provided contradictory information about loaning Kindles. While Drew Herdener, Amazon spokesman, told LJ that libraries could loan a Kindle without content is but sharing a device loaded with content "with a wide group of people would not be in line with the terms of use." Of course librarians are asking what constitutes "a wide group of people." Diane Lapsley, Assistant Director of Sparta Public Library has received no word from Amazon regarding the library loaning Kindles. The LJ article quotes Lapsely, "All we see ourselves doing is providing a great service—and advertising the heck out of their product."

So why does this matter to me the medical librarian? Well in last few weeks I have been running across some interesting blog posts, articles and other bits of information that mention the use of Kindles in the medical community.

John Halamka, CIO and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, mentions implementing Kindle support for all of their 20,000 educational resources and HMS on his blog, The Health Care Blog. You read that right, twenty thousand. Users enter their Kindle account into the MyCourses Kindle set page and can click on any "My Kindle" resource to sent to the device.

That is all fine and dandy but if the publishers have got to be on board, because if there isn't any medical content then there is going to be little use for them in a medical institution. The good news is, publishers are coming to Kindle. According to Inside Higher ED, Princeton University Press, Yale University Press, Oxford University Press, University of California Press are all publishing books available through Kindle. Additionally, CNET reports that Amazon is working on new models of to support the academic side of things.

Just browsing the medical subject section of the Kindle Store there are already quite a few books that are found in academic medical libraries and hospital libraries.

For example:

Browse the Kindle Store for medical titles isn't the best. There are a lot of consumer health titles intermixed with medical texts and sometimes you have to watch out for the edition. While many of the titles appeared to be the most recent there are a few listed which have more current editions in print. For example Surgical Anatomy and Technique: A Pocket Manual, this Kindle book is for the 1994 edition, but the most recent version is actually the 2000 edition.

Of course at $399 a pop, plus the cost of the Kindle book, could be an awful pricey ebook model. Kindle is also a closed device. That means only Kindle books work on Kindles. So what does that mean to libraries who subscribe to various ebook collections through other vendors such as Ovid, Springer, Rittenhouse, Unbound Medicine? I don't know. My guess is that those couldn't be converted to be read on the Kindle. (Please anybody more familiar with ebook correct me if I am wrong or feel free to elaborate more.) Not only are the price and the format a possible barrier for adoption within medical libraries, there are some that believe Stanza and the iPhone might actually kill the Kindle.

A recent Forbes article reported the iPhone is more popular than Kindle and with the new Stanza application (freely available on Apple's iPhone Apps Store) is entering into Kindle's territory as a competing device. The iPhone App Store reports Stanza has been downloaded more than 395,000 time and is installed at a rate of 5,000 copies per day. The Forbes article reports that Citigroup estimates that Amazon will sell around 380,000 Kindles in 2008. Jane McEntegart on Tom's Guide thinks the growth of Stanza is due in part to iPhone's already strong popularity and the fact the iPhone is more versatile than Kindle. "For a start, the iPhone does the three things Apple feels everyone sees as a necessity: Phone, Internet, mp3 player. Phone calls, mobile browsing and music are all mandatory and any of the third party applications available from the App Store are extras you can add on if you want them. If you want Tetris, you can have Tetris, if you don’t, no one is going to try and sell it to you. The Kindle does one thing and some think that’s where it falls down."

Stanza and its books are currently free, which is another reason why you see so many downloads. Yours truly downloaded Stanza on to the sparkly new iPhone. Where Stanza falls for medical libraries is the book selection. Currently Stanza does not yet support books encumbered with Digital Rights Management. Most medical books are not free and have copyright and digital rights associated with them. According to the Forbes article Marc Prudhommeaux, Lexcycle chief executive, is working on deals with major publisher to provide newer ebooks for a fee. He claims, that once that happens the iPhone users will be able to shop, buy and read books just like they do with Kindle.

So what is a medical librarian to do? It is very confusing. But it is definitely something to keep an eye on and keep in the back of your brain. It has the potential to add another layer to ebooks.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

ebrary and Matthews Books Team Up

Matthews Book Company and ebrary have joined together to distribute medical and allied health ebooks. Titles are available for purchase under a single or multi user access model. some of the titles include the following:
  • Advancing Your Career: Concepts of Professional Nursing
  • Mayo Clinic Concise Textbook of Medicine
  • Molecular Targeting in Oncology
  • Pharmacotherapy Principles and Practice
As of September 15, 2008, more than 11,000 e-book titles are supposed to be available through Matthews. Despite this, it does not appear Matthews and ebrary are ready for libraries to start purchasing e-books.

I went to the Matthews web site and unfortunately you can't browse the list of e-book titles. The only way you can see if something is available electronically is to search by title and if it comes up and says single user or multiple user then it is available electronically. (Example: Mayo Clinic Cardiology) Unfortunately when you click on the title for the single or multiple user version you get kicked back out to Matthews home page, so you have no idea about price or licensing.

According to the press release on ebrary's site, libraries will have the ability to purchase individual titles or subscribe to subject collections. Unfortunately I do not see where customers have that option. Their most recent title list for their Academic Medical Collection is from April 2008 (before the Matthews and ebrary joint venture).

I can't give you any details about pricing or licensing for individual titles or collections since neither Matthews nor ebrary decided to have information readily available on their websites despite going live with the project a week ago.

Electronic books are really becoming quite popular and I think consumer demand is slowly starting to rise. I am always interested in learning more about various electronic collections from different companies. It would be nice to have a specific link on Matthews web site just for the e-titles and collections. I think searching for the e-books individually through Matthews as one would typically search for a traditional print title is a poor search and retrieval method for e-books. It is additionally poor planning not to have the links to the e-books active. Dumping the person back to the main page does not encourage somebody to buy a title. I think ebrary should have updated their electronic textbook list with the additional titles and Matthews information. Their current (April 2008) list is just a PDF, it should not take that much time or effort to create the same type of PDF list.

I will keep ebrary and Matthews on my radar screen for now. Hopefully they will get their act together, update their sites and fix the ordering (i.e. when I click on e-book title, I go to the title not back to the main web page) and I can give you more information. If that occurs soon then I will write an update post.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

iPhone or iPod Touch and Medical Applications

It just so happened that last Friday when John Halamka posted about the iTouch for his "Cool Technology of the Week," I also happened to come across the abstract to the journal article "The iPhone in Medical Libraries," by Colleen Cuddy. I just received Cuddy's article from ILL and both Halamka's post and Cuddy's article are interesting and compliment each other nicely.

In this post Halamka primarily writes about the iPod Touch which is similar to the iPhone but with that pesky (and expensive) AT&T phone plan. Halamka describes the iPod Touch as a "game changing device." He lists several reasons, but I think the primary reason is consumer choice. I think as new students and residents come up, you will see people who are already familiar with iPods and less familiar with Palm and PocketPCs. Many probably had iPods before and they see the iPod Touch as familiar device that can fulfill their needs better than previous handheld devices. Essentially they have grown up with the technology. Just as they were needing a handheld device for information retrieval, the iPod line evolved and grew with them to include wifi enabled device for information retrieval. While the Palm and PocketPC devices were around, they did not become ingrained into and evolve with that generation.

