Social Networking Changes Blogging

Those of you on Facebook or Twitter can attest that many of us are now sharing links to news and blogs and commenting on them to our own “friends” on Facebook and Twitter.   conducted a study and found something interesting, most of the blog post awareness and commenting is now happening “off site,” (not on the blog itself).  People are increasingly being driven to blog posts by social networking, according to their study Facebook, Twitter and Digg were the top 3 traffic drivers to blogs. 

Since 2007 PostRank has been looking at the top 1000 most engaging feeds and found they experienced a 30% growth in engagement, despite onsite engagement (commenting on the blogsite) falling by 50%.  Previously people followed a blog post through RSS feeds on their feed reader and through links (trackbacks) sent to them by other people or within body of another blog post.  PostRank’s study found that engagement from trackbacks has fallen from 19% to 3%.  So how are people finding blog posts?  Referrals from Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and other sites have gone up from 1% to over 29%. 

You would think that with everybody sharing stories on social networking sites would cause an cause engagement in stories to increase and make it even more necessary to have timely posts.  Yet according to PostRank’s study there is a steady increase in the lifespan of a story.  In 2007 PostRank observed that the over 94% of all engagement occurred within the first day publishing and 98% of that all occurred within the first hour.  In 2008 and 2009 a story’s lifespan increased.  In 2008, engagement with in the first hour was 83% and in 2009 it was 64%. 

Of course all of this information from this study comes from PostRanks, a company that has a dog in the fight with its own “social engagement” analytical software.  So I can understand why one might initially question the data.  Those of us in the medical world are trained to scruitinize data from drug companies and their products. 

Yet while I may not have numbers like PostRank and I am sure other companies might have other statistics, my general observations from my own blog and from my own forays on Twitter and Facebook have led me to believe that their is an increase in traffic driven to blogs from social sites and commenting from within the social site.   Unfortunately a lot of that discussion on the social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed are disjointed from the blog.  One person commenting on the post on Twitter may not see another person’s comment on Facebook and neither of those comments are found on the comment section of the blog.

So what does this mean for libraries with blogs, Twitter, and Facebook?  It means we need to do a better job of tying them all together or at least monitoring them.  Many of the library Twitter feeds have no link back to the library home page nor have Twitter badge on their site referring to their feed.  Blog posts can easily be fed into Twitter and Facebook yet very few libraries seem to be doing that.  Since many people are using Twitter and Facebook to communicate it seems we are missing an opportunity by not linking the blog post through those sites. 

Should everything revolve through every social application and site?  No but these applications (Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc) have changed the landscape.  IT is time we looked at how we blog and send out news items and see whether we need to adapt our strategies.

Finding Our Little Black Dress in the Online World

Monday was spent attending the New England Journal of Medicine’s Library Advisory Board meeting.  This is only my first full year on the board and my second meeting but I have to say I have learned a lot about things that impact the publishing world and the medical library world.  As different as our two groups are, there are also quite a lot of similarities.  

Of course we talked about the economy and its impact on libraries and publishing in general.  We also talked about what we saw in the future for libraries (everything from online expansion, smaller physical spaces, different librarian roles and services) and the future for STM publishers (enhanced online articles, different roles for the publishers, and licensing issues). 

I found our discussion on social applications in medicine, libraries, and publishers to be extremely interesting (naturally).  When we met in the Spring, this topic was hardly discussed, but now 8 months later social media has exploded all over the Internet for the medical community.  Funny, we talked about what the future held for libraries and publishers at that Spring meeting, but honestly I don’t think anybody mentioned Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any other social platform.   Yet it is now the must have PR and marketing tool. I think it is the little black dress, of the healthcare world. 

A year ago if you asked me about hospitals getting on Twitter or Facebook I would have laughed.  Hospital IT networks are notorious for locking things tight, I still know of hospitals where the network is so closed the medical professionals can’t use the clinical workstations to access MedlinePlus to give consumer health information to  patients.  So to have hospitals actively using something as “frivolous” as Twitter in public relations, marketing and consumer health information, is quite a departure from the tradition and honestly completely unexpected to me. 

