Nov 30

“Library 2.0”

Well, I agree with T. Scott Plutchak that “Library 2.0” is a mushy term. He writes:

My problem with the term is the same as ever — it is simply incoherent. People who use the term refer continually to the “Library 2.0 concept” but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what that “concept” is. Everyone who uses it has their own intention for it, and one knows that it has something to do with social networking software and with making libraries better, but is there really any more to it than that? It’s a very sloppy use of language, and I’m a firm believer in the concept that a sloppy use of language betrays sloppy thinking.

Totally in agreement over here in the peanut gallery!

…I’m hesitant to criticize those who have done the most to promote the term, because there’s no question that the work being done by people like Michael Stephens and Michael Casey is extremely important, and the ideas that they are promoting for how we can keep our organizations alive and vibrant and useful has added a great deal to the discussion of what we want our organizations to be and how we want to interact with our communities.

Amen and Hallelujah! Tell it, T. Scott!

[Casey and Savastinuk] define a Library 2.0 service as “Any service, physical or virtual, that successfully reaches users, is evaluated frequently, and makes use of customer input…”


It’s that last phrase that really sets my teeth on edge.

Really? Why does it set your teeth on edge?

If one has followed the management and organizational literature for the past fifty years or so, it is pretty clear that the phrase Casey and Savastinuk are using to define Library 2.0 services applies to the goal for every service for every organization.

I can’t agree with that. I think that every organization has paid lip service to this goal, while far too few have actually applied it with commitment and follow-through.

But by defining it as “Library 2.0” and as a new model, they necessarily place it in opposition to the old model, which must have been Library 1.0 and which, by the definition of 2.0, must have been a model of librarianship that was opposed to reaching users, evaluating services, and making use of customer input.

I think T. Scott Plutchak, like every reader, can infer what he likes from an article, but I don’t think Casey and Savastinuk implied that libraries have previously been opposed to reaching users or making use of customer input. I think they said that we should try to reach more users, to actively invite and facilitate customer input and have a stronger, clearer, more consistent conversation with our patrons.

They’re not saying what came before is bad, they’re saying we can do better. I mean, look at some of the things they say in their article (Emphases are mine):

  • …user-centered change…
  • encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation…
  • …reach new users and better serve current ones through improved customer-driven offerings. Each component by itself is a step toward better serving our users…

These are great sentiments that we all should applaud.

Pluctchak continues:

It’s not enough to say that there are tools and ways of doing things that enable us to reach customers better now — by casting it as a new model, they are, intentionally or unintentially I’m not sure, suggesting that prior to the last couple of years, the model of librarianship was essentially anti-user and opposed to change. Clearly this is nonsense.

I agree that this is nonsense for two reasons:

First, Plutchak’s argument is essentially a straw man. T. Scott is calling nonsensical things that Casey and Savastinuk didn’t write or imply. Sure, that last sentence he quotes isn’t great, but put it in the context of the article and read it again. It simply isn’t reasonable to suggest that Casey and Savastinuk are calling all previous librarians anti-user.

Second, the model of librarianship hasn’t been anti-change and anti-user, but a hell of a lot of practices have been.

Few organizations embrace and manage change effectively, and few implement systems for constant, two-way communication with their patrons. It is unfortunate that anyone takes offense at this being pointed out. Pointing this out isn’t an insult to those who have not yet managed to overcome these challenges, it is the first step towards actually overcoming them.

Even if what Casey and Savastinuk write is just a rephrasing, update, or new flavor of what are absolutely old-school library beliefs, can we agree to be thrilled that they’re so passionate about it? Can we agree that there is nothing wrong with suggesting we should try harder?

If people are going to get bent out of shape every time someone says “we should be better,” how will any progress ever be made?

I am uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with T. Scott Plutchak, someone whose work I admire and who writes with more skill than I probably ever will, but the argument he makes isn’t fair to Casey and Savastinuk.

Libraries CAN do better, SHOULD do better, and WILL do better, and probably due in no small part to passionate people like Casey, Savastinuk and their contemporaries who constantly use mushy terms I am uneasy with, like “Library 2.0” and “social software.”

Nov 30

Journal of EAHIL: Web 2.0 (and International MedLib Blogging)

Over at the European Medical Librarians blog, Oliver Obst has posted a link to a recent issue of the Journal of EAHIL (European Association for Health Information and Libraries) in which he has published his new column, titled “Web 2.0” (see page 50 of this PDF).

Oliver starts with an overview of MedLib blogs,including charts of some North American and European blogs, and talks about EUROMEDLIB. Oliver writes:

…five bloggers from Sweden, Netherlands, France, and Germany decided to take this idea one step further and build a cross-border blog with a real European scope, called EUROMEDLIB – Items of Interests for everyone working in an European Medical Library. As it is stated in the mission of EUROMEDLIB, There is a strong desire for networking among European medical librarians. This blog serves as a starting point for what is at the heart of EAHIL. You will find EUROMEDLIB at Every European Medical Librarian is invited to participate, either by writing or commenting posts.

I really admire the enthusiasm that Oliver, Dymphie, Benoit, Guus, and Lars demonstrate for community-building. Oliver and Dymphie both added the MedLib Blog badge to their blog sidebars, and Dymphie used the Google Customized Search Engine tools to make a CSE just for searching MedLib Blogs.

Bridging the language gap

I subscribe to the feeds of MedLib blogs in