So we have a cool new toy, but are there any real medical applications that people can use on them? Cuddy's article lists several companies that have been keeping up with mobile technology and have products for the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The two big providers are Unbound Medicine and Skyscape, who also happen to be some of the first companies dealing with medical software for the Palm and PocketPC. As Cuddy notes, the iPhone does not allow for programs to be uploaded or external memory cards. Therefore all of the applications must be online and Safari (Apple's browser) compatible. Both Unbound Medicine and Skyscape have many titles listed for the iPhone. The popular product Epocrates however is behind the game regarding the iPhone. The only version to work on the iPhone is the free version of Epocrates, which according to Cuddy is "essentially a basic drug look up." She also states that Epocrates will be doing more in the future for iPhone users, but I just looked on their website today and it appears they still only have the free version available to iPhone users. UpToDate released a Safari compliant version of their product. Since UpToDate off campus is fairly cost prohibitive to most institutions, I only see doctors using it while at the hospital or their own personal copies.

Don't forget about Apple's own download site. While programs cannot be physically installed like one does with a Palm or Pocket PC, they can be download from a variety of places like Apple's download site. One such program is OsiriX, an image processing software dedicated to view images (MRI, CT, PET, PET-CT, etc.). It is fully compliant with the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine).

The iPhone may have started out as a fun toy but it appears to be making strong headway into the medical handheld arena.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Wiley Promoting EndNote Over Other Citation Management Programs?

One of my colleagues was looking up the Instruction to Authors information for the American Journal of Hematology. Right below the heading Instructions To Authors is, Wiley's Journal Styles and EndNote.

Clicking on that link, you will see the page below:

The image is kind of small on my blog for space purposes, but if you click here you can see
a larger screen shot I saved on Flickr.
"Use EndNote software to simplify and streamline your research. EndNote's bibliographic management tools let you search and download from databases like Medline, and save you time by keeping your reference collection organized. Use EndNote to instantly output your bibliography in any Wiley journal style!"
Now to me that certainly sounds like Wiley endorsing one bibliographic management tool over another. It would be one thing if they said something like, "Use a bibliographic management tool such as EndNote, RefMan, or RefWorks to simplify and streamline your research..." But they don't.
Not only are they endorsing the product but they are displaying a woefully out of date version of EndNote.
I am all for an Instruction to Authors page having clear citation and reference instructions with links or mentioning the style used in various bibliographic management programs. After all our own professional journals often have confusing and various styles listed. They rarely mention bibliographic software at all, let alone allow you to down load the style for use. I just find it slightly hinky when a publisher promotes one product over others in order to submit an article.
Perhaps Wiley just wanted to clear up confusion and decided it was easier to link to one style for one program. But is seemingly endorsing specific product to be used by authors the way to do it?


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Library Blog Study

Walt at Random is conducting a study on library blogs, The Liblog Landscape, 2007-2008: A Lateral View (may or may not be the final title). He is just finishing up Phase 1 of the study which is to identify liblogs that should be a part of the study and doing blog level metrics for those blogs.

If you know of a blog or blogs (perhaps your own) that meet the criteria for the study and aren't currently on his list you can send him an email and request it to be included. Deadline for submission is this Friday, September 12, 2008.

For more information check out his blog post New libr* blogs? A one-week limited-time request. Let's make sure the medical librarian blogs are represented. :)

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Monday, September 08, 2008


John Sharp added to my Word of the Day Calendar by asking what my thoughts were on apomediation in health care. Apomediation is a new scholarly and social technology term that characterizes the process of disintermediation.

Disintemediation is the removal of the intermediary from the process. In other words "cutting out the middleman." A common example is consumers using the Internet to purchase goods or services directly. Before the Internet, many people relied upon travel agents to get the best deals on airline tickets and vacations. Now days people often book directly online, bypassing the travel agents. Of course the Internet also has acted as intermediary or enabled a different type of intermediary to develop.

An intermediary is a third party who stands in between a consumer and a service, often acting as sort of middle man for the consumer to obtain goods or services by a supplier. For example Autozone serves as the middle man should I want to buy new window wipers. I can't exactly go to the factory and plunk down my credit card and purchase a set so I rely upon Autozone to purchase some from the factory and have them availble for sale.

Apo is latin for spearate or off. An Apomediary would be somebody who is seperate from the process but available should the consumer need help. Gunther Eysenbach goes into great detail about apomediation and Medicine/Health2.0 in his post, Medicine 2.0 Congress Website Launched (and: Definition of Medicine 2.0 / Health 2.0).

In the health context, disintermediation (cutting out the middleman) means
a more direct access of consumer to their personal data (e.g. in web accessible
EHRs – left circle of the diagram) and general medical information (on the web –
right circle of the diagram) with all its advantages and hazards. The main
problem of cutting out the gatekeeper is that the traditional role of the
middleman is to guide consumers to relevant and credible information (the
intersection of both circles in the center of the diagram
) and that by bypassing
the middleman consumers/users may “get lost” in the vast amount of information.
Apomediation theory conceptualizes that “apomediaries” (which includes Web 2.0
approaches) can partly take over the role of the intermediary and “push” or
“guide” users to relevant and accurate information.

As you can see from the diagram librarians and health professionals are labled as intermediaries. While Eysenbach lists friends and online users as apomediaries (the blue green dots sprinkled around the dotted funnel) he primarily focuses on online programs and tools which act as the middleman. Some of the examples he gives are Digg, CiteULike, and the ratings. Eysenbach further states, "health professionals now partly bypass traditional intermediaries such as information brokers or librarians. I remember that when I was in medical school I had a summer job as information broker, where health professionals or scientists would call or see me and I would do an online Medline search for them. "

He acted specifically as an intermediary funneling informaiton to people. He believes things have changed since then. "Today, people obviously use PubMed and other Internet tools directly, and search the web and/or the library for relevant information. But what is "relevant", and how can we deal with the onslaught of information? The "apomediaries" here are shared bookmarking tools such as CiteULike or Connotea, where people receive pointers to recently published relevant literature based on what others with a similar citation/bookmarking behavior have cited/bookmarked." Of course can use CiteULike to your heart's content but if your library didn't purchase the online access to the journal you aren't going to be able to read it to cite it. So merely pointing to the relevant literature may not always fulfill your informational needs.