But change is constant and we are not where we were 8 months ago and everybody in the medical world is hitting the social networking world big time.  Just like women searching for that perfect little black dress, hospitals, libraries, publishers, societies are all hitting the Internet looking for the social media application that is the right fit and style for them.  Just because they are little and black does not mean that all little black dresses are the same, au contraire.  One dress maybe too frilly and over the top to work for one woman, but it may just the right length and style for another who finds a simple sheath too plain.  The same can be said for social media applications.  Facebook might work for one organization but may not yield good results with another. 

So it was interesting to learn how in just the 8 short months the folks over at NEJM have also been trying on their little black dresses of social networking.  Many things were discussed but the  things that stuck in my head were NEJM’s H1N1 site, health care reform Twitter feedFacebook page, Interactive Medical Cases, and CardioExchange

The  H1N1 site was established by The New England Journal of Medicine in conjunction with Journal Watch to help monitor the outbreak.  The site contains research reports, commentary, news, updates, and a map of H1N1 cases through out the world.  Also included are articles from NEJM’s Archive about the epidemics in 1837, 1918, and 1976 as well as review articles on the management of seasonal influenza.

The H1N1 site is a great flu resource, but what I found most interesting is the neat way NEJM used blogging software to host the site.  Most people still think of using blogging software to run blogs such as the Krafty Librarian.  NEJM’s site while technically a blog offers so much more than just a regular old blog.

NEJM’s Twitter account is link to their Health Care Reform site.  You can find the feed if you search Twitter for NEJM or go directly to the Health Care Reform site ( link to the feed is located on the left side toward the bottom).  The NEJM Twitter account just focuses on information and stories pertaining to issues of health care reform in the United States. 

Important to note the content on both the H1N1 site and the Health Care Reform site is free.

The New England Journal of Medicine’s Facebook page is aimed at a different set of users than their Twitter feed.  The Facebook site has over 25,000 fans many of which are from the United States and Asia.  Most of their fans are very interested in NEJM’s Image of the Week  and their Interactive Medical Cases.  Both of these things as well as other topics are posted on their wall for people to read and comment on.

NEJM’s Interactive Medical Cases site is new and offers CME.  To mistake it as another CME site would be an unfortunate error.  Each case is presented in a way where the patients’ history and information evolves and the doctor taking the Interactive Medical Cases is presented with a series of questions and exercises to test their skills.  Through the use of video, animation, and other interactive content, doctors are given immediate feedback on their answers and treatment choices.  At the end of the case doctors are given the opportunity to compare their final scores with their peers. It still is in a limited time pilot phase and is currently free.

Last but not least is CardioExchange which was just unveiled last week at the 2009 AHA Scientific Sessions.   It is an online community for medical professionals dedicated to improving cardiac patient care.  Just from the brief view I got of it on Monday the design is way more professional than Facebook and more robust than LinkedIn.  It has the look and professional feel of LinkedIn but it is way more interactive than LinkedIn’s glorified rolodex feel.  There a slew of online communities vying for medical professionals to populate their virtual spaces, Sermo just being one of the many.  Unlike Sermo, CardioExchange is for medical professionals engaged in the delivery of cardiac patient care, it is not limited to physicians.  It is limited to subject matter not specifically job description.  (Personally I like this, physicians do not practice in a void, but within a health care team. So it makes sense that it would be open to the members involved in the cardiac patient care team, not just doctors.)  Unlike many online communities, members profiles are their real names, they are NOT anonymous and members are expected to be forthright about potential conflicts of interest.  Unlike Sermo, personal information is not shared with third parties.  (I think this is also important.  I have always been a little disconcerted by Sermo’s ties with drug and medical device industry.)  As I mentioned there are a lot of professional communities out there, it will be interesting to see how CardioExchange evolves and whether it is successful, it is too early to tell right now but it looks like it is on the right track. 

