Jul 18

Consumer Health Info Resource: Medicines In My Home

Via YSN Library:

“The Medicines in My Home program was born in Summer 2004 as a proposal to teach sixth grade students about the safe use of over-the-counter, or non-prescription, medicines. A major goals was to teach students how to find information about their medicine on the Drug Facts label and to give them information to share with their families.”

Jul 17

Skills for the 21st Century Librarian

Meredith Farkas says everything I thought (and a number of things I *should* have thought) when I took my first MLIS class last year and was disappointed at some of the technology-wary behaviors in some of my classmates.

Meredith rocks

Librarians can have groupies, right?  What would you call a librarian groupie?

Jul 17

Consumer Health Care Info…for Pets

I came across this article recently, and it got me thinking.  How do public and school libraries handle requests for consumer veterinary health information?

If this article is to be believed, far too few resources exist that are really appropriate for consumers.  medical libraries routinely address questions of consumer health care information and appropriateness of the material to the reader's comprehension level, reading ability, or education.  But medical libraries, I think, are not often asked for information about a pet's health.

I have utilized the Merck Veterinary Manual when preparing questions for the vet about my dog's care, but it isn't really appropriate for most consumers.

With this in mind I started poking around a little online, and discovered that MedLinePlus (the first destination for consumer health information online) has a great section on pets and pet health!  I didn't know!

My wife and I have a dog and two cats that we love, so I understand how badly users might want to find authoritative information.  Any other ideas or suggestions where to find authoritative consumer veterinary health information online?

(Inset: David's Cockatriever, Bingley) 

Jul 17

EBSCO Medline

So you probably heard that EBSCO is now offering a full-text MEDLINE interface.

Anyone seen a demo yet?  Anyone using it?  I don't have a lot of experience with EBSCO except with MasterFile Select databases.  Any thoughts on what to expect from EBSCO Medline?

If one were to use EBSCO as a journal subscription vendor, would this Medline interface integrate and authenticate via IP?

Is it the same interface shown in this documentation(downloadable, virus-free .doc file)?

I would like to know more.  I'll hope to get around to asking my EBSCO rep for more info soon, but if anyone has more info or views, I'd love to hear 'em.

Jul 17

Elsevier and RSS

Damian Sherman has left a couple of interesting comments on the post at Michael Stephen's Tame The Web that contained my initial notes on RSS for clinicians.  I'll repost them here:

With regards to Mr Stephens comment on Elsevier being so far behind on RSS, that is not entirely accurate.

The Elsevier product Scopus offers RSS feeds on all searches (give or take), and Scopus indexes 15,000 peer reviewed journals.

I am a Scopus product manager so not entirely neutral, but we are proud of our features.

Scopus offers feeds on search terms to title and abstract fields and on journal title searches.

Scopus also offers libraries HTML feeds to post the XML to their own website.

Apologies, I should correct my previous comment, "With regards to Mr Stephens comment on Elsevier being so far behind on RSS".

It was David Rothmans who said it, not Michael Stephens. Sorry Michael…

I replied (also at Tame The Web, though not yet approved by Michael Stephens at the time of this writing):

Hi Damian!  My library doesn't currently use Scopus, so I can't address that directly.

But my library does have access to several medical journals online through Elsevier.  An example is American Heart Journal.  Logged in as a user, there's no feed in site/sight at it's current issue table of contents or "home."

Therefore, I stand by my criticism that Elsevier is behind on RSS.

Speaking of Scopus, I'd love to see what its RSS feds are like.  Damian, if you'd like to set up a time for that, I'd be pleased to feature its RSS capabilities on my own blog at http://davidrothman.net.


david.rothman AT gmail DOT com

Just wanted to state that offer again publically on my own blog.  Damian, if you would like to show me how well Scopus dishes out the RSS, I'd be pleased to feature it here in a post. 

I think librarians should press vendors to deliver a great product.  Great products should be praised when they are good.  Scopus may be good.  The online access for American Heart Journal through Elsevier…not so much.