While I agree that these type of online tools have helped guide people to information and have served as a sort of apomediation function, I disagree that librarians are all intermediaries. I have always thought of my self as an apomediator (even though I had never heard of the word until now). Health professionals do not have to come to me get information, but when they do I guide them (or provide them) to the needed resources and information. Those health professionals that do not specifically come to me for my services are using resources that we create or provide that help them find the information. We are not directly consulted but the tools we have created, paid for, licensed, displayed, are in fact still used to find information. One example is Ebling's Library Tool Bar which is a tool bar plug in to help find information using tools that other Ebling users have found useful. Other librarians have created accounts for users to peruse and help patrons get RSS feeds to searches and journal table of contents. So does that mean librarians are still intermediaries because the tools we create are guiding the users, or are we apomediaries who stand by and create products and guides to push people in the direction when needed?

Are librarians truely intermediaries or are we a combination of an apomediary and intermediary?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Virtual House Cleaning

The school year has started and in our family that means that it is time to put away some of the summer play clothes and begin to make room for fall and winter clothes. Determine what will get packed away for next year, what will get donated to charity, and what will get handed down to the little brother.
The same is kind of true with my online world. Instead of packing up the sunscreen and swim suits, I am looking at my RSS feeds, SDIs, and account. I find that I need to do this once or twice a year to keep things fresh and current. Those of us who have SDIs on MEDLINE are well aware that we should look at them once a year after NLM has finished with their Year End Processing. The same can be said for RSS feeds and

I subscribe to about 150 feeds. That is a lot, but there are quite a few feeds in that list that are probably dead. The blogger stopped blogging long ago and like that favorite pair of jeans that I can't quite fit into I am reluctant to give it up. Usually these dead blogs didn't just cease all of a sudden, posts gradually became more infrequent until one day they stopped all together. There was something that attracted me to each blog, it could have been funny, insightful, or it covered a topic of my interest. I hold on to the feed out of hope that the author will some day begin posting once again. Just like those old jeans in my closet, the dead blog feeds hang in my Bloglines account taking up space and adding to the clutter.
In addition to the dead blogs are active blogs that I really don't read any more. Sometimes they have served my informational needs and I no longer need them. Most often my though, I find that my tastes have changed and I am not as interested in them as I once was. Like the totally cute green sparkly high heeled shoes that I had to have last year, they have been pushed to the back in favor of my new interests. Not to say that the blog or the green sparkly shoes aren't still great, I am just not as interested in them any more. Should I keep the blog in Bloglines on the off chance that it piques my interest again, or should I remove it from my collection like I did to make room for the sleek little patent leather peep toe pumps?
There is also the matter of organizing this information. My Bloglines is simple, it is broken into 4 main categories, medical library stuff, library stuff, fun/humor, and searches. Every blog within the category is arranged alphabetically. It is in much better shape than my closet. My account is my dirty little librarian secret. It is almost in worse shape than my attic was a year ago. As a librarian I love the concept of adding tags and organizing my Internet sites. I love how I can call them up on any computer and share them with friends and family. As a librarian you would think that I would stick to my own controlled vocabulary style and have some method to my madness. Alas, this is not the case. While my inner librarian took control and organized the attic, it was snoozing big time when it came to I have about 100 or so tagged items and my top tag (NIH) only has been used 6 times. The next closest term is web2.0 used 4 times. There is no rhyme or reason as to why I did or didn't use the tag social_networking for things I indexed with terms like twitter, wiki, blog, or blogging. Yes, I have blog and blogging as tags, why I did this I have no idea. The best way I can describe this mess is that my account is my Internet attic. I find a page and if I love it I put it in I know I will use that page, but probably not often enough to immediately type its URL from memory. That is why I put it in I find that I am usually in a hurry when tagging something so I just slap a few tags (often just one tag) on there and save it. Since the items are usually displayed in order of when it was tagged, the most recent are in front while the older and increasingly no longer used items creep to the back. Only after I try and retrieve a long ago tagged item, must I remember where stored it. Is it under blog or blogging? What about web2.0? I fear that in order to straighten this mess out that I will have get down and dirty like I did with the attic. I will look at each tag and figure out what the item is, whether it should be kept or removed. If I am keeping it, then it needs to assigned some predetermined terms and assigned a location (bundle).
Finally you can't forget about your searches. At this time of year I am on the look out for a winter coat for son. I scan the Sunday ads and my email account for sales and deals. Right now it is a winter coat, last November it was a new dishwasher. My needs change with my life. My current awareness searches change as well. Many of my personal current awareness searches are created from PubMed, Medworm, LibWorm and a few other places, the RSS of the search is saved and I read it in my Bloglines account. I find that each year as new trends emerge and others lose favor, I must adjust my searches so that I can stay on top of the information. For example, what good is it to have a current awareness search on Ovid CINAHL when it has moved to EBSCO? Probably just as effective as ads and sales on infant clothes going to my email account when I have six year old and a two year old.

Virtual house cleaning is important in managing the information overload. If you don't do it every once and a while you are going to be met with a ton of information and you won't know what to do with it nor will you be satisfied with what you have. Just like opening the closet to find that among all of those clothes, you can't find anything to wear.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PubMed Now Indexes Videos of Experiments and Protocols in Life Sciences

I read an interesting little article today in The Chronicle of Higher Education, PubMed Now Indexes Videos of Experiments and Protocols in Life Sciences. The Journal of Visualized Experiments is now indexed in PubMed.

Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) is a peer reviewed, open access, online journal dedicated to the publication of biological research in a video format. JoVE states, "Visualization greatly facilitates the understanding and efficient reproduction of both basic and complex experimental techniques, thereby addressing two of the biggest challenges faced by today’s life science research community: i) low transparency and poor reproducibility of biological experiments and ii) time and labor-intensive nature of learning new experimental techniques." Recently JoVE an agreement with various science publishing companies such as Current Protocols for joint protocol publication. This video on the "Preparation and Fractionation of Xenopus Laevis Egg Extracts" was jointly published by JoVE and Current Protocols.

According to JoVE's official blog it is "first video-journal to be accepted in PubMed." Well that is probably because JoVE is a unique journal. I don't see that many peer reviewed protocol video journals out there. Don't get me wrong, it is good that they are indexed in PubMed and that helps speak to their content and their credibility, but it their videos aren't the only ones to be indexed in PubMed. There are now quite a few videos from index journals that show up in PubMed. For example you can find the citation to the video "Placement of a Femoral Venous Catheter" by Janet Y. Tsui in the New England Journal of Medicine. The indexing of the videos shows NLMs commitment to medical information beyond the printed word.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Scopus Frustrations

I have found Scopus to be a great resource when conducting author affiliation searches. All too often an author's institution is listed several different ways. Sometimes it is the author's fault or the publication's fault, and at times it is the institution's fault with many variant names.

For example
A.B. Smith's works at Good Health Hospital System, here are some of the ways he lists his affiliation in his publications:

  • Good Health Hospital System Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology
  • Good Health Hospital Department of Quantitative Health Sciences
  • Super Medical School, Department of Quantitative Health Sciences
  • Big Money Donor Name Cancer Center, Department of Hematologic Oncology and Blood Disorders

All four "institutions" are a part of Good Health Hospital System. Super Medical School is the medical school affiliated with the hospital and the Big Money Donor Name is the name of department that is within the hospital.

