August 30, 2006

Getting Things Done in the library

Posted in Getting Things Done, GTD, Productivity at 1:51 pm by Alexia

Back when I introduced myself and this blog I mentioned that one of the areas I planned to blog on was work productivity issues. So, here’s my take on time management in the library – you can’t.

Most time management systems advocate setting aside blocks of time to work on certain tasks. Obviously the proponents of such systems are not librarians, or any other professional or worker in a workplace where interuptions are the norm and time is never of one’s own. One day though, while surfing the Net in desperation of finding something, anything that would help me get rid of the feeling of drowning, I ran across David Allen and his methology of “getting things done”. There are two key objectives to his methodology:

  1. Capture all the things that you need to get done in a trusted system.
  2. Discipline yourself to make front-end decisions about your inputs.

In essence, you manage what your “open loops” by writing them down so you don’t use brainpower trying to remember what you have to do and when. It is more than a calendar system, and far less restrictive than an organizational system. David Allen gives us the tools to help us establish stress free productivity but leaves it up to us to decide how to iimplement those tools.

Rather than overwhelm my blog readers with a lengthy summary I will try to post one day a week on GTD and how it can relate to managing workflow in a library. In the meantime, I highly suggest reading “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

August 29, 2006

RANT – Journal publishers

Posted in Publishers, Rants at 9:04 am by Alexia

This rant has been stewing for a while, years in fact, so bear with me for a moment.

I recently received an invoice from our journal vendor.  One of the line items was an additional charge to a journal for the 2005 subscription year.  Yes, 2005.  We are now nine months in to 2006.  Not only are we being charged an additional amount for an item we purchased 21 months ago, the amount is almost double what the original subscription rate was.

I cannot think of a single instance where a company can come back and charge me and additional fee for something I purchased in the past.  I understand that there may be a difference in cost from when we get the renewal notice in June to when the subscription starts in January.  I’m guessing most publishers haven’t set their 2007 rates in stone yet.  BUT, they really should have had their 2005 rates pretty well decided.

Is this a publisher issue, a vendor issue, or a bit of both?  I’m not really sure.  I’ve just kind of been rolling with the flow the last few years but have finally gotten to the point were enough is enough and I will push for answers.  Any tips or information already gleaned by anyone else would be greatly appreciated. 

August 22, 2006

New OCLC Connexion tool

Posted in News and Noteworthy, Vendors at 11:00 am by Alexia

OCLC announced that it’s Connexion cataloging product now offers a tool that lets librarians automatically harvest and create WorldCat records for digital resources.  According to MLC:

Using either Connexion client or browser, librarians just type in a URL and the Metadata Extractor captures and formats data into a bibliographic workform for Web sites as well as locally stored .htm, .html, .pdf and .doc files.


Article of Interest – Relationship of Internet Health Information Use With Patient Behavior and Self-Efficacy: Experiences of Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients Who Contact the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service

Posted in Articles of Interest, Consumer Health at 9:26 am by Alexia

A study recently published in the Journal of Health Communication shows that a new cancer diagnosis affects how a person uses the internet for health information.  Combine the results of this study to one done by Ruti Volk, librarian at the Cancer Center’s Patient Education Resource Center consumer health librarians have tangible proof stating what we librarians already new – librarians are the experts at information retreival.

The PEW Internet & American Life Project has a lot of information on Internet usage, including health information.  NLM has gone a long way in gathering reliable health information through but I believe there is more we can do.  A few years ago the library at my hospital offered classes on locating and evaluating health information on the Internet.  They were not well attended apparently (I was not employed here at that time) but I’m wondering if partnering with a public library to offer such a course would be a better option.

I also believe NLM and/or MLA should consider television advertising Medlineplus.  We’ve all seen add for WebMD, and just recently I saw an ad for a drug that at the end of the commercial directed views to go to their “unbiased” web site for health information.  Our profession needs to play with the big boys if we are to “prove” we are the best resource for finding, evaluating and disemminating information.  We cannot do this in small numbers.  Let’s take a page out of the “Got milk?”, “Pork, the other white meat”, and “Happy cows make good cheese” campaigns – let’s encourage MLA to go beyond Medspeak brochures and advertise where people are actually going to see it – on television.


Five Weeks to a Social Library

Posted in News and Noteworthy, Professional Development, Web 2.0 / Medical Library 2.0 at 9:06 am by Alexia

There have been many posts around the blogosphere regarding this online course, which will take place February 12 – March 17, 2007.  Right now the coordinators are looking for contributors.  I wanted to point out what a wonderful opportunity this appears to be in regards to a basic course on new web technologies.  The goal of the course is to reach as broad an audience as possible so while you will learn about social software in general deciding if and how to utilize any or all of the technology in your situation will be up to you.

Starting in September look for posts about my thoughts about how medical librarians can use social software, including applications I don’t think are applicable to us.

August 18, 2006

Friday Funny

Posted in Humor at 11:02 am by Alexia

“On my income tax 1040 it says ‘Check this box if you are blind.’  I wanted to put a check mark about three inches away.”

Tom Lehrer (1928 – )
US humorist, singer, & songwriter

Friday musings

Posted in Career Development, Conferences, Professional Development at 8:46 am by Alexia

No, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth.  August is traditionally a busy month for me as I am in charge of the serials renewal, which needs to be to our vendor by September 1 to guarantee renewal.  In addition, several new, time-sensative assignments came due this week, and I had to prep for and run my first MDMLG Executive Board meeting.