Jul 17

How to: Generate a Custom RSS feed from PubMed

Some email I’ve been getting indicates that generating RSS feeds from PubMed is not as widespread or as well-understood as I may have thought.  Let’s see what we can do to help fix that.  (Don’t work in medical librarianship?   If you like, you can check out these links to definitions of Medline and PubMed before reading further.  Short version: MedLine is THE database for medical literature.  PubMed is the free, web-based interface for Medline.)

Why would a medical library or clinician care about RSS?

It’s all about SDI.  Clinicians need to stay current with their fields and specialties.  There are a whole host of reasons why RSS is preferable to emailed tables of contents, but the best reason is that RSS feeds can be custom-created to provide the clinician with more specific, targeted, personalized information than emailed tables of content (TOCs).  For instance, I had an obstetric surgeon come into my library who wanted to know any time new articles from a specific list of journals were published that mentioned “obstetric hemorrhage.”  Using RSS from PubMed, I can give this doctor exactly that, and she doesn’t have to wade through every TOC of every issue of every likely journal to stay on top of this topic which is so important to her work.

Why would I want to create RSS feeds out of PubMed?  Shouldn’t I just get the feed that the journal’s publisher offers?

When using RSS for Current Awareness/SDI, the medial library professional or clinician quickly discovers that:

  • Many medical journals don’t offer feeds.
  • Some feeds offered by journals give only the article title, and no other useful information.
  • Most RSS feeds from journals are of the tables of content- not radically personalized to the needs of the clinician.
  • RSS feeds from PubMed can be used to guide the clinician using the feed straight to the full text (if the clinician is using an account with access to the library’s PubMed LinkOuts).
  • If your medical library doesn’t use PubMed LinkOuts to guide users to the full texts, the PubMed feed item has detail that can be easily emailed to the medical library for ILL and/or document delivery (the PubMed item contains the PubMed ID, and this is extremely handy if the library is going to order the article via DocLine).

Can’t I get the same benefits from creating custom email alerts from PubMed?

Sort of, but my bottom line is that I find an aggregator’s reading list a heck of a lot easier to manage than an email inbox that is full of all manner of things.  Even with good and detailed email filters, I find emailed updates unmanageable.

So how do I go about creating a customized RSS feed from PubMed?

First you want to make sure you know your search parameters.  For our hypothetical example, the medical library’s user is a Gastroenterologist named Dr. Püpsphunni who specializes in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, often collectively referred to as “IBD”).  Dr. P. wants to know whenever new medical literature addresses the use of probiotics in the treatment of IBD.  So let’s go to PubMed and formulate a query.

PubMed can be searched a number of ways, but for our purposes we’ll use common Boolean operators and syntax.  PubMed assumes an “AND” between strings, but we’ll type it out anyway, just for the sake of clarity.  The search string we’ll use is:

probiotics AND ("Ulcerative Colitis" OR "Crohn's Disease" OR "inflammatory bowel disease")

So let’s check out the first few of the 301 items returned by this search.  They’re pretty good, and right on topic, but Dr. P. only wants results from his favorite gastroenterology journals.  We’ll click the Limits tab to restrict the search just to those journals.  Just click Add Another Journal for each journal Dr. P. wanted the search to apply to, and start typing the name of the journal in.  PubMed will actually suggest journal names as you type, which is a great way also to browse.

Now that we have restricted the search to these four journals, scroll down to the bottom of the Limits page and click the Go button.

The search results look good, so lets turn this into an RSS feed.  Click on Send to > RSS Feed.

On the next screen, we can choose the number of items to limit the feed to and, if we choose, a new name for the feed.  Then we click the Create Feed button.

The next page shows us the familiar orange XML logo that links to the new RSS feed, the new feed’s name, and the search parameters that were used to create the search.  All we need to do is either click on the XML button to open the feed in a new window/tab and copy the URL, or right-click the XML button and click Copy Link Location.

