Sep 29

Update: Ovid RSS

Hurray! Got a great new email from Ovid support:

Our OvidSP interface, which is a new build of our gateway interface from the bottom up, DOES include RSS feed. I am sorry to have led you astray…

In addition, if you wished to create alerts with RSS output, you can create them by following the the process outlined below and the results can be sent to you:

  1. Go to This web site provides a list of all of the LWW titles. When clicking on the link for the title, it brings you to the associated web page. As an example, click on AIDS.
  2. Scroll to the end of the page… You can create an alert and subscribe by clicking here and following the prompts: rssfromlww
Sep 29

Friday Aggregator Cleaning

Okay, my aggregator was getting cluttered, so I needed clean out all of those “Keep New” items by saving them elsewhere, deleting them, or posting them. These are a few things I’ve been meaning to post about and not finding time for:

  • Via BHIC

    “Teaching Patients With Low Literacy Skills, 2nd Ed.” 1996, JB Lippincott Pub. is now available on line and may be read and downloaded at no charge.

  • Also via BHIC

    Remaking American Medicine … Health Care for the 21st Century, a four-part television series, is scheduled to begin airing on October 5 at 10 p.m. on PBS. Underwritten by RWJF, the series explores the nation’s health care crisis and considers the innovative ways in which providers, patients and their families are transforming care. Organizations across the country are also forming coalitions and organizing community-based events as part of an outreach campaign around the series. Please check your local listings for specific broadcast dates and times in your community.

  • From the NN/LM MCR News Blog

    RSS feeds for NIH Clinical Alerts and Advisories

    NLM is now offering RSS feeds for NIH Clinical Alerts and Advisories. This means that individuals can arrange to receive an alert directly to their desktop. Instructions for setting up a feed are available from the NLM RSS Feeds and Podcasts Web page.

    From the NLM Technical Bulletin September-October 2006 issue.

Sep 29

Google as a Pathology Portal

Hope Leman made me aware this morning of an article from the current issue of Advances in Anatomic Pathology, Google as a Pathology Portal. The article walks the reader through using Google Image Search, and even adds:

For those wanting access to specific types of information and images on a daily basis, Google allows users to create a password-protected account and develop a personalized Internet portal. Once a ‘‘My Google’’ account has been established, users can set up custom news feeds and perform specialized searches within a specific topic.

Great to see the author (Darren Wheeler, MD) recommending feed-based current awareness to his colleagues(!), and I love the idea of using a Google Personalized Home Page to make a useful portal, but I’m a little concerned about the clinical use of google images. Perhaps a specific individual pathologist has the neccessary information literacy to know/evaluate what sources found via Google Image Search are authoritative, but I find it hard to imagine that all do.

As the leading commentator on Google among Health Science libraryfolk, I hope that Dean Giustini will share his thoughts on the article.

Thanks, Hope!

Sep 29

Most reliable search tool could be your librarian

Via Library Stuff, a must-read article from C|net

“The idea of the 1950s librarian, that’s outdated,” said Sarah Houghton-Jan, information Web services manager at the San Mateo County Library in Northern California. “You find people who are expert at searching the Web and using online tools; high-level information experts instead of someone who just stamps books at the checkout desk.”

Read the article.

(For a view of the 1950s librarian, see this post.)

Sep 29

‘Connectivity Map’ quickly links diseases with candidate drugs

A group of U.S. scientists says it has successfully tested a prototype “Connectivity Map” — a high-tech computer program that uses unique genetic patterns as “search words” to link up specific illnesses with the drugs that might treat them.

The achievement has already yielded intriguing insights into cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, says a team reporting in the Sept. 29 issue of Science.

Someday, researchers around the world could use this genetic search engine to speed up drug discovery and gain a broader understanding of disease, the study authors said.

“It’s an electronic library — it helps you understand what genes are present in disease and how those genes can be affected by various ‘perturbations’ — medications or other substances,” explained Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

I need to read this a few more times, but what a neat concept…

Read the whole article here.

Via Keith Nockels, here’s the Science article.

Sep 28

Google Reader Gets an Upgrade

Big and impressive changes with the Google Reader were announced at the Google Reader Blog along with this video:

I like the review at Read/Write Web, too- but I’m not switching away from BlogLines yet. I’m not crazy about Bloglines, but haven’t yet found a web-based aggregator I like better.