If there was any uncertainty about how underepresented hospital librarians felt at MLA and how irrelevant they felt programming was, those uncertainties were laid to rest yesterday.  The normally “so quiet I sometimes forget about it” Hospital Library Section of MLA listserv offered a flurry of posts regarding JCAHO’s request for comments on the Management of Information Standard and regarding MLA programming.  Michelle Kraft has done a good job recapping the conversation regarding hospital librarians and MLA, I will not reinvent that wheel.  I also have my opinions on that but do not have the time right now to articulate them properly.  What I want to iterate today is barriers, other than lack of relevant programming, to attending MLA conferences and discuss possible alternatives.

There are many reasons medical librarians, especially hospital librarians, cannot attend MLA.  Funding is one reason, many hospitals are strapped for cash and, like it or not, do not feel continuing education for librarians is that important.  There are grants available, but that is a solution for only a handful of librarians.  Paying for a conference out of pocket is another option, and there are librarians who feel that attending MLA is so important that one should not hesitate to pay out of pocket if they were a true professional.  I do not know about anyone else, but I am a librarian at a Catholic hospital.  I don’t get paid enough to have a spare $2000 for MLA.  I won’t get on my salary soapbox here, that is enough fodder for several posts.  Lack of funds is not the only reason; some hospital librarians limit the number of staff members that can be gone from the library at the same time.  So, either only the library director attends MLA, or the staff rotates attendance, or staff attends different conferences.

I agree that MLA, or any conference for that matter, is best experienced in person but that is not always feasible.  Offering alternative means of “attending” MLA offers librarians the chance to keep up when they otherwise could not.

August 15, 2006


Posted in Vendors at 9:55 am by Alexia

As everyone knows by now, EBSCO has purchased the CINAHL database and has decided to become exclusive distributors of said database.  The same is true for SPORTDiscus (a great database for finding sports medicine, orthopedic, and rehabilitation literature, btw).  Many people (myself included) are not happy about this.  I find the OVID search interface far superior to EBSCOHost, though EBSCO does offer RSS alerts for saved searches and table of contents (though they are only alerts that link back to EBSCOHost but it’s a start).  But facts are facts and as of January 1, 2008 EBSCO will be the only distributor of an updated CINAHL (and SPORTDiscus) database.  Ergo, if we (my hospital library) want to continue offering this database we will have to switch to EBSCO.

Yesterday afternoon the System librarians met with a couple of EBSCO people and it was a very interesting meeting.  They showed us all the new biomedical offerings, including Cinahl.  I continue to be underimpressed with the search interface but the reps promised a new and improved interface sometime this fall.  Realizing that many librarians are not fond of the search interface, the EBSCO reps focused on the “improvements” they’ve made to the databases, mainly full text journal content.  They discussed native PDF’s and the vast number of titles offered.  I noted that a majority of the titles had embargos (and long ones at that – 7 months or greater) and while that might be okay for an academic setting a clinically-focused library had far different needs.  I pointed out that many journals have posted rapid release articles in an effort to get the most current, vital medical information to clinicians.  In our line of work, 7 months may render information obsolete.  The EBSCO guy countered that delayed access was better than no access at all.  In the clinical setting this is not 100% true.  Oddly enough, when showing us DynaMed he made sure to point out that this product updated daily to get the most current information out there.  Sometimes you just have to love salespeople.

The bottom line for our hospital library is this – we wish to continue offering Cinahl to our nurses and nursing students.  Therefore we will need to migrate Cinahl to the EBSCO platform.  We also love SPORTDiscus and I will lobby hard to migrate that database also.  EBSCO is offering a 6 month trial which we will take advantage of, but not until the new search interface is deployed.  In all likelihood we will not migrate any other databases.  Our main question is that of what level of Cinahl and SPORTDiscus we get (database only, database “Plus”, full text).  As we work our way through this decision-making I will keep you informed of our progress.


August 14, 2006

Alternatives to the MLA conferences

Posted in Career Development, Professional Development at 8:57 am by Alexia

There is no denying that attending an MLA conference is a wonderful experience but, for a variety of reason, I have not always been able to attend that particular conference.  A couple of years ago the library recieved an Advance Program for Internet Librarian.  Intrigued, I reviewed the materials and found that, as a techie medlibber, this conference had much to offer me.  I spoke with my director and she agreed that I should go.  I have not looked back since.

This conference offers a wonderful alternative to MLA.  The focus is technology, so this conference is not suitable for every medical or hospital librarian, but if you are in charge of any aspect of technology (including electronic resources) in your library I would highly recommend attending.  Speakers come from all aspects of librarianship: public, school, academic, and special (including medical).  The nice thing about this conference is that, for the most part, the technology is dicussed in general terms and is applicable to all types of libraries and librarians.

This year’s offerings look just as exciting as past years.  Oh, and Monterey is a wonderful place for a conference.  The hotel / conference center is quite near Monterey Bay.  Each morning, before the conference, I would grab a latte and head to the Fisherman’s Wharf their to drink my coffee while listening the barking of the sea lions.

If you have any questions about this conference please feel free to ask them in a comment, or you can visit the conference wiki.


August 11, 2006

How Geeky am I?

Posted in Geeky Stuff at 4:23 pm by Alexia

I just added a Meebo widget to my blog.  Our library staff has briefly discussed thinking about IM reference but our IT department won’t allow IM software on our PC’s.  Even Yahoo or AOL’s web interfaces don’t work.  But Meebo’s seems too (Gawd, I hope no one in my IT department reads this).  I added the widget to test it on my blog and flesh the details before I bring it up again at another staff meeting.  So, for the sake of research, Meebo me if you see me online!

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