Then we plug the RSS feed’s URL into our favorite aggregator (mine is BlogLines, lately).  Here’s what the feed looks like in BlogLines:


Things still needed to make PubMed RSS as good as it needs to be

  • As pointed out to me by Medworm’s Frankie Dolan, PubMed doesn’t make full use of the RSS tags, to note date, author, etc.  All this information is instead wrapped up in the description tag.  This makes any further parsing of data received from PubMed via RSS extremely challenging.  Further parsing of these feeds will likely be very important in making efficient, customized, future SDI systems.  Step up, NLM!  Be a pioneer!  Commit to full use of standards!  Lead the world of medical publishing and show 'em how it should be done!
  • PubMed RSS feeds should contain LinkOut icons, or at least contain a link: “Click here to see if you can get full-text access to this article now through your library,” and this link should take the user to the PubMed citation with LinkOut Buttons.

Further Reading:

Jul 15

Describing the Librarian

From computerworld.com, an article entitled What's Hot, What's Not: IT Skills You'll Need in 2010 says this is the sort of technologist that'll be needed:

…IT departments will be populated with "versatilists" — those with a technology background who also know the business sector inside and out, can architect and carry out IT plans that will add business value, and can cultivate relationships both inside and outside the company.

[blah, blah, blah]

…What's more, the skills required to land these future technical roles will be honed outside of IT. Some of these skills will come from artistic talents, math excellence or even a knack for public speaking — producing a combination of skills not commonly seen in the IT realm.

Does this future technologist sound like any profession we may have heard of?

While we're on the topic of describing the profession, when will this be updated?  I see a few things that don't jive with what I think I know about the profession.  Anyone with more than my meager expertise care to pick it apart? 

Jul 13

How To: Create a Feed for a Feedless site with Feed43

Sure, geekfolk can do fancy stuff with scripting and site scrapes, but what about those who want to create feeds and haven’t yet learned to script?  Here’s how, with just a little bit of HTML knowledge and Feed43, a semi-geek or demi-geek can make a custom RSS feed from a page without one.

Fair warning: It’s a long post with lots of detail for those still new to HTML.

For our example, we’re going to make a feed from http://www.explodingdog.com/, a great site with brilliantly demented drawings by Sam Brown.  Since the site doesn’t provide a feed and we want to know right away when new drawings are posted, we’ll create an RSS feed.

(Note for nit-pickers: I know there are existing feeds for Exploding Dog that others have created, it's just an example.  Be at peace.) 

If we take a look at the page with any web browser, we can see the list of drawings begins after the heading “new pictures:”

We’ll just make a mental note of that as we open up the page source (In Firefox, click: View>Page Source.  In Internet Explorer, click: View>Source.)

Now we’re going to look through the page source and make a few notes. 

Where on the page does the desired information START?

We are going to need to tell Feed43 on what part of the page to look for new RSS items.  Since we know the list of drawings starts after “new pictures”, we’ll use Ctrl+F to find this in the HTML source:


Perfect!  This string of characters appears immediately before the list of drawings starts.  We can even use Ctrl+F to make sure this string of characters really is unique on the page and doesn’t occur again.  Since it doesn’t, we can use this to tell Feed43 where on the page to start looking for items: Right after “new pictures:

Where on the page does the desired information END?

Next, we need to figure out what comes right AFTER the information we want so we can tell Feed43 where to stop looking for information.

If we scroll down to the bottom of the page in the browser, we see that “do you know why” (from 1/9/2006) is the last drawing on the list, and that it is followed by “older pictures”.


Let’s find this phrase in the source (again using Ctrl+F):


We’ll of course search the rest of the source to see if this string is unique- and it is!

So we now know the following:

Right before the chunk of the page we’ll want to make into a feed is this string: new pictures:

Right after the chunk of the page we’ll want to make into a feed is this string: older pictures

That’s enough to start entering this into Feed43.

How do we enter what we know into Feed43?

Go to http://feed43.com/ and click on » Create your own feed.  You don’t have to register!


In step 1, you start by plugging the site’s URL into the Address field, and click the “Reload” button.  Feed43 will load the page’s HTML for you to review.


Step 2 is where you tell Feed43 the things we know so far. 