The New England Journal of Medicine is not the only publisher or medically related company to be hitting the racks of little black dresses in the social networking mall, nor will they be the last.  What is interesting is that they are trying on their dresses just like the rest of us.  They are evaluating what is too frilly what is too plain and what works best for each occasion.  As you or your library starts to peruse the racks as well, remember to have a critical eye in the dressing room, because not everything works for every body type.  What works well in one library and institution may not work at another.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out, it just means that when you are trying things out be prepared to evaluate it to see how it is being used, who is using it, and its usage statistics (if possible).  For example there are a lot of applications and sites that help you monitor your Twitter account, Facebook’s Fan Page provides lots statistical information as well.  Most importantly if it isn’t working don’t be afraid to try something different that matches your needs.  That might mean a different social networking tool, it also might be mean something entirely different and not related to social networking.

Posts Resume Wednesday November 18th

Last weekend was a beautiful 60-70 degrees and I spent it moving out of our temporary apartment and into our new home.  Technically we are all moved in but I am living out of boxes because we now have everything that once was in storage. I just got my Internet up on Monday.  My online presence has taken a nose dive as a result.

My family and I leave tomorrow for Dallas to attend my brother’s wedding. While my husband flies back to Cleveland with two small boys, I fly to Boston for the New England Journal of Medicine’s Library Advisory Board meeting. 

November has been a hectic month.  I hope to resume posting when I get back next week because I am sure I will learn something new and interesting while I am in Boston.  In the mean time I want to thank you for your patience and reassure you that I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  I am just up to my neck in boxes.

New PubMed Webinar Recordings

This week Holly Ann Burt at the GMR conducted several webinars on the new PubMed and its changes.  I found the information to be extremely helpful so I ask her if it was ok to publish the links to the webinars on the blog so that others not in the GMR or who were unable to attend the webinars could benefit from them.

Thankfully she agreed.  :)

The webinars are all very similar and Holly covers approximately the same information in each one. So why did I include links to different recordings when she covers the same information?  The reason I did this is that each one is slightly different because different people attending asked different questions. 

I will be listening to each recording and I will list the questions people ask for each section so that if you are concerned about a specific item, you can click on the link where somebody asked that question.   Additionally as I listen to the recordings I will have more information to list (below) about what I have learned about the new PubMed.

(This will take me some time so please be patient as I get the information up. Usually I don’t publish a post until it is totally done, but I felt it was more important to list the recordings so people can listen to them rather than wait until I have listened to each one and summarized the questions.) 

Briefly here are things that I learned:

Want to email suggestions about the design or function of New PubMed?  You must use HelpDesk email link. (located bottom right hand corner of front page). That is the group that is dealing with the redesign.  So if you think PubMed is missing something, (such as easy access to Lonesome Doc, MedlinePlus, LinkOut, etc.) email them to request it to be added.

To get to Lonesome Doc: Located Using PubMed, Go to Full Text Articles, scroll to where it says Local library.  There is a brief paragraph with a link to Loansome Doc.  (Krafty note: Totally hidden and unhelpful)

Special Queries:  The special queries search that we all knew in the old PubMed is now called Topic-Specific Queries.

LinkOut: Not easy to find.  Up at the top above the PubMed logo their is a pull-down menu for Resources.  Click it and select All Resourcesthen scroll to LinkOut.  What is totally confusing is that there are two spots labeled Resources.  One link is upper left above PubMed logo and the other more prominent (and first place you notice) is the More Resources which located on the right side of the page midway down the page.

Auto suggest: The auto suggest in the search box is NOT MeSH, it is just an auto suggest of what others have searched for.  (Krafty note: very misleading).

Publication Date in Advanced Search:  Adding the publication date in advanced search is NOT a limiter! 

Search Results Screen:  Citation and Abstract Plus are gone and now there is just Abstract.  IF you are in the Abstract view you can’t easily get to the full text of the article.  (Krafty note:  Why would they do that? I noticed that if your library uses Outside Tool your Outside Tool icon does display in the Abstract display and your users can get the full text if they click on that icon.)

Details Box: The details box will be leaving!  There will be a link in Advanced Search but the box will be disappearing soon.  If you want the box you will have to be signed into MyNCBI to keep it.  If you are plain ol’ user who doesn’t use MyNCBI then you won’t see the box.

Recent Activity: Recent Activity is NOT history!  This is important.  They do different things. 

MyNCBI: Lots of changes, share citations, filters, etc.

MLA Members Don’t Forget To Vote!