If you are searching for just one author it is pretty easy to go through and select appropriate institutions. However, if you need to find out what the entire department (or hospital) published within the last year, it gets a little tricky. You have to come up with all of the various ways your institution can be listed. If your institution is very large and has undergone some name changes, this can be difficult and time consuming. However, Scopus allows you to do an affiliation search using zip codes. For large institutions where it is it's own zip code this method of searching can be very handy.

Even with this handy dandy zip code searching. I found myself frustrated with Scopus. I got a call from the head of a department wanting a search to be done to see what all 95 people in his department have authored. He wants this search to be continuously updated. He would like to receive the information as an RSS feed that you could view on his BlackBerry using Viigo. I instantly thought of Scopus. It does author affiliation searches and you get an RSS feed of your search. I tested it briefly using a few names and thought it would work perfectly.

I was wrong. According Scopus, "RSS feeds are not available for all Scopus search results. RSS availability is also dependent on settings determined by your librarian or system administrator." The odd thing is that the small little test searches I conducted were RSS-able. Even a larger affiliation search which yielded 33,000 citations was RSS-able. But when I added all 95 potential authors and combined it with my affiliation search, it was no longer RSS-able. At first I thought it was because I combined searches. Nope combined searches were RSS-able. Then I thought it might be how I searched for (and later combined) all 95 names, so I typed it all out through the advance search box and it still didn't work.

I could email the results and get automatic updates email updates to my search. But that is not the point. The point is that he and I both want it in an RSS feed. This person just wants to read it on his BlackBerry, but he could easily want to display the results on his website and RSS feed makes that easy.

So I am back to square one looking at other ways that I can get this search in an RSS feed. Any ideas?

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

MLA Connections Blog

I am sure a lot of you are familiar with Mark Funk's OnlyConnect blog. Well MLA will soon debut the MLA Connections Blog as a method to keep memebers and others informed about MLA as well as generate discussions. According to Scott Plutchak, the blog is "another experiment in trying to make the organization more open and transparent. "

It will probably come as no surprise that I am all for the blog. I am the type of person who likes to pop the hood of a car to see what is going on. I like transparency. I like hearing other people's perspective on things. The blog will be open members as well as non-members allowing for discussions to be truely open (through comments) to the medical library community. Hopefully openness will generate some truely interesting discussions. As Scott mentions transparency and submitting posts can only go so far. It is a two way street. The Board members and headquarters staff will be posting, but for it to be a truely communicative process, readers must share their thoughts and perspectives through comments.

I think it is an exciting and interesting time to be involved in MLA.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Should MLA Allow Votes on Dues To Be Voted on Electronically?

I admit I kept forgetting to vote on all of the proposed MLA by-laws changes. With this cold that I am battling, my Olympic viewing obsession, and a whole host of life's daily events it just simply slipped my mind. Thankfully the good folks of MLA have reminded me once more by email to vote and I did. If it had been a snail mail ballot, it might not have made it back in time.

I received an interesting email on the Medlib-l listserv shortly after I voted. The email was from Jonathan Lord the MLA Mid-Atlantic Chapter Chapter Council Representative Alternate and it was about voting on dues increases.

According to the email, MLA has been gradually moving into the electronic age like electronic balloting for elections and bylaws changes. It was brought up at the September 2007 MLA Executive Board meeting to allow members to vote on dues increases electronically rather than in person at the Annual Meeting. While the motion was introduced, it was defeated. However the motion to take the idea into consideration and report to the Board at the September 2008 Board meeting was approved.

Jonathan feels voting on dues increases at the Annual Meeting is unfair to a majority of MLA members. Those who are unable to attend the Meeting are excluded from voting. I have to say I agree with him. There are many valid reasons why some people are unable to attend MLA each and every year. I don't want to get into all the reasons why somebody cannot attend, instead I the focus should be more on how those who cannot physically attend can still participate. Voting is one small but important way to participate. Allowing all voting to be done electronically not only allows more MLA members the opportunity to participate in MLA's direction but it gives everybody an equal chance at submitting their vote, not just the fraction that happen to attend the meeting.

Am I totally missing something? Is voting on a dues increase any different than voting online for the MLA elections? What are your thoughts on this?
If you have an opinion on this issue, Jonathan recommend you contact your MLA Chapter Council Representatives and let them know.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

PubMed Instruction: Classroom vs. Online Instruction

I meant to blog about this earlier when I made the post about the reviw of Zotero, Skype, and PBWiki, but I got side tracked. So better late than never.

Do you teach a lot of PubMed classes? If so you might be interested in the recent article, Measuring Medical Student Preference: A Comparison of Classroom Versus Online Instruction for Teaching Pubmed published in the Journal of the Medical Library Association. 2008 July; 96(3): 217–222. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.96.3.007.

The author, Laura Schimming decided to compare medical students' satisfaction with PubMed instruction taught in the classroom with an online tutorial. She found that students were more satisfied with online tutorials and the students who took the online tutorial passed the PubMed skills assessment at the same high rate as students who learned PubMed in the classroom.
I think it is interesting to know that the librarian used Dreamweaver instead of Camtasia or Captivate to create the online tutorial. The online tutorial was a split screen tutorial where the instructions and information was at the top and PubMed was below. This allowed users to read the information while actually practicing on a live PubMed session. It truly was more of a hands on tutorial.
So what does this mean for librarians who teach PubMed? I think it gives librarians more options and flexibility. Having an online tutorial for students to use can free up the librarian to teach other classes that may not lend themselves as easily to an online tutorial format. It also allows students to take the online class on their own time. An additional benefit is that unlike a traditional classroom the tutorial is available to use again should they need a refresher. No wonder the students preferred the online method.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

PBWiki Offers Free Premium Account to Librarians

Thank you MidContinental Region News for alerting me that PBWiki is offering free premium accounts to librarians and teachers (a $250/year value). According to the folks over at PBWiki they want to make 2008-2009 the year of collaborative learning. "We know that budgets are going to be tight, and we don't want a lack of funds to deter educators from using collaborative technologies like wikis with their students." This offer is good for each teacher or librarian who signs up to be a part of the program from August 18 through November 30, 2008.

The free wiki subscription lasts one year and each Fall PBWiki plans to offer additional programs allowing program participants to retain their premium status free of charge.

For more information on the difference between the traditional free account and the premium account as well as participation information go to

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journals and Cell Phones

My 18 month old son got a hold of my husband's cell phone. No surprise it was returned to us in three pieces. Our quest to find a new cell phone began. Shortly into the endeavor, we decided to look at various packages. Quickly we were on the slippery slope of cell phone, land line, DSL, and TV service bundling. I tried to compare apples to apples, a task easier said than done. After an hour of looking at various packages, bundles, and prices, it hit me. The communication industry and the publishing industry might be secretly run by the same people, because whole process reminded me of online journals.