First, we tell it the Global Search Pattern (a needlessly complex term for “where on the page to look for items”) by giving typing in the string BEFORE the desired information (new pictures), the string AFTER the desired information (older pictures), and a short string in between them that represents the items: {%}

What we type is this: new pictures{%}older pictures

Next, we need to tell Feed43 how to form each post- that’s what the Item (repeatable) Search Pattern field is for.  If we look at the source of the page, we can see how each date’s section of cartoons is set up.  The date is between markup tags “<p><b>” and “</b>” (underlined below in red), and the links are between “<br>” and ”</p>” (underlined below in green).

So we again express this to Feed43 by placing {%} between each set to represent the information we want.  The first line tells Feed43 where to find the date, the second line tells it where to find the links.


If we now lick the Extract button, the Clipped Data window below will show how Feed43 is interpreting these instructions we’ve given it:


We can see (above) that Feed43 is correctly separating and numbering items, and has labeled the date {%1}, and has labeled the links {%2}.

In Step 3, we define the output format, starting with the RSS feed properties, which is pretty straightforward:


Lastly, we need to tell Feed43 what each item’s title should be, and what the content should be.  Remember in the previous step when Feed43 assigned labels, {%1} for the date, and {%2} for the links.  Just plug {%1} into the Item Title Template field, and plug {%2} into the Item Content Template.


If we now click the Preview button, the Feed Preview field will show us what the feed we’ve created will look like:

Step 4 is the best part: Get your RSS feed.


Want to subscribe to the feed?  Go for it.

 Here's what it looks like in BlogLines:


Jul 13

Purchasing online journal access for a hospital medical library: how to identify value in commercially available products

Subscription service renewal time is around the corner in our library, so this offering from BioMedical Digital Libraries was quite welcome and timely.

 I recently got my hands on a copy of E-Journals: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Building, Managing, and Supporting Electronic Journal Collections (How-to-Do-It Manuals for Librarians), a weighty tome that I've just started to wade through after reading about it in the Journal of the Medical Library Association

Anyone have other reading suggestions for resources to help one manage online subscriptions in a cost-effective manner in a small library?

Jul 13

Meredith Farkas is Wikitastic

So, I was about 15 minutes into Meredith's webcast on Wikis and libraries, when my aggregator's notifer beeps me to tell me there are new posts to check out.  One of them was from Meredith's blog, Information Wants To Be Free.  The webcast isn't even over, and she's got all her links set up already!  If you missed the webconference, check out the post.

Great job, Meredith.  It was a great introduction to wikis for those unfamiliar with them.  I hope you'll make the presentation slides available online, too.

I'm still having a hard time, though, imagining a use for wikis in amedical library.

Having grown up in Minnesota, I was entertained that Meredith said during the webcast that she had "no idea" where Bemidji State was.  No worries, some Minnesotans don't know, either.  See links below:

City of Bemidji
Bemidji on a Google Map

Jul 12

Every LIS Student Should Have Such a Mentor

I mourn the passing of the age in which one learned a trade as an apprentice.  Internships and externships are great, but they're short, and seen really as supplemental to coursework.

I'm told that in some parts of the world, people still learn some professional trades primarily through internships and apprenticeships, but the american system of professional preparation is almost entirely academic.

But letters-after-one's-name aside, every LIS student should have a mentor like mine.  (Good thing she doesn't have time to read my blog, or she might think I was kissing up).

My boss, Wendy, is the director of not only Knowledge Services at the hospital where I am employed, but also of Quality Improvement.  It is unusual for a librarian to run a hospital Quality Improvement department, but so much of the job is about information management, and I see her applying librarianship skills to the job.  Anyway.

Today she told me that she had a couple of literature searches she wanted me to do for her.  She said this casually, but it really hit me.  Here she is, a former professor of medical librarianship at Syracuse University (currently ranked the #2 library school in the country), and a medical librarian of significant experience and reputation, and she trusts me to do the literature searches she needs FOR her because she is pressed for time.  For Pete's sake- she used to make a living teaching people how to do biomedical literature searches.

The fact that she asked me to do these strikes me not only as a heartening vote of confidence, but as another example of her habitual mentoring.  She constantly asks those who report to her to expand their skills and responsibilities, and cultivates an environment where it is not only okay, but encouraged to try new things. 

I know that across town are two other hospital medical libraries run by people Wendy previously mentored.  One didn't train as a medical librarian and was convinced by my boss that library skills are portable, and that medical librarianship just required her to learn a new vocabulary.  She now runs her hospital's library and has shown me the same generosity of time and spirit that I see in Wendy (I interviewed her for an LIS class- she couldn't have been any more accommodating and kind). 

Every aspiring library professional should have a mentor like mine.  Everyone should be so fortunate.  I remind myself that not everyone is so fortunate, and not to take this for granted.  I am very, very lucky to have ended up in my boss' library.

Anyone care to share a story of mentoring in a library setting?

Jul 11

Library Keyboards and Public Health

Do you sanitize your library's keyboards?  If not, perhaps it is time to start.

This study only tested computers in a healthcare setting, but it seems prudent to me that all libraries should see their computer keyboards and mice as a potential way to spread bacteria and should sanitize them daily to help reduce the risk.

When I first read about this study at The Krafty Librarian, I ordered boxes of alcohol wipes and waterless hand sanitizer, and posted them with this sign near my library's computers.

Full Text
Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2006 Apr;27(4):372-7. Epub 2006 Mar 29. [PubMed]

Jul 11

Idealware report compares blogging software

Via Web4Libs, Idealware announces a detailed analysis comparing the "seven top blogging tools."  Just skimmed it, and it looks pretty good!  Very useful to someone trying to decide on a platform for his/her new blog.  Free registration is required to view the full text.

We're excited to announce that Idealware, in partnership with CompuMentor/ TechSoup, has published a detailed report that comparesseven top blogging tools, including Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, andMovableType.

The report offers recommendations, a comparison chart, and detailed reviews that cover ease of getting started, ease and flexibility ofconfiguration, comment moderation ability, reporting, and much more.

View the full report at Idealware:  www.idealware.org/blogging_software/ (registration required, donation suggested), or view an excerpt on TechSoup: www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/webbuilding/page4998.cfm

Jul 08

How To Explain RAM to Non-Geeks

One of the responsibilities of my position is to teach classes.  In addition to the three computer orientation classes for new employees I teach each month, I also give classes on the general use of hospital computers, MS Office applications, and the use of hospital knowledge bases.

For some time now, computers have been used to support patient care, but with EMRs/EHRs and other clinical applications, computers are an integral part of patient care.  For this reason (among many others), clinicians need computer literacy.  At least once a month, someone asks me to explain what RAM is.  I don't want to just tell them it is an acronym for Random Access Memory, and I think the explainations available online are too complex for most of my students to start with.  With the goal of helping them understand the concept without overwhelming them with geekspeak, here's what I tell them:

Imagine your computer's processor as the little person inside your computer who does all the thinking.

Imagine that this little person inside your computer is so smart that he can think about multiple things at the same time.  Any time you open a new window in your computer (Microsoft Word, for example), he lays it on his desk so he can work on it. 

 So he's smart, but not infinitely smart.  He can concentrate on as many things as he can look at all at the same time.  So, say we open up a few more windows:


Okay, that's all good- he can see all six windows at once, so he's all good.  But what if we want to open up one more program or window?  It won't fit on his desk. 

What does the smart person inside your computer do?  He uses one hand to hold the seventh open window.  When it is that window's turn to be considered, he removes something else from the desk and places the seventh window on the desk. 

So now his ability to concentrate is constantly being interrupted by the need to keep swapping out items on his desk, so his thinking on ALL items slows way down.  What the smart little guy needs, clearly, is a BIGGER DESK so he can see more items all at once without having to swap any out.


So what is RAM?  RAM is the desk.  The more RAM, the more things the smart little person inside your computer can think about without slowing down.  When we doubled the size of the desk, we doubled the computer's RAM.

How do you explain RAM or any other computer concepts to people with no geek background?

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