I Voted

 

 

Ballots were sent out today to current MLA members to vote on the future President, two Board Members, and next year’s Nominating Committee.  The ballot and MLANet both have links to each candidates MLA activity and credentials, and for the positions of President and Board Member each candidate answered a question posed by this year’s Nominating Committee.  New this year, video clipson MLANet featuring the Presidential candidates responses to the Nominating Committee questions are available to watch.

I encourage everyone to check out the candidates who will be representing you within the organization.  Then, click that mouse and vote! You have until December 8, 2009 to do so.

MeSH Terms and the New PubMed

Yesterday I attended an online webinar focused on the changes in the new PubMed.  Holly Ann Burt from the GMR was the instructor and she was great.  (I will be linking to the recording when it is available.)  However at one point in time during the session one librarian became rather frustrated with how the designers made it that much more difficult to search PubMed using MeSH.  Her complaint was that doctors were not going to know where to click and how to search using MeSH within the new version of PubMed.  My first thought was that most doctors weren’t using MeSH prior to the redesign anyway.  Sad, but I think pretty much true.

I must confess, I am not a huge PubMed user.  My MoC (Medline of Choice) is through Ovid.  I really love Ovid’s mapping in Advance Search, I think that is one of its strongest features.  The mapping allows me to quickly type in a keyword in the search box and be presented with the correct MeSH termThe mapping forces you to at least see a MeSH term, which is one of the strongest features of MEDLINE.  Does it work all the time?  No sometimes you can get some wonky results when you have an odd term (or when you unknowingly type it incorrectly).  But even in that case I like it because it forces me to re-examine my terms and strategies early in the search process.  I am not blindly searching via keyword and either missing vital information or retrieving everything under the sun.

I have always felt PubMed hides the MeSH in the closet.  It really never had very good front end mapping.  If you really wanted to be sure you were searching using MeSH terms you had to go to the MeSH database, search it and then ADD it to your PubMed search.  Clunky.  What doctor wants to do that?  Many don’t.  Heck I don’t want to do that and I am a librarian, but I do it when I search PubMed.  Of course over the years PubMed has made various improvements on the keyword searching.  In this latest version, PubMed uses Automatic Term Mapping (all behind the scenes) to search for the keyword as a MeSH term, subheading, Publications type, Pharmacologic action term, and All Fields.  Personally I think this produces a ton of results with a lot of extra junk citations.  I think it is just one step better than Google. 

There is one way to stop the citation deluge, and that is to have sound search strategies using MeSH.  But through out history, PubMed has done such an outstanding job of hiding the MeSH that it is no wonder that the average user doesn’t know or care about MeSH.  Must I remind you of Ana Kushnir’s blog entry, I Am Not Yelling. Not Out Loud, about why she hates PubMed.  She had no idea of really how to use PubMed and of MeSH terms.  She is not alone.  There are tons of doctors, nurses, medical students, etc. who do a Google search on PubMed and they think they are getting the right stuff.

I believe that PubMed’s inability or refusal to actively map people’s keyword searches to MeSH terms out front glaring at you on the page (like Ovid), is reason why people don’t search MeSH in PubMed.  In Ovid I am forced to pick a MeSH term, in PubMed I am blindly given results.  Doctor’s, nurses, and medical students didn’t go through school speaking or using MeSH, all the more reason to bring it out of the forefront of the search and force them to see it and choose it when searching a database that indexes using it!  Yet PubMed designers chose to hide it behind a curtain.  While we librarains were doing are darndest Toto impersonation to reveal the truth behind curtain, there was no way our message could be heard by everybody.  Getting doctors and researchers to search via MeSH was a losing battle. 

Now with the latest redesign the battle is lost.  The ability to search MeSH is even more clunky, the MeSH terms are minimized (hidden) within the abstract results and the details box in Advanced Search will be disappearing.  PubMed has made their product the Google database of medical literature.  Congratulations.  Searchers like Google, it is the number one search engine.  I am just not sure I want my medical database to end up to be that.  Before you know it NCBI may wonder why we are even bothering with this whole MeSH thing anyway, why index when everybody is doing keyword searching anyway? Everybody is Googling.  Now let’s be clear, I never heard anybody say that nor do I have any super secret handshake knowledge of that happening.  Quite frankly I bet those in charge of PubMed right now would say we would never think of ending the MeSH indexing of articles.  But, that is right now.  What happens 10, 20, 30 years from now?  PubMed’s hiding the MeSH in the background was the first, but crucial step in making MeSH irrelevant to the searcher.

