September 27, 2007

Why librarians are still important.

Posted in Library promotion, Opinion, Rants at 11:10 am by Alexia

How many times, in hospital libraries, have we heard the questions “Why do we need a library or librarians when it’s all on the Internet”?  More times than we can imagine, I suspect.  Worse is when the people posing the question state that “it’s” all FREE on the Internet, though I think Hospital Administrators are slowly getting that it’s not all free and in fact can be rather expensive.

How do we, as librarians, counter this question?  Well, first we can admit that yes, a great deal of medical knowledge and information can be found on the Internet.  Few medical journals do not have an electronic counterpart and electronic books are becoming more prevalent and easier to use.  That does not mean that librarians are superfluous or incidental.  In fact, we may be more important than ever as the amount of information grows exponentially and the number of access points, in varying quality, increases.

How does administration think the resources are found, evaluated, purchased and made readily available to patrons?  A lot of work goes in to making electronic resources easily and consistently available to the doctors, residents, nurses and students.  The job isn’t over after initial purchase and activation of a product.  Publishers change urls.  Heck, even our IT departments sometimes change IP addresses, often times without notifying anyone.  Ever have to tell all your electronic resource vendors that your institution’s IP address has changed?  It is not a difficult process but it can be a time consuming process.  Access issues are only the tip of the iceberg.

T. Scott’s recent post on valuing librariansspeaks more elegantly than I ever could on the higher level aspects of why librarians are important regardless of where and how information is available.  When you add in the purchase and maintenance of print collections, interlibrary loan, and literature searching (things, along with electronic collections, I consider “basic” library services) it becomes clear that human management is needed in order for the library patrons to get quality information when they need it and in the format they need it.  Physicians are experts in patient care.  Librarians are experts in knowledge management.  Let us do our jobs well so that the physicians can to theirs.

September 25, 2007

I failed as a librarian mother

Posted in Musings at 8:27 am by Alexia

Last night, while at the computer, my son (who is 9 and in 4th grade) wanted to look up facts on Tiger Stadium.  He and his classmates have been learning how to use the computer and the Internet at school.  He went to Google, which I overlooked because we were at a computer that was not mine and Google was the default home page.  He typed in Tiger Stadium and browsed the list of hits.  He zoomed in on the Wikipedia entry and ignored all others.  When I tried to explain to him that while Wikipedia might be a good source it is not the only source and he needs to use more than one.  He wouldn’t have any of that.  Wikipedia was it.  Granted, in this case the information was very accurate, but still… Wikipedia?  And only Wikipedia?  I’ve definitely fallen down on my librarian mother role.

I am a bit surprised the media specialist hasn’t talked about evaluating sources.  I am hoping she just hasn’t gotten there yet, as this is only the beginning of the third full week of school and they only have “library” on day a week.  What hit home for me for the first time, I mean really hit home, is that my son is going to learn about stuff on the Internet with or without me.

On a positive note, I have convinced my boyfriend that there is more to medical information on the Internet then WebMD.  He was actually going to search MedlinePlus for information last night.

September 20, 2007

I am a librarian…

Posted in Opinion at 10:06 am by Alexia

and proud of it.  What do I do?  I work in a hospital library helping doctors, nurses, students and hospital associates find information they need to do their jobs.  I perform literature searches.  I find information from books and journals, both in the traditional print format and from electronic formats on the Internet.  I assess the electronic resources we use for validity and cost effectiveness.  I manage the library’s electronic presence.  What tools do I use?  Many different tools, including the Internet, email, networked office software and the old fashioned pen and paper.

There is a meme going around called “I Work on the Web“.  The idea is to post pictures of yourself and describe how you work on the web.  In response, the Annoyed Librarian wrote a post on “I work in the library“.  Though the tone of the post made me feel a tad uncomfortable, especially the picture of the monkey working on a computer with the caption “So here’s you “working on the web”:”, I don’t disagree with the general idea.

The web is a tool, not a place.  Librarians have done their jobs long before the Internet and the World Wide Web were developed and will continue to do so long after new technology comes along to replace the Internet.  There has always been and always will be people who are cautious when integrating new technologies into their jobs and there are others who embrace new technology wholeheartedly.  As long as both camps are committed to the basic tenants of librarianship – the gathering and dissemination of information – neither side is “better” than the other.  There will come a time when to old technologies will be completely gone but until then there is a place for everyone, as long as both sides of the camp agree to respect each others opinions and views.

So, here I am… take it or leave it.  I am a medical librarian.  I work in a library in a hospital.  I use the best tools available for any given situation to do my job.  I am willing to learn new technologies but am also willing to use old methods if it serves the situation better.  I am a librarian… and proud of it.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the IWOW meme.  I guess I think that many librarians worry too much about stereotypes and automatically think that unless you “work on the web” you are perpetuating our negative stereotype.  I also think other librarians fight new technologies kicking and screaming and refuse to see the value in anything new.  In the end it how you do your job using the best tools for the best situation is what matters most.