Similar to Rollover Minutes, Fav 5, and Nights and Weekend plans, there is tiered pricing, institutional pricing, FTE pricing, number of beds pricing, etc. Both industries offer a dizzying variety of bundles and packages to try and get you to buy more. Trying to hook it all up to provide online access on campus as well as off campus not only requires some finesse but also requires you to read the fine print in the license agreements. According the fine print, Company A defines nights on the Nights and Weekend plan to start at 9:00pm while Company B defines nights starting 8:00pm unless you pay extra for nights to start at 7:00. Journal Publisher A defines a single location as one building, buildings next door are separate locations and more money. Journal Publish B defines a single location as any building within the same city limits as long as it does not have an independent administration. Like cell phone coverage, access to electronic journals varies with the publisher and can be unpredictable and spotty. Can it be accessible off campus? If so, via proxy, Athens, or password? Can you view all electronic content or is just some available? What about accessing epub ahead of print, back issues, videos, slides, podcasts, and meeting abstracts? God forbid if you have problems and need tech support or have a question about subscriptions. Just like the cable and phone company, journal customer support is less than stellar and their contact information is a mystery to find. If you do happen to reach a live person you better have your customer or account number ready because for some reason they don’t know what it is, can't find it, and won’t call up your information to help you. Usually problems are chalked up to user error, networking error, or failure to pay your bill (even though you did). Do they ever read the notes they type on their computers from your 60 help desk calls, or are the keyboard sounds you hear the result of them sending an email to a friend? Mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcy rear their ugly in head in both industries. AT&T bought Cingular but good luck trying to get their two systems and departments to talk and work together at all, let alone seamlessly. I have yet to figure out why on AT&T’s site I can log in and view my account under home phone and see my wireless account (originally Cingular) but I can’t log in to "view your wireless account" and view my wireless bill on the same AT&T site. LWW recently published three new Circulation specialty journals, but it is unknown whether those journals will be in Ovid’s LWW Total Access Package because they are working with the publisher on the rights to do so. Uh isn’t the publisher and Ovid within the same company? Wiley recently shook the hornet’s nest when they migrated recently acquired Blackwell Synergy to InterScience.

There is one difference between two, with journal publishers I don’t have to take off work and sit at home during a six hour window waiting for installation or repairs. Perhaps it is all a coincidence. But I choose to believe it is a conspiracy, one big secret organization hell bent on causing us to go insane and create havoc with human productivity. The same secret organization might also include those ever efficient and popular insurance companies. Ok, there maybe some of you that might say I am paranoid, but I know, "The Truth is Out There."

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Use For Google Docs

My sister, Danielle and her husband, Ryan in two days will be starting the first leg of the dream trip. They each are taking a 6 months leave absence from their jobs to travel the world. Everything they have must be able to be carried on their backs, there is not a lot of room for extras. However, when you are visiting 30 different places you have a lot of paperwork such as reservations, train tickets, airplane tickets, etc. It is always a good idea to have a photocopy back up of all this paperwork.
In the past Ryan used to just put the photocopied documents in a separate bag, but this trip is a little different. In his blog, Ryan discusses the need to keep backup paperwork for the trip, but also the need to conserve space. According to Ryan, if he were to copy every reservation, airline ticket, insurance document and carry them, it would be like carrying a huge textbook in his backpack. Not only does it add more weight but it takes up precious space. The solution, Google Docs. He was able to store all of his important documents in Word, Excel and PDF. Ryan says, "The last (PDF) is the most useful format in that on most computers these days you can print or save to PDF format. So when completing a reservation on a website, just save the receipt/booking page to PDF and you will be able to open it on pretty much any computer in the world."

So whether you travel for work or for fun this might be a nice way to keep the backups safe and available.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

What is Knol

Google has been testing a new product called Knol. Knol is intended to be a site where authoritative articles on specific topics are available. These articles are written by people "who know all about those subjects." According to the Official Google Blog, "every know will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content."
At first glance there appears to be a lot of health care information on Knol. One of the Feature Knols is Migraine: Mechanisms and Management,by Richard Kraig. Knol topics include Tuberculosis, Pancreatitis, Glaucoma, and many more. From what I can tell many are written by physicians based on the brief author information on each knol. However, I found many authors did not provide Knol with their biographical information, leaving me to question whether the friendly face in the picture really is a physician and if so what their qualifications are. Additionally, Knol has no specific guidelines as to what somebody could publish.

Introduction to Knol:

"So what subjects can I write on?
(Almost) anything you like. You pick the subject and write it the way you
see fit. We don't edit knols nor do we try to enforce any particular viewpoint –
your knol should be written as you want it to be written."

Read Write Web's article, Knol: Google Takes on Wikipedia, provides a nice overview of Knol and mentions that authors can validate their identity on Knol through either a credit card or a phone number. I am less than impressed by this method of validation. I would much rather see some in depth information as to why I should trust Dr. Smart Brain's knol on congestive heart failure vs. Dr. Also Smart on the same knol. You see not only are there no stringent author requirements for posting medical information, but there can be more than one knol on a topic. Great for restaurant and hotel reviews, but potentially confusing (at best) for medical information.

If Knol seems at all familiar then you may have heard about Medpedia, which was recently posted on David Rothman's blog who noted that he saw no criteria for the acceptance of applications for submitting to Medpedia. In a comment to David's post, Angela Simmen said,
"We are confident that a large number of passionate people — some with medical credentials and some without credentials — can collaborate to produce something of very high quality. We also believe that the result of their work will do a better job of answering the general public’s questions than the most popular medical websites of today." Fine and dandy, but what happens if you have an author writing an popular point of view or writes about a controversial topic. There are plenty of passionate people who view early child immunization shots as a direct contributor to autism. Almost equally controversial is the debate on circumcision. Those are just two examples, and we haven't even scratched the surface with drug trials. Need we forget that at one time rofecoxib (Vioxx) was used to treat osteoarthritis and was approved and thought safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration only later to be pulled by the manufacturer concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use.

David has also done a very nice job of compiling a list of medical wikis. Speaking as a consumer (let's forget for a second that I am also a librarian), I would be extremely concerned that neither of these two sites (as well as other medical wikis) do not have any authorship controls. Excellent websites post their authors' credentials and an excellent wiki should also require authors to provide appropriate credentials. AskDrWiki does this, only "licensed clinical professionals who have proven their credentials to the satisfaction of editors," are allowed to contribute. I would challenge all other professional medical wikis to do the same and create some actual standards and criteria for posting.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our Desire To Be Social and Privacy

Two interesting posts today reflect how our desire to be social often carries the a heavy burden of responsibility that many do not adhere to.