New PubMed

It’s up, it’s down.  It’s the new version, but wait the old version is back.  The new PubMed has been up and down more more often than a yo-yo dieter.  While some things seem to be working, other things are not.  There is also the whole, “Where is that link/button/feature hiding on the new site” frustration.

Needless to day we all probably need a good class on the ins and outs of the new PubMed since the last class addressed the new changes but thanks to the PubMed developers didn’t have them live for us to see.  How frustrating!  Check out the NN/LM site and your region’s site to see what classes or handouts they might have on the new design.

Here are just some of the listings of classes and information resources I found:

  • GMR will be presenting several one hour PubMed updates for MLA CE. Check out the Cornflower for more information.
  • On the Pacific Northwest Region’s blog, it features several helpful handouts and videos on the new interface.  They have a PubMed “Quick Tour” video tutorial and a “Where has it Gone?”  brochure (produced by the librarians at U. Washington Health Sciences Library) to help users familiar with the old interface.
  • The SCR CONNECTions Monthly Web Meetings November 12th topic will be Special Edition PubMed Redesign.

There will always be some bumps along the road of change but the best way to make those smaller is to look at ways we can futher educate ourselves.  Additionally by learning how to use the new interface, we become more savvy users with better questions and concerns to submit to those that designed the system.  Feedback is an important loop in developing products and PubMed is no different.  So don’t forget the three methods by which you can do that.

MLA Webcast on Mobile Technologies

The MLA Webcast, Cut the Cord: Connecting To Our Mobile Users is fast approaching, Wednesday November 18, 2009 1:00-3:00pm (central time).  This webcast will be discussing the various trends, technologies, and innovative uses of mobile devices.  They will specifically discuss the use of mobile technology and its value for librarians and health care professionals.

As many of you know I have a lot on my plate these next few weeks but I really hope to catch this webcast.  I think it is very important and should be a must see for any librarian.  Why?  Why should a librarian be interested in smartphones and mobile devices, didn’t we already cover this with that webcast on PDAs a while back?  True, there was webcast a few years back on PDAs but a lot of things have changed since then.  While there are some who are still toting around the old Palm and PocketPC devices, the two most popular mobile devices now days are Blackberrys and iPhones. 

These all in one devices are taking the Internet by storm.  There are 22.4 million daily mobile web users (comScore March 2009) which is an increase of 107%.  More and more people are surfing and using the web on their phones.  At one time people scoffed at the idea that somebody would want to watch a whole movie on a video iPod, now people are using the web on a screen that isn’t much better than the old video iPod. 

So what does this mean to the average medical librarian?  Your users are either already or are soon to be using their mobile devices to surf and get information.  Is your website mobile friendly? What library resources are mobile friendly?  I am not just talking online books.  What databases have optimized mobile friendly sites and are you familiar with them?

These sort of questions are not only important for librarians but they are extremely important for vendors who are selling to libraries.  There are some point of care products that are mobile friendly but what about Medline?  PubMed has a mobile friendly search interface but what about the other Medline, nursing, and research databases?  As I have met with several vendor reps formally and informally, I am surprised by the number who don’t have a mobile friendly platform and who had never considered one. 

Two years ago I had a very old and very boring cell phone.  It did a good job at being a cell phone but it really didn’t do much else.  That was fine for me at the time.  Then I got an iPhone.  I was kind of reluctant to jump in to the iPhone world.  They are expensive little boogers (I always got the phone that came free with my plan) and the data plan was expensive too.  But I have to say now that I have jumped into the iPhone waters, I am never coming out.  I use that thing everywhere I go.  If I am not at home or at work and I need to look something up, no matter how important or unimportant, I use my phone.    There are 22.4 million of us, surely I am not the only one using the medical library on my phone.

Libraries: Facebook Group, Fan Page or Friend Your Librarian?