Sep 28

“Using RSS Feeds” in Fall 2006 MHSLA Newsletter

The new MHSLA (Michigan Health Sciences Libraries Association) Newsletter contains an article (page 6), Using RSS Feeds by Jaime Friel Blanck (Health Sciences Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries) which mentions this blog and several of my favorite Medlib blogs, as well as the wiki list of MedLib blogs that started here.

Thanks to Alexia Estabrook at The Medical Librarian Maven for letting me know!

Sep 28

OVID is (not) Planning on adding feeds?

UPDATE: Just got email back from our Ovid rep who says “I know for a fact we are including RSS feeds into the new Ovid interface. I am checking about your specific question below.”

Here’s hoping.

OvidLogo thumbsdown
Someone at Ovid had told me some months ago that Ovid planned to add feeds for TOC alerts or search alerts, so I emailed technical support this week to ask when that might happen.

Here was the answer from support[at]ovid[dot]com:

I have researched and found that there are no plans to implement eTOC Alerts in an RSS feed format.

This is surprising to me, as PubMed and EBSCO Medline already do this. To think that Ovid doesn’t even want to try to catch up in this regard is baffling. It would be so incredibly useful to my library and the clinicians we serve to be able to produce feeds from Ovid with links that open in Ovid. This would raise usage stats, too- benefiting clinicians, libraries, and Ovid.

If your library uses Ovid, I hope you’ll join me in contacting your Ovid rep to express your disappointment.

Sep 28

Managing Feed Subscriptions for Patrons

Another great question from a medical librarian:

…[H]ow do you manage multiple feeds? For example, some doc loves his feeds from his PubMed search but he wants to change it a little to make it better. How do you keep track and make sense of them all? Because my hope is to have many many doctors getting the feeds.

Some things we can do NOW

  • I’ve written previously about the idea of preconfiguring web-based aggregator accounts FOR your clinicians. When these clinicians want their feeds tweaked, they can allow you to log in to their aggregator to tweak. This is far from ideal, but workable.
  • I like the idea of generating the feed in PubMed (or EBSCO Medline- shame on Ovid Medline for not having feeds yet!) and running it through Feedburner. The benefit: Imagine that you have 5 cardiolosists subscribed to one SDI feed generated by a search you ran in PubMed. If you realize there’s a tweak you can make to your search parameters that will produce better results, you can generate a NEW feed in PubMed and apply your NEW feed to the very same Feedburner that all five cardiologists are subscribed to. That way, you make one change and all five cardiologists simultaniously reap the benefits of the improved feed with minimal administrative burden on the librarian.

    Another advantage of using Feedburner is that it allows you to keep a list of all existing feeds in one convenient location, which also aids the librarian in managing his/her feeds for patrons.

What I’d Like
What I’d really like is to have a library-branded aggregator system administered by the library. Ideally, this would be a web-based aggregator service that would allow members of our hospital community to sign up for an account and start managing their own feeds. Administrators (from the library) would be able to access accounts to make changes, tweak feeds, or solve problems for users, and could make mass changes quickly and easily.

Is this coming soon?
Yeah, I think it is. I haven’t seen a system like this yet, but I have suggested such a system to couple of software developers. While I can’t say that I know of any organizations that are currently working on just this sort of thing, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t something like this in the works at multiple organizations. I expect some smart folks have already thought of this and are working on it now. (If you’re one of those smart folks, please drop me a line and let me know?)

If you have other ideas on how to manage feeds for your library’s user, please leave a comment!

Sep 27

Turning Feeds Into Emailed Alerts

Sometimes information managers (including librarians- not neccessarily the feed owners) want to offer users the option of subscribing to a feed via email instead of an aggregator, and this option may be especially attractive when the library facilitates the use of feeds for Current Awareness or SDI purposes.

Why would a library want to turn feed items into emailed updates?
Maybe there are users who don’t want to learn about aggregators, or who are really comfortable with managing email. Maybe the user wants to subscribe to a very small number of feeds, so emailed output won’t be overwhelming in an email inbox. The bottom line is that the library should give users as many methods as possible through which users can receive current awareness/SDI updates. If the user has been shown how feeds are easy to use and save the user time/hassle/mistakes and still wants email- give ’em email.

Some Tools
This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few that I know of. If you’ve used and liked other services, please leave a comment and let me know?