John Sharp at eHealth directed my attention to the article, Content of Weblogs Written by Health Professionals, (Journal of General Internal Medicine doi 10.1007/s11606-008-0726-6) studying 271 blogs by medical professionals. It turns out many the blogs (42%)described individual patients, some of those blogs described patient interaction in sufficient enough detail for patients to identify their doctors or themselves. Three blogs included identifiable photos of patients. The study concludes that while bloggs offers an opportunity for professional sharing, many are not being very professional about it by revealing confidential information, their unprofessional narrative tone or content. The authors of the paper feel that "health professions should assume some responsibility for helping authors and readers negotiate these challenges." John Sharp "wonders if there are similar privacy and confidentiality violations within social networking sites for medical professionals."

Well John, I would venture to guess that there are similar privacy and confidentiality issues are happening on social networking sites. Sarah Arnquist recently blogged about the article, Study: Med students sharing a bit too much info on Facebook. This brief article talks about the incredibly poor judgement and unprofessional nature of some medical students.

So where do hospitals stand regarding social networking, blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc.? How many hospitals have policies regarding these technologies and do these policies include a code of conduct or patient confidentiality? Is this whole issue largely under the radar for most hospital administration? Even it it is, where are these people's peers (the blog readers themselves) who should be holding their colleagues feet to the fire regarding the patient confidentiality issues?

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Top Tech Trends Panel at ALA

According to Library Journal's, "Top Tech Trends Panel Enlightens Despite Technology Troubles" the Top Tech Trends Panel at ALA discussed the new trends but also the technology speed bumps to we might encounter. I found the article to be interesting to read but of course I couldn't help thinking about how medical and hospital libraries fit into the equation.

There is a growing enthusiasm for open source within the ALA technology community. The article mentions several librarians who gave their opinions on open source in libraries including Karen Schneider who mentioned that librarians have come full circle from the earliest days of library software, and are back to writing and supporting their own code. I see open source as a great way to supplement our existing library systems, but I just don't see many medical librarians going back to writing their own systems and coding. Why? Many of your academic medical centers are a part of a larger university library system. Often the university library sets the tone for what is done with library wide systems (like the ILS). Most of your hospital librarians are in one or two person libraries where they don't have time and most likely the programming knowledge to start coding. In addition they have the double whammy of having to try and get it through hospital IT approval, which is a very different and difficult process compared to public or academic IT departments. That doesn't mean that I don't see open source affecting medical libraries. Au contraire, I see medical libraries benefiting from open source applications, I just see the majority of medical librarians as adopters and adapters of the technology rather than the creating the technology.

Of course bandwidth issues are being discussed in a lot of libraries, both public and medical. The difference however, is that medical libraries usually must rely upon the larger institution such as the hospital or university regarding bandwidth. Just because bandwidth issue is in most likely another department's problem, doesn't mean medical librarians can't be proactive in trying to work with their IT departments to address the issue. Many hospitals have a pretty tough policy on multimedia use on their computers because of bandwidth issues. However some hospital librarians have gotten some medically related multimedia sites (surgical videos, podcasts, etc.) exempt from the policy. Most can't download a surgical video from YouTube, but they can easily point to a site like AccessSurgery or NLM's Surgical Videos as necessary. As more of these legitimate educational sites become available, doctors, nurses and patients are going to want to use them and the bandwidth will need to be addressed. Simply blocking YouTube might buy IT some time but the bandwidth bug will come back. You can never have too much bandwidth.

With the release of the new iPhone and Sprint's Instinct, more people are starting to use mobile devices. I think medical librarians have been a little bit ahead of the game here. We have been looking at resources (online textbooks, databases, programs, etc) that work well on mobile devices for quite a while. It used to be residents were carrying around one of two "flavors" of mobile devices, Palm or PocketPC. Things have changed a little, not only have the devices changed but so have the users. A larger variety of users who in past most likely didn't own a PDA now are able to access and use resources from their iPhone or iClone.

As I mentioned it is always interesting to me to see what trends others in libraries are following and what it might mean for medical libraries. That is why I am always watching those in ALA and more specifically LITA. While I haven't found out how gaming fits into medical libraries, there are certainly plenty of other things out there that we could learn about and experiment with to see how or if it is applicable in our libraries.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Need Technology Think About Getting a Grant

We all know of somebody who is always talking about how their library never has any money to do anything. Indeed you may have been this somebody at one time or another. Afterall, no library or institution has an unlimited budget. Therefore it is important to think about external funding from a grant. Applying for a grant can be a little intimidating and daunting but don't let that stop you.
Is there a project you want to do but you need some extra computers, staff, materials, etc.? Chances are if there are grants that can help you with it. For example the Middle Atlantic Region recently announced the recipients of the Technology Improvement Awards.

Some of examples of what the awards will fund are:
  • Aquiring necessary resource to automate and streamline library processes
  • Replacing older network equipment with wireless equipment
  • Computer and software upgrades
  • Providing Tablet PCs for support and remote reference
  • CHI computer kiosks
  • Upgrades to improve document delivery

Depending on your library's location and the various association you belong to you, there might be other sort of grants out there that might fit your needs. Every region within NN/LM has a link for funding listing available funding opportunities.

Plus don't forget there are funding opportunities available to attend meetings for professional development. Something to think about for future MLA annual meetings and chapter meetings.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

EMR and the Role of Librarians

Here is what I think might be an interesting article for everyone who is interested in the EMR and how the library fits in.

Integrating Knowledge-Based Resources into the Electronic Health Record: History, Current Status, and Role of Librarians. Albert, Karen. Medical Reference Services Quarterly 26(3) 2007 1-19. (subscription required for full text)

Satisfying clinical information needs remains a major challenge in medicine, underscored by recent studies showing high medical error rates and suboptimal physician adherence to evidence-based practice guidelines. Advanced clinical decision support systems can improve practitioner performance and patient outcomes. Similarly, integrating online information resources into electronic health records (EHRs) shows great potential for positively impacting health care quality. This paper explores the evolution and current status of knowledge-based resource linkages within EHRs, including the benefits and drawbacks, as well as the important role librarians can play in this process.

Oooh I have got to get my hands on this article. I really think the next step for librarians is to expand their services by providing point of care resources that can be integrated in the EMR. Unfortunately, I think many librarians are spinning their wheels trying to figure out how to get involved.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

MySpace, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed

Well if you aren't into the whole Social Networking craze then take heart because according to Lance Ulanoff of, "My Space, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed." He believes the hype and the fate of these programs is similar to the same fate of the millions of personal web pages created in the 1990's.

His theory is that My Space, Second Life, Twitter are "huge, ugly, unmonitored, unrestrained, and pointless." I am sure there are other's out there in the library community and elsewhere who are thinking the same thing. I am not sure if they feel exactly the same or they are just suffering from what I call Burnout 2.0.

If it is true, and all of these and other programs are doomed for failure, I have to ask the question, "Is that necessarily a bad thing?" The Discovery Channel is the most popular television channel in my house. My four year old son and I love watching Dinosaur Planet. His eyes are riveted to the screen as he watches dinosaurs, eat, hunt, migrate, hatch and die. He has learned that birds and dinosaurs are closely related and on some level he has learned about evolution.