I have gotten quite a few questions about Facebook and whether I think libraries need a Facebook page, how should they set one up and how do they mesure its usage.  All very good questions and my quick answer: It all depends.

Should my library have a Facebook page?

I don’t know.  Who are your users and what are they doing?  Is Facebook blocked at your institution?  If your users are medical students you might consider having a Facebook page.  If your users are older physicians who don’t even use email then you probably can focus on something else other than Facebook.  If your institution blocks Facebook, you probably don’t want to deal with trying to maintain a library page on Facebook since this will most likely be done on your home time and most of your users wouldn’t think to look for your library on Facebook since it can’t be accessed at work. 

Should the library be a group, should it have a fan page, or is it more effective to have people “friend” the librarian?

In the early days, Facebook was more for connecting people together and you had to be a little creative to set up a organization or company’s page.  Many librarians jumped on to Facebook and offered their librarian services to patrons who “friended” them.  I am not sure how effective that was and is.  Some librarians had good responses while others felt a lot like a person who emailed me, “I have been on Facebook for years and despite teaching classes and telling students to friend me for help in the library, I have yet to have one library patron friend me.” 

Personally, I just don’t think friending your librarian is all that effective.  It might have been an adequate work around in the early days of Facebook, but now libraries can have their own pages and I don’t see it as important.  I give this example.  One of my favorite restaurants is Melt Bar & Grilled, the Northcoast Shores sandwich is to die for.  They have a Facebook page and I have become a “fan” of them on Facebook.  I am not “friends” with the servers, cooks, or the owner of the establishment.  As a “fan” of the restaurant I am aware of events and sales taking place and sent out through Facebook.  If I was a “friend” of the servers, cooks, or owner I might get information about events, but I am going to get a lot of other stuff that I am going to have to slog through too.  I have nothing against librarians wanting to have patrons “friend” them, I just don’t think that it is most effective use of Facebook and libraries.

Should the library have a fan page or be a group?

Again this is question about how well you know your users.  Most libraries seem to have fan pages and to me that makes sense because most people tend to think of libraries as place.  However if you are a group of libraries or you have an active user group within the library you might want to consider creating a group.  Ann Smarty wrote a nice simple column explaining the pros and cons of fan and group pages.  Facebook Group vs Facebook Fan Page: What’s Better  has a nice little chart where you see what features are available to fans and groups.

How do I measure usage of my Facebook site, I don’t want to spend a ton of time on something that gets no use?

Nobody wants to spend any more time on anything more than they really have to, so it is understandable that people are worried about a library’s Facebook usage (or any library resource for that matter).  Once you looked at your users AND decided that they might be the type of people who would be using Facebook then you are going to want to look at how you can measure the library’s Facebook usage.  This is a little tricky because there isn’t something like those online usage statistics that we can get from journal publishers.  Additionally, Facebook is sort of a closed system, you can’t get in behind the scenes and start adding a little coding here and there to track usage.  The easiest method you can use to look at usage is to look at the number of people you have following.  The downfall to that is that this just one number, it doesn’t really look at how active those people are on your page.  Many people can simply be a fan and never visit your site again.  Obviously you may want to know a little bit more about what people are doing and what things they are clicking on.  One way to do this may be to look at the referring URLs into your own library website.  If you have links on your Facebook page going back to your website or to your databases, depending on your set up, you might be able to tell that a certain percentage of people accessing these resources or your web site are coming from Facebook.  Finally the last method to measure usage would be to create a survey.  Do an online survey and link to it from Facebook, Twitter (if you have Twitter) and your home page, ask people if they know you have a Facebook site, if they use it and how they are using it. 

Facebook is just one small tool in the outreach tool box for libraries.  It might be the most popular and trendy tool right now, but it is still a tool.  Don’t let the hype influence you to use it if there is no need.  Don’t force a square plug into a round hole.  Equally important, don’t ignore it. You should be familiar with as many tools in your outreach tool box as possible because if things change in your library or with the tool, you need to know if it might be relevant to your institution.  Three years ago I never thought I would have a need for my dad’s air compressor, but soon with a new home and basement remodel that little gem paired with a nail gun will be very helpful.  Two years ago I said Twitter and Facebook may not have any real use in libraries, times have change and some places have wonderfully proved me wrong using these tools effectively in their institutions.  Like I said, quick answer: It all depends.