    I’ve used RSSFWD a few times, found it quick and easy to use, and I think it is a great option when all you want to do is turn a feed into email updates one time for one person (I made another note on how this can be useful for “official news” current awareness here). For a few details on how to turn a feed into email updates with RSSFWD, see this post.
  • Rmail
    I’ve tried Rmail, and liked it. I think the first time I had a form on a blog of mine that let the reader enter an email address to subscribe to the blog via email, I used Rmail. It now has a form on its front page that, like RSSFWD, lets you quickly enter a feed URL and an email address to create an email subscription. I’m not clear on the chronology, but I *think* Rmail was an early leader in this sort of service. Perhaps its creator, Randy Charles Morin, might confirm that. I subscribe to the feed of Randy’s RSS Blog.
  • RSS2email
    I’ve said before that I am hesitant about using web-based services from start-ups because I worry that today’s hot to Web 2.0 services will be eulogized in tomorrow’s Wired Magazine (ruining all the hard work you did setting up the feeds with the now-defunct service), so I liked right away the fact that RSS2email can be installed to run locally on your own machines (Windows, UNIX, or Linux). It requires Python 2.x and an email server through which to send the emails, so it requires a good bit more geek involvement than Rmail or RSSFWD. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but really want to. If any readers have tried it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
  • Bot A Blog
    Like RSSFWD and Rmail, Bot A Blog has a simple form with which you can enter a feed URL and an email address in order to quickly and easily create an email subscription to a feed. One thing I noticed and liked about Bot a Blog is that it has a Bulk Subscription form that makes it easy to subscribe via email to up to 25 feeds at a time. My feeling is that 25 feeds os probably a lot to try to manage via email, but that’s still a neat feature for those whose time would be saved by it.
  • FeedBurner
    FeedBurner Logo

If I were building a specialized portal through which users could subscribe to a feed by aggregator or email, I might very well use FeedBurner, and have recommended it in the past, going as far as to demonstrate how it might be used to easily create a subscription portal.

Feedburner allows the librarian to generate and paste into a web page a form with which the user can elect to subscribe to the feed in an aggregator or subscribe to the feed via email.

Because both kinds of subscription go through feedburner, the librarian has then a means by which to measure usage of the feed. Even better, you can set up any number of feeds with a single Feedburner account, and track the use of each from a kind of central dashboard. One could even create a portal for one’s library which would allow users to subscribe to Tables of Contents updates via email alerts.

And someone is doing just that.

Hope Leman commented at Meredith Farkas’ Information Wants to be Free the she wanted “…to set up a page where clinicians could sign up for email alerts of as many journals as I can find RSS feeds to turn into subscribable email alerts…”

Hope and I talked a bit, and I mocked up a quick proof-of-concept to show that this would be possible and not horribly difficult.

Hope is now learning HTML, but she didn’t know any at the time- so she decided to build her portal with WordPress as her CMS, and the results are pretty neat! Hope and her colleagues at the Murray Memorial Library (Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center) are getting ready to unveil MedGrab, but said she wouldn’t mind if you took a peak now.

Here’s MedGrab’s front page:
Medgrab front page

Here’s a section of the Cardiology section:
Medgrab cardiology journal subscription forms

In exchange for allowing me to post about MedGrab, Hope asked that I mention the following:

  • Hope feels that that it all would have gone more smoothly if she had learned HTML before embarking on the Medgrab project and so could have avoided being locked into WordPress but that WordPress works well enough for a starter site
  • Hope notes that RSS feeds are not even offered on the Category pages though it is quite prominent, on the table of contents sign-up pages.
  • MedGrab is a group project, and Hope credits her colleague, Roger and her boss, Dorothy, as essential collaborators. She also asked that I mention her heavy use and appreciation of Qunu, her gratitude for Feedburner’s support staff (especially Matt Shobe), and her thanks to Medical RSS guru Frankie Dolan (of and

I think its great that Hope and her colleagues worked out an inexpensive way to expand services for their library’s patrons this way- and I know she’s worked very hard at it.

If you’d like to contact Hope directly, she can be reached at lemanh[AT]proaxis[DOT]com.

Sep 26

Follow up: Clinician Access to library resources while “off campus”

In the previous post on this topic, I mentioned that all clinicians at our hospital can access all of our library’s digital resources from any internet-connected computer with IE6 or better.

This is because our CIO and VP of I.S. wanted our EMR’s “fat” client to be available from any location. To accomplish this, our I.S. department set up access to the EMR using Microsoft Terminal Services. All I had to do was build the Medical Library’s portal and demonstrate its usefulness to the CIO, and he added it as a tool launchable from inside our EMR. The clinicians can log into the portal with just their active directory user ID and password (which they use every day on-site).