So, I have to say that Lance is probably right. These programs are doomed, they will die off. When, who knows. He believes sooner rather than later. Me? I don't know. What I find more interesting is what will take their take their place. What will evolve from these social networking tools? What will these "dinosaurs" of the Internet become?

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Healthcare and Web 2.0

John Sharp, eHealth mentions his presentation on Web 2.0 and Healthcare to the Northern Ohio Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) in Cleveland.

The main themes to John's presentation are:

  • What you need to know about Web 2.0
  • Why you should worry about Web 2.0
  • Why you should use Web 2.0

Because the hospital's network and security is IT's job they are going to come down on the conservative side of things. After all you aren't the one who will be getting paged at 2:30 in the morning if something bad happens. Our job as librarians is to connect people to information freely, and the some of the ways we connect or want to connect people to that information can be understandably scary for the IT people. They aren't the only ones who get freaky with the ideas of access to everything, information control by the masses, and perpetual beta....Just ask a cataloger about social bookmarking and tagging within "their" catalog.

Even though IT people are worried about some Web 2.0 applications, there are reasons to use them as John mentions. The trick is to do so without comprimising the hospital system's network or security. The trick is to come out somewhere in between. Where that is? I am not sure. I am not an IT person I don't know about all of their issues and concerns. However, the IT people are not librarians either, and they don't know or understand all of our issues and concerns.

This presentation is from perspective of the hospital IT people, the very people some of us librarians are trying to reach out to and collaborate with. (Or at the very least get on their email/call list when IP ranges change.) The IT people know about Web 2.0, some are proactive and some aren't. By looking through this presentation and others like it you begin to get some insights into their perspectives. You may not agree with everything, but you at least know a little bit more about what they are thinking. That way when you approach your IT person about chat ref, blogs, wikis, etc. you might be able to address some of their concerns and hopefully get their approval.

That is of course if you can actually get a hold of a friendly face within IT to build a work relationship with. It always seems that once we find "that person" they end up getting transfered to a different area in the hospital system or they leave for another IT company's greener pastures and we are left seeking out another victim...uh I mean friend to educate about the library's IT needs.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

AskDrWiki Editorial Board

If you have been following the AskDrWiki threads around the blogosphere (David Rothman, Doctor Wiki, AMA News, etc.) you will know that the creators of AskDrWiki have instituted a detailed editorial policy to help ensure that accurate and quality medical information is posted.

Unlike many wiki and blog pages, editors on AskDrWiki are not anonymous and are identified with their name and degree. Now the Who is Dr Wiki Page not only lists the editors but it will also link to their resume or curriculum vitae. Examples: Kenny Civello MPH, MD and Brian Jefferson MD.

AskDrWiki is still a little subject heavy in Cardiology, however they are looking for editors in every specialty. For example the Biomedical Informatics section is currently empty, so if there are any librarians, physicians, medical information systems people who specialize in Biomedical Informatics, you might want to drop them an email and help contribute.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Tagging Medical Images

Hardin Medical Library has recently begun applying tags to images from UIHC (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics) -example images from the Dermatology Department and the College of Dentistry.

Sometimes I feel like I have been accidently recruited into a large team building scavenger hunt exercise when I am asked to look for a good medical image online. I have previously mentioned how I think tagging medical images online would be one way to possibly help organize and retrieve good medical pictures. However, I have seen little development in this area, which is a little surprising to me. The only reason I can think is that many medical images are located in pay databases such as images.MD which wouldn't take too kindly to having there images tagged, displayed, and freely. But what also is a little surprising is that images.MD doesn't allow people to tag images. You can save images to your account but you can't tag them with your own words or notes. I personally think that would be a helpful feature.

Why should we stop at tagging only our personal and fun photos on sites like flickr? Tagging could make finding medical images much easier. What would be cool is if there was a site similar to flickr only dedicated to medical images.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Web 2.0 in Clinical Practice

Judy Burnham gave a presenation to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama on Web 2.0 tools in Clinical Practice.

Her handout and PowerPoint presentation are available. She mentioned that during the meeting her library hosted a CyberCafe where attendees could check their e-mail and/or confer with librarians on accessing knowledge based information. The web site developed for the CyberCafe is at

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Friday, March 30, 2007

AskDrWiki in the News

This article, "A Wikipedia-style site for medical information?" appeared in yesterday's (March 29, 2007) Cleveland Plain Dealer. I have been busy with a couple of projects so I am just now getting to blog about it.

David Rothman, was interviewed as a librarian opposed to AskDrWiki and that actually shocked me a little. Even though David has criticized the wiki on his blog in the past, he has also discussed the positives of AskDrWiki as well as other wikis. It wasn't until I read David's blog this morning did I get the full picture. In his post, Cleveland Plain Dealer on Medical Wikis he revealed his frustration of being quoted out of context and his decision to publish his interview with the reporter.

I am very familiar with AskDrWiki and I have been watching it with great interest as one the better examples as to how wikis could work in the medical field. It offers a lot of promise as a learning site that can be used in conjunction with other medical information resources. While I share David's concerns about authority control and errors with medical wikis I am not as jittery as many would think.

Perhaps it is just in my mind but I kind of think of wikis, specifically specialty wikis like AskDrWiki, as a virtual discussion room for individuals. As librarians we look at various resources that our patrons use for information. However one resource we often forget about because we often don't see it, is doctor to doctor personal communication. Doctors (as well as other professionals) often consult each other formally or informally. At the basic level what is the difference between the sharing of information face to face vs. online through a wiki? Both methods are a means of exchanging information. Aah.. but there is a chance that the information posted on AskDrWiki is wrong. Yes. But isn't there also a chance the individual you are consulting in person is wrong? People are infallible, including doctors.

Now that AskDrWiki has instituted a credential review policy, it ensures that at least medical professionals are posting and sharing information which does help with some quality control. However, it does not totally eliminate the chance of errors and I don't know of anything that eliminates that chance completely. Textbooks have been recalled for errors, journal articles have been amended or retracted, and treatments medical society once thought to be the gold standard have been replaced. I tend to think of wikis like other information resources (articles, textbooks, personal discussions, etc.) where the onus is still on the user to verify the information. We do it all the time with print resources or through subtleties in conversation.

The medium is not what should be questioned, it is the information within. Learning is all about asking questions. Wikis offer that opportunity to learn.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Third Party Hosting Services

Many hospital librarians complain about the inability to create and implement certain technology projects because of their hospital IT departments policies. Some libraries just want an web page while others would like to do some more involved things such as hosting a few instructional multimedia files. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest areas where hospital librarians see big difference between their work environment and the work environment of academic medical librarians. We see a lot of the cool technology and we can envision how it would work in our hospital if only we got approval from our IT department.

