September 27, 2007
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.
March 23, 2007
Last October the Pew Internet & American Life Project published a report regarding behaviors of Internet users searching for health information (emphasis mine):
Eighty percent of American internet users, or some 113 million adults, have searched for information on at least one of seventeen health topics. Most internet users start at a general search engine when researching health and medical advice online. Just 15% of health seekers say they “always” check the source and date of the health information they find online, while another 10% say they do so “most of the time.” Fully three-quarters of health seekers say they check the source and date “only sometimes,” “hardly ever,” or “never,” which translates to about 85 million Americans gathering health advice online without consistently examining the quality indicators of the information they find. Most health seekers are pleased about what they find online, but some are frustrated or confused.
I read the above posted comic this morning, as I was updating the public Consumer Health Resource page at my hospital. I have no idea how much this page is access, if at all (partially due to an IT department that doesn’t really care why I care about statistics) and was hoping I wasn’t updating the page for naught. After all, getting to the page itself is an exercise in patience. It takes clicking on no fewer than four links to get to the page and that is only if you know that you have to choose my particular hospitals page from the health system’s main page. We are the only library in the system with enough staff to maintain an external web page for consumer health information seekers.
Translation – 75% of health information seekers don’t care if the information is right as long as it “looks like they did the work”. 85 million people thinking Krypton is a planet. 85 million people who probably don’t even know there are brick and morter or virtual consumer health libraries and librarians who are happy and willing to guide them to authorative, accurate health information. 85 million people whose local hospitals purchase “health library” packages for their web pages without consulting the librarians on staff.
So, as I sit here contemplating ideas for goals for the next fiscal year and wondering if partnering with local public libraries to teach critical appraisal skills to health information seekers would be worthwhile I see this report and think no – 75% of Internet users don’t care and feel the information is useful. Then I think ignorance is no excuse and there has to be a way to reach the public. It’s difficult for me to sit back and do nothing but I’m not exactly sure what we can do. Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around me head:
- Try to get a link to the consumer health resource page on the main system web site.
- Brainstorm about ideas for getting marketing involved in promoting healthy Internet search skills.
- Continue conteplating partnering with public libraries in the hospital’s community to teach healthy Internet search skills.
I would love to hear other ideas.
February 16, 2007
If the library as a place is soon to be a thing of the past someone forgot to tell the patrons of our library. Since the beginning of the year the number of people daily visiting the library has gone up, as has our interactions with them. Not only are they coming into our library but they are utilizing the library staff. We have online forms they can fill out to request literature searches and ILLs but a majority of our requests come in person or over the phone.
And while Web 2.0 might encourage electronic collaboration there are still plenty of folk around here who like to meet face to face. There are very few places to meet in the hospital at the last minute. There are plenty of meeting rooms but they must be reserved. We’ve opened up our AV room and Staff Lounge to people who wish to meet in a place more private than the cafeteria or lobby and this has met with tremendous success. It’s a small gesture that has seemed to reap much good will and customer satisfaction. It has made the librarians more visible because they must pass the reference desk to get to the rooms. They see us interacting with other patrons. In my opinion, the more people exposed to the library in any way shape or form becomes one more person who is a library supporter. An additional library supporter never hurts, does it?
December 7, 2006
I was directed to this great commercial that the Fulton County Public Library made. What a great idea! While most hospital libraries don’t have the money or other resources to make a TV commercial why not go with a print campaign or work with your marketing department to come up with something similar. What can health sciences libraries do for you? Let’s make a list!
New commercial for FCPL