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.


May 1, 2007


Posted in Consumer Health, Rants, Reference Resources, Web 2.0 / Medical Library 2.0 at 12:49 pm by Alexia

Okay, I’ll bite.  The biblioblogosphere has brought to my attention a new consumer health tool called MEDgle (or hypochondria 2.0 in some circles).  For a good review of signs and symptoms web sites visit David Rothman’s post on his blog.  I’m not going to reinvent his wheel but I did want to discuss my test run of MEDgle.

First some background.  I have a 9 year old son with physical challanges.  He is hypotonic (low muscle tone) and ataxic.  We’ve put him through more diagnostic tests than any child should ever have to go through and all we’ve been able to determine is what he doesn’t have.  As an aside, none of the diseases my son was test for was listed as possible diagnoses on MEDgle.

So, off to MEDgle I go.  I start by typing in hypotonic.  There is no such symptom.  Hmmm.  I type in low muscle tone.  Still nothing.  I type in muscle.  There are a lot of terms but none that mean low muscle tone.  Low muscle tone is NOT muscle weakness.  So, MEDgle fails me right from the start.

Ataxia is a term in MEDgle.  My son has a disturbed gait.  Abnormal gait it a “term”.  So I search.  The first possibility is corns and calluses.  The third possibility is consequences of obesity (I checked that my son is NOT overweight on the initial search).  CP is the fifth possibility and because it’s an “umbrella term” is the closest thing we have to an official diagnosis.

I did another search for headache, nausea and sensitivity to light and migraine came right up. 

I was put off by MEDgle.  It seems to be okay for common, run of the mill symptom combinations but that’s about it.  The site claims it’s a “search engine” for medical information and should not be used to self-diagnose but with a symptom-driven search engine many people will.  I will say the interface was easy to use but a down and dirty Google search of hypotonia +ataxia came up with more relevant sites than MEDgle.

While I think the Internet and World Wide Web has done much in terms of information sharing the lack of oversight and authoritative information for consumer health users is frightening and I’m not sure what health sciences libraries can really do about it.  We can promote the heck out of librarians and sites such as MEDLINEPlus but since we can’t regulate who puts health information on the web and what information they put there the problem will always exist.  I think the best we can hope to do is to educate the heck out of any consumer health library user that darkens our doorstep.


March 23, 2007

Why this comic hits too close to home…

Posted in Consumer Health, Library promotion, Rants at 10:18 am by Alexia

Heart of the City - 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.

October 4, 2006

Naughty librarian? Give me a break!

Posted in Rants at 2:18 pm by Alexia

WARNING: Incoming rant with a slight feminist bend…

 So, I was perusing through my feeds when I ran across this little tidbit from Louise of Librarian’s Rant.

Second, a new costume from Target: the Naughty Librarian. At least it’s for adults. Sheesh. Enough with the shushing bimbos, people!

Actually, many of the costume in the “Women’s Sassy” category are outrageous but that’s just my opinion.  My initial thought is “where is the Naughty Accountant, Naughty Lawyer, or any naughty male worker costume?”  My next thought is “how are we going to be taken seriously when all people see us as is the mousey librarian or the librarian vixen ready to fullfill every male’s fantasy?”  Oh well, I guess it could be worse

September 1, 2006

Follow up to my rant

Posted in Publishers, Rants at 9:57 am by Alexia

Earlier this week I ranted about being billed by our journal vendor for an additional charge to a 2005 subscription. While I haven’t gotten an answer that satisfies me yet on that specific item I did find out that our vendor can mark our account so that any additional charges will be invoiced to us by May so that we can take care of them before the end of our fiscal year. This makes sense in a way. We renew our journals by September 1st. We get billed by our vendor in October. The publishers may or may not have set the subscription price for the upcoming year. We will get invoiced for additional charges. This still doesn’t explain how we are just now getting billed for a 2005 subscription but, at the very least, I am slowing getting our account set straight with our vendor in such a manner as to alleviate some of these problems.

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.