As many of you know I have been working on using Athens for providing off site authentication for my users. I love it. However it has led to a new problem. Now that I have all these products available off campus to my users, how are they going to be aware of these products to actually use them? Most public libraries and academic libraries have web pages on the Internet so that patrons can browse through resources and use them. However, all of my library web pages are hidden to the outside world because they are on the Intranet. My users can't see the hospital's Intranet when they are off campus. So I need an Internet web page.

It took me a while to find the right person to contact for this specific request, but color me surprised that he was open to the idea. We had a great conversation as to how we could do it in the easiest, most logical way. Whoa. I had to double check the phone number to make sure I was indeed calling the IT department.

I was so prepared for failure that I had begun to look at other solutions. Like many other hospital libraries we do not have the budget or time to buy and maintain our own server. So that wasn't an option. One option I was looking at was getting a third party hosting service. There are a lot of companies out there that offer hosting services. You need to do your homework to determine necessary account features like disk storage size, bandwidth, support, programming, etc. You also want to see what kind of technology platform they provide i.e. Windows, Unix/Linux servers, or both, because that can impact what type of applications you can run.

Two hosting services that come to mind are and DreamHost. LISHost started by Blake Carver is librarian focused and already hosts several small public libraries. Cost is a major concern for many small hospital libraries and these services can be actually quite reasonable. For example, DreamHost has multiple package levels ranging from $10/month to $80/month depending on your needs

You also need to start talking to the appropriate people in your hospital. Start first with IT. They may have some ideas and solutions that might work without the need to go to an outside company. If they don't they might be able to give you an idea on technical requirements that you might need. You also want to make sure they are kosher with the library getting services from an outside hosting company. Some IT people I have talked to were fine with it because it is one less thing they had to worry about. You will also probably need to talk to somebody in administration and quite possibly legal. After all, you are putting up a web site with the hospital name on it. They will want to make sure you are not including medical advice or slandering the hospital in any way. You need to stress that you are not going to be dealing with patient information and dispensing medical advice in any way. Try to get them to see it as something similar as university's medical library on the web. They don't provide patient or medical information.

It is second nature for librarians to look outside of the institution to provide articles, books and "library stuff." However, many of us have been so locked into the tunnel vision of what we can't do because of IT policies, that we me have forgotten to look outside of the institution for technology solutions. Perhaps outsourcing and using a third party hosting service offers us a way to provide better electronic services to our patrons.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Heart Sounds on iPods

A while back ago I mentioned giving an article on listening to heart sounds using iPods to the curriculum development coordinator. Yesterday, Newsweek also wrote an article on Dr. Michael Barrett and his iPod and heart sounds idea.

What I found most interesting in this article was the statement, "What's amazing isn't necessarily that doctors are using iPods as teaching tools - it's that they've taken so long to catch on. In 2005, Duke University gave all incoming undergraduates their own iPods, and many other schools have signed up for Apple's "iTunes U," which allows them to download podcasts of lectures and other course materials. But medicine, particularly cardiology, has lagged behind, says Barrett."

We often see this with technology. There can be a lag between the emergence of that technology and effective educational (or business) uses for it. When I was in grade school there was the push to have computers in the school and have us using them. (Remember those big Apple IIe's?) What did I do with those expensive, large, tan boxes? I learned how to plot graphs. That was big stuff back then, but I am not sure how much I learned about computers and math from that experience.

It can take some time for innovative people to discover practical uses for technology. Often it is after an "aha" moment. As podcasting, wikis, chat ref, mashups etc. become more mainstream and more people begin to have that "aha" moment, new applications will emerge. The process is cyclical. It will get to a point where those "new" things will be integrated into our lives (education, work and leisure) and we will be wresting with how to adapt other new technologies to work in our world. Just look at computers and the Internet. Twenty or so years ago I was staring at a graph on a green and black screen. Now, I am lobbying for a second computer in my house because everybody but the dog and the 3 month old "need" to use the computer.

So if you are like me and sometimes lack a little in creativity to always know what exactly to do with all of this new stuff, don't worry. There are other people out there who are testing the waters. The key is to keep an open mind and take notes. You may not be a creative innovator but that doesn't give you the excuse to ignore technology and become "that guy." You know, the one who only has 8 track tapes, and not for nostalgic reasons.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cataloging Changes and Web 2.0 Functionality

All of you catalogers out there might want to take a look at this article (free online) "Catalog/Cataloging Changes and Web 2.0 Funtionality: New Directions for Serials," by Rebecca Kemp.

This article presents an overview of some of the important recent developments in cataloging theory and practice and online catalog design. Changes in cataloging theory and practice include the incorporation of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records principles into catalogs, the new Resource Description and Access cataloging manual, and the new CONSER Standard Record. Web 2.0 functionalities and advances in search technology and results displays are influencing online catalog design. The paper ends with hypothetical scenarios in which a catalog, enhanced by the developments described, fulfills the task of find serials articles and titles.

Kemp mentions that many features of modern day catalogs are still based off of the old card catalog. She says the OPAC is now at a critical juncture in time where there are major conceptual and technological developments occurring. This article will give you an idea of the directions catalogs are heading and their continual evolution.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Medical Library Technology Trends

Check out the Medical Library Trends blog and read what I and other librarians think will be the top technology trends that medical librarians will encounter. Read and see whether you agree or disagree then add your .02 cents. It is intended to be an open discussion.

(courtesy of Bart Ragon on Medlib-l)

ALA's technology arm LITA has been watching trends for years
and there are numerous trade magazines that annually produce technology watch

These lists, while useful, do not always speak to the needs or concerns
of medical librarianship. Recently I began to wonder, what do medical librarians
think are the top technologies confronting our profession and how might this
differ from other lists . My primary intent is expose emerging technologies and
to hopefully start a conversation within the medical library community about
these technologies, our future, and the impact on the profession.

I asked three technology minded professionals try a little experiment with
me. Wallace McLendon, Gabe Rios, and Michelle Kraft are medical librarians who
do great things with technology. I asked each to come up with a list
technologies that are impacting our profession. I asked for around ten items,
there were no constraints, and each person worked independently.
You can
comment, disagree, or post your technology list on the site!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Five Weeks to a Social Library

The 5 Weeks to a Social Library course is a completely free and completely online course devoted to teaching librarians about social software and its use in libraries. Eventhough the course is limited to 40 participants (already chosen), everybody may access the course content.

The course will cover Blogs, RSS, Wikis, Social Networking Software and SecondLife, Flickr, Social Bookmarking, and Selling Social Software at your Library.

Week 1: Blogs and Week 2: RSS and Social Bookmarking are available already. In David Rothman's blog he mentions Melissa L. Rethlefsen's screencast to demonstrating some of the cool things that can be done with RSS on a Library’s Web site. *small note* You might have to watch the screencast from home if your institution blocks

For anybody who is interested in how these technologies can be used in libraries, I would recommend checking out 5 Weeks to a Social Library to get some ideas.

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The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: