April 8, 2008

Coincidence? I think not.

Posted in Musings, Opinion at 11:02 am by Alexia

MPOW, and the health system it is a part of, is going through a transition.  By transition I mean layoffs.  In an email sent to associates, administration stated that layoffs of clinical personnel would be minimal  so as to affect patient care as little as possible.

I contend the library should fit into that category.  While I agree librarians do not interact directly with patients I will argue we affect direct patient care.  What would the surgeon, who was in the operating room with his patient open on the table, have done if he did not have the librarian to call when he needed information immediately about something he didn’t expect to see occurred in his patient?  What would a cardiologist do when a patient arrives with a rare condition?  What would the ER do when patients suffering from a bioharzardous chemical with which they do not know the antidote?

I do not think administration thinks of us in this  manner.  We do not know yet if we are affected or not, but I content we are as clinical as the pathology lab or biomedical engineering.  Only time will tell how administration feels.  All bets are off when a consultant is brought in but I had hoped that our hard work and effort had paid off.  We shall see.

EDIT: I left an entire portion of this post out accidentally, and it was an important part.  Mental note to self – never post before coffee.

Two of the hospitals in our health system, including MPOW, were recently ranked in the top 15 for major teaching hospitals.  What do these two hospitals have in common?  You guessed it – larger libraries with more than one professional librarian on staff.  Is this a coincidence?  I think no.t.  I think that in order to be an excellent center for clinical practice and education you need an excellent knowledge-based information center (aka – library) will excellent professional librarians to help clinicians find the best, most appropriate information in the time they  need it.

This reminds me of the time a nurse from the ED came down to the library.  He’d been searching for treatment of chemicals released from burning PCP piping and had been searching for over two hours.  This was for the ED’s monthly hazmat drill.  Had this been an actual emergency the patients would have been out of luck.  We found the information for him in 10 minutes.  He was so impressed that he invited the librarians to the debrief meeting and from there we ended up on the hazmat team.  Ergo, librarians DO affect patient care directly, even if we don’t directly care for patients.


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 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.