Trying to Get Your Institution on the Twitter Train

A few weeks ago I was a part of the Technology Forum for the Midwest MLA Annual Conference in Columbus, OH.  I spoke on libraries using Twitter and Facebook.  Later I wrote a blog post linking to the slides as well more of my thoughts on the topic. 

Ever since then I have gotten a few emails from people asking how they can convince their IT departments to allow Facebook and Twitter so they can reach out to library users.  I have sat down and thought of a few good arguments for librarians to use with their IT people, however upon reflection I don’t think that will be very productive. 

The short of it is, the IT departments are not going to deal with security perceived issues because the librarian wants to use social networking tools.  We can plead and beg all we want but in the minds of the IT people Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. are either security risks or bandwidth hogs that have no real world use in the hospital world.  We are spinning our wheels to approach them on this, we would be better off trying to get them notify us when they mess with the IP ranges causing all sorts of havoc with the authentication systems of our online resources.  At least we can easily and directly show how that (IP ranges and the changing of them) impacts our work and that of the employees doing research at the hospital. 

Recently (within the last 4-6 months) my institution opened up Facebook after years of it being blocked.  The library had no part in Facebook being unblocked.  Facebook, Twitter, and few other social networking sites are being used by my institution and other institutions for marketing, public relations, patient relations, and alumni relations  purposes.  Often an institution’s head of marketing or the CEO is the driving force behind these sites magically being unblocked.  When the Chief of Public Relations and Marketing sees that a competitor’s hospital is using Facebook and Twitter to effectively communicate to patients and market the hospital, you better believe he/she is going to want their hospital get involved too. 

Who do you think IT is going to listen to, the librarian who wants to set up a Twitter feed from the catalog to the library website or the CEO who wants to use Twitter to help distribute institutional news and information?  If the CEO wants his/her institution to use these applications, IT has a little more reason to investigate and make sure these resources don’t pose a security or bandwidth threat to the institution than they do if the librarian asks. 

So what do you do if your hospital hasn’t adopted these social networking applications?  I guess it all depends on the size of your hospital and how well you know the big fish.  There are a lot of recent successful examples and articles of hospitals using these things.  Perhaps if you are in a small hospital and know the big wigs fairly well you might begin sending them some of these articles.  If you are in larger hospital or you don’t have a real working relationship with your CEOs then perhaps you can start by contacting someone in marketing.  That person in marketing may not have enough clout but they might know somebody else who does. 

While you as the librarian may not have the direct power to get your hospital to unblock social media sites, you might be able to influence those who do.  Social media hits many more areas than libraries.  It is a huge marketing and public relations tool that many hospitals and academic medical centers are persuing with specific marketing plans and goals. 

Here are just some articles that might be of interest to pass along to your marketing department or your CEO. 

Of course if they want examples of hospitals who are using social media one only needs to go on to Ed Bennett’s web site Found In Cache, who has compiled the most extensive list of U.S. Hospitals using social networking tools.  As of October 4, 2009 he lists 194 hospitals with YouTube Channels, 203 with Facebook pages, 284 with Twitter accounts and 44 with blogs for a total of 391 hospitals using some type of social networking application.  For some reason these 391 hospitals have found ways to use social media without any HIPAA problems.

Peruse the list and you will see big hitters like the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Beth Israel (CEO writes his own blog here) all using social media.  If you or your marketing department or CEOs think social networking is just for the big guys, you will notice that smaller community and specialized hospitals have jumped into the fray as well.  Evergreen Healthcare in Kirkland, Washington (230 beds), Gritman Medical Center in Moscow, Idaho (25 beds), and Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, Maryland (203 beds) as well as many others are on the list.  Who knows, if you check out this list you may see your hospital’s main competitor on their already.

IT’s complaint that these resources pose a threat and may violate HIPAA may be valid, but if there are 391 hospitals out there doing it, I bet somebody might have found a way to make sure it doesn’t pose a HIPAA or any other security risk. Just wild speculation of course.