April 4, 2007

Articles of Interest 2.0

Posted in Articles of Interest, Professional Development, Web 2.0 / Medical Library 2.0 at 2:42 pm by Alexia

While reading a post on Squidoo on Infodoodads I stumbled across Brian Gray’s treatise on Using Web 2.0 Principles to Become Librarian 2.0.  On that site I ran into CiteULike, a site that “is a free service to help academics to share, store, and organise the academic papers they are reading.”  I am constantly running into articles I think would be of interest to other medical librarians, and see many postings on medlib-l sharing their articles.  It stuck me that CiteULike would be a great place to serve as a repository or our serindipitously or otherwise obtained articles.  I have created both a profile and a group (Health_Sciences_Librarians) to facilitate this sharing.  I am encouraging all to join CiteULike (all they ask for is a username, passoword and email address) and join the group (it’s open to all for now).

 CiteULike is easy to use.  Just add a “Post to CiteULike” bookmark to your favorites and whenever you run across an article from a variety of sources (including PubMed, but not OVID) just choose the “Post to CiteULike” link and all the citation information will be pulled into CiteULike.  Just add tags, reviews, etc. then click save and your done.  If you’ve joined the Health Sciences Librarians group the citation will show up in your library and under your username in the group’s library.  If full text is available you can obtain it from a link on CiteULike.  You can track fellow users or groups via RSS feeds or via watchlists on CiteULike.  The site even offers electronic tables of contents to over 11,000 journals (which you can add to your watch list).

This is a dynamic and useful site and I see lots of potential for information sharing among medical and health science librarians, many of whom work in one-person libraries.  CiteULike is a quick and easy way to share articles of interest and I hope many of you will join in the fun.

February 20, 2007

Efficiency and Service

Posted in Articles of Interest at 10:55 am by Alexia

Yesterday afternoon the network went down.  I never realize just how much work I do on the computer until I’m not able.  I digress…

In an effort to find something work related to do until the network came back up I shuffled through my “to read” pile and picked up an article I’d copied from the November 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review (you can take the librarian out of business school but you can’t take business school out of the librarian).  The article, titled Breaking the Trade-off Between Efficiency and Service turned out to be an article not written specifically for a library but extremely applicable nonetheless.

The article, written by Frances X. Frei, stressed that a service company will never by as “efficient” as a manufacturing company because of the human variable called the customer.  He goes on to talk about the five types of variabilities and the option of accommodating or reducing the variabilities along with the benefits and pitfalls of both options.

This article has given me pause to think on many levels.  First of all, the article reminded me that even though we work in libraries and often times feel that this busines mumbo-jumbo doesn’t fit in our department business principles can work for us and help us improve.  I often think that if hospital libraries embraced business principles more that we’d have less of a problem justifying ourselves to administration.  We, as a profession, have made strides in this area but have a ways to go.  I’ve always felt that a business course or two should be required for an MLS, especially if the student is on a special library track.  I degress yet again…

The article also got me thinking about our customers (patrons).  When it comes down to it, our patrons are the reason we exist.  We try to market our hospital library to bring in more patrons, often times without putting in place mechanisms to help us deal with the increase in library use so that quality does not suffer.  We shouldn’t hide ourselves to keep from becoming overwhelmed but, as the article points out, we need to think ahead and plan before making changes.

Our hospital is on a customer service and customer satisfaction kick, which is why this article caught me attention.  We often think we know best when it comes to our patrons but in reality we don’t.  If we did we would embrace the fact that many of them want to do their own searches and help them do searches better.  We would embrace alternative methods of access, within budgetary constraints.  We would even let down our guard, as we did at my place of work, and allow coffee (in a mug with a lid) in the library, realizing that our major patron base – residents and medical students – work awful hours and appreciate having access to caffeine while studying or doing research.

Obviously the computer network is back up and running and the world is safe from a librarian with too much time on her hands…

October 5, 2006

Email is for old people

Posted in Articles of Interest, Web 2.0 / Medical Library 2.0 at 11:33 am by Alexia

So says this report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, as cited in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

A 2005 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project called “Teens and Technology” found that teenagers preferred new technology, like instant messaging or text messaging, for talking to friends and use e-mail to communicate with “old people.” Along the same lines, students interviewed for this article say they still depend on e-mail to communicate with their professors. But many of the students say they would rather send text messages to friends, to reach them wherever they are, than send e-mail messages that might not be seen until hours later.

Ignoring the fact that we librarians just might qualify as “old people” this statement what can hospital librarians get out of this?  Unfortunately, more work for us if we wish to remain relevant to an upcoming generations of users.  Today’s undergraduate’s are tomorrow’s medical students, nursing students, residents, doctors, nurses and even administration.  Getting them into the library, both physicall and virtually, will require getting out to where they are as well as getting them to come to us.

Some students at the University of Maryland at College Park, for instance, say they would rather keep talking to professors and campus officials through e-mail.

“I like to separate my personal life from my school life,” says Amanda J. Heilman, a freshman studying animal sciences at the university.

Not only might our younger patrons wish to separate their personal from work life, we also have to remember our established patrons who have become used to what we do and are not as willing to try out new technologies.

How exactly might we reach these younger patrons?  Some of the universities in this article set up pages on MySpace.  I’m not seeing this happening in the hospital library world.  Honestly, our residents barely have time to eat let alone peruse MySpace on a regular basis.  Other universities offered a text messaging service.  I see this as a possibility.  I see patrons wanting to receive a text message when their searches are done or their articles have arrived.  And since most cell phone companies have a mechanism to sent text messages via a web form, all we would need is the phone number and cell provider and we’re good to go.  IM may be a trickier alternative.  At my place of work, most IM applications have been disabled.  That is unfortunate because I see IM as being potentially helpful for patrons who have a hard time physically coming to the library.  IM would offer a synchronous alternative to phone calls and email.

What does this all mean for us?  It means it’s as important as ever to keep up with new technologies and new uses for old technologies.  It means that we have the unenviable task of using the new technologies to draw in the younger generation of patrons without alienating our more established patrons.  It means finding a balance that is both effective and time-efficient.



August 22, 2006

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 Medlineplus.gov 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.


August 9, 2006

Article of possible interest – Purchasing online journal access for a hospital medical library: how to identify value in commercially available products

Posted in Articles of Interest at 1:15 pm by Alexia

Purchasing online journal access for a hospital medical library: how to identify value in commercially available products
Thomas P Carter , Anne O Carter and Gwendolyn Broomes
1School of Clinical Medicine and Research, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
2Librarian, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, St. Michael, Barbados

Biomedical Digital Libraries 2006, 3:8     doi:10.1186/1742-5581-3-8

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.bio-diglib.com/content/3/1/8