September 18, 2007

Work / work balance

Posted in Musings at 11:06 am by Alexia

As time goes on and my career progresses I have become increasingly active in local, state and regional associations.  In addition, my job responsibilities have grown.  I am quickly reaching that point in my career where I’m concerned about my work / work balance.

I believe it is important to be active in associations.  The education and networking opportinities are reasons enough.  But, when you come right down to it your employer is paying you to work for the organization and even if, like me, you have “must participate in professional activities” in your job description and evaluation your focus must be your workplace.

Admininstration has revamped our evaluation structure and our departmental and individual goals have to relate to the operating unit’s goals and objectives.  We are being asked to quantify our goals and results and suddenly my entire job is topsy-turvy.  I don’t like making choices between work and professional activities but if I want to keep my sanity I must. 

How do you make choices in terms of work / work balance?

September 14, 2007

DOCLINE Ettiquette

Posted in ILL at 10:04 am by Alexia

Karen Bülow, Health Professionals Outreach Coordinar for the Southcentral Region of the National Nework of Libraries of Medicne, has put together an article on Docline ettiquette.  With the prices of journals, both print and electronic, skyrocketing hospital libraries will be relying heavily on interlibrary loan.  This document was designed to make interlibrary loan for medical libraries as easy and painless as possible.

The only addition I would  make is to expand the Sending section to include making sure the lending library scans the Docline coversheet when scanning and sending an article electronically, either by Ariel, email or other electronic means.

September 13, 2007

Revisiting GTD in the library

Posted in Geeky Stuff, Getting Things Done, GTD, Web 2.0 / Medical Library 2.0 at 1:04 pm by Alexia

A little over a year ago I wrote a post on Getting Things Done in the Library.  One of the things I like most about this “system” is that it is geared towards helping you manage tasks and not time.  I believe this is a major factor in my success of using GTD as a librarian.  Even if one could manage time our jobs are full of too many interruptions.  The best we can hope for is to manage what we have to do in such a way that we can get it done between reference questions.

The tool that has worked the best for me in using GTD has been AirSet.  This Web 2.0 application offers a calendar, lists, files, contacts and links.  You can use it alone or for groups.  I use my calendar for my “hard landscape” tasks – meetings, appointments, etc. – that have a definite time.  I use the list function for keeping track of my tasks and projects.  Between those two functions I am able to keep track of my projects and tasks and that is half the battle.

I would be very interested to know if other librarians are using GTD and if so, how.


September 11, 2007

Living la vida CyberTools

Posted in Integrated Library Systems, Vendors at 2:33 pm by Alexia

As I am sure you all have noticed I went MIA for a while.  Why?  Well, it was the summer of the ILS migration!  We had been using Professional Software since as long as I’ve been here (November 1994) and though it was a great system it was becoming outdated and the developer seems to have disappeared.  We had extra money in our budget this year and decided to take the opportunity to make the change.  We chose CyberTools for several reason including price and the fact that three of the other libraries in our health system and the idea of a union catalog was tempting.  We have not been disappointed.

No ILS is perfect but for our needs CyberTools has come close.  So far I’ve only really played extensively with the circulation module and the catalog module.  I am particularly enamored with circulation, especially the automatic email capability to remind patrons their books are due.  There is a similar feature for the overdues but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  Besides cleaning up records after the migration I am cataloging our electronic books, which excites me to no end.  Before CyberTools we had links on our web page to our ebook vendors and links to titles in our EBSCO AtoZ product but there was no way to search our catalog, find an ebook AND access it all from one resource.

Thus far, my only major disappointment with the cataloging module is the way it handles (or doesn’t handle) loose-leaf books (i.e. – Drug Facts and Comparisons).  It’s a monograph but I wanted a serials record to keep track of the updates.  CyberTools support was able to help me but they did a lot of the work behind the scenes and I can’t recreate it on my own.  This is a relatively minor issue since that is the only active loose-leaf book we have in print.  Nothing in the circulation module has disappointed me.  I have not dealt enough with the serials module to have a strong opinion but I like what I see so far.  Most of my problems with the serials module have to do with journal publishers rather than CyberTools.

I know there are features I haven’t even discovered yet, like the ability of the patron to edit their record and renew items.  I do wish CyberTools had an RSS feature that would let a patron save a search as and RSS feed so that their reader would be updated any time we updated our catalog with an item fitting the patron’s search. I would highly recommend this ILS to any hospital library, especially ones in health systems.