Chris B. asked to hear more about how our I.S. department accomplished this- so I asked our CIO, Mitch Rozonkiewiecz for some details. Mitch said it was fairly straightforward and a fairly inexpensive solution to making the EMR more accessible (that happened to benefit our library, too).

Chris, Mitch said that if your library is interested in doing something similar to allow greater access to your library’s digital resources and your I.S. department isn’t sure where to start looking at this as a solution, he would be willing to discuss it with your I.S. department and share the benefit of his experience.

If that’s something you (or anyone else) would like, please email me at david [dot] rothman [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll put your I.S. folks in touch with our I.S. folks.

Sep 26

Making the Best Use of Medical Librarians

I love MEDLIB-L.

This article (from BMJ Careers) was mentioned today. As the poster points out, you can substitute the American database names for the British ones, and the article applies to American medical librarians as well.

A number of different types of support are on offer. A librarian is not only an information expert, able to advise on best resources, but also a trainer and a service provider. Medical librarians have good credentials, and so armed with a few tips you will be able to make better use of their help.

Sep 26

Creating Passionate Users

In the post about getting ’em to use the tools, I should have mentioned Creating Passionate Users.

Creating Passionate Users Logo This is a great blog written by authors of O’Reilly’s Head First books. I bought and loved Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML and reccommend it without hesitation or reservation to anyone seeking to learn these things from scratch.

The blog has great insights into user perception and explains them well while still entertaining the reader. I mean, look at this recent graph that attempt to describe why users resist upgrades:


Love it. Useful insights for any libraryfolk who care about the user’s/patron’s experience. Also great for people in marketing, promotion, interface design, or training/education. Subscribe to their feed.

Sep 25

Librarians Rule the World (Now with Video)

The Librarian in Black and LISnews noted this last year, but I thought it worth posting again because there’s now a weird AMV to go with it to “show you how sexy a lkibrarian [sic] can be.”

Safe for work (I think), short, and odd.

Link for the mp3.

In-browser player:Appears to have been written and recorded by Andrew Pants at the request of Leslie Powell, “…as a tribute to my education at community college, and the weird Dewey versus Library of Congress Classification argument.”

I might not have paid it any notice, but there’s been a conversation recently on GNLIB-L about AMVs that caught my attention. Good lord, how I love Listservs populated with libraryfolk.

Posted in Fun
Sep 23

Evaluation of Healia

Via Dean Giustini’s Google Scholar Blog, a very decent evaluation of consumer health information portal Healia by one of Dean’s MLIS students at UBC, Nancy Anderson (with Dean collaborating).

Healia logo
It is a good evaluation of the portal, and absolutely worth reading by any librarian in any kind of library that ever serves consumer healthcare information needs. Nicely done, Nancy. Hope you’ll do more of this sort of thing, either as a part of class, or outside of your coursework.

Also: I really like how often Dean collaborates on worthwhile, real-life, publicly-viewable projects with students. This would seem to demonstrate a very hands-on teaching philosophy, a program that wants to help build skills and public reputation through useful works, and a lot of one-on-one attention. I don’t see a lot of this sort of thing in the biblioblogosphere, and I’d sure like to see more of it.

Other posts on Consumer Healthcare Information.

Sep 23

Michael Golrick says it perfectly

Via Michael Casey’s LibraryCrunch, my attention was drawn to this post at Thoughts from a Library Administrator (titled “Why is Library 2.0 so hard?”) in which Michael Golrick writes:

I, as the administrator, and the one whose job is on the line, am willing to take a risk here. Why are others so risk averse? It costs us very little. Other libraries are doing it without problem, we are not first, and I’ll be blasted if we will be last!

An alternate title for Golrick’s post might be: “Library 2.0 doesn’t HAVE to be so hard, durnit!”

However, I love his attitude towards making progress in this direction as he encounters obstacles. The risks aren’t big ones, the cost of trying these new things is small- why NOT try them out with all appropriate enthusiasm?

Sep 22

RSS the “Oprah way”

Via The Louisville, KY Courrier Journal, a great explaination of RSS for non-geeks at Back in Skinny Jeans:

So, to make RSS much easier to understand, in Oprah speak, RSS stands for: I’m “Ready for Some Stories”. It is a way online for you to get a quick list of the latest story headlines from all your favorite websites and blogs all in one place. How cool is that? (Click on image for larger view)

Image from Back in Skinny Jeans

I like it. It breaks the ideas down in a simple, digestible way without dumbing it down.

Read the whole thing here– it may give you ideas about how to best explain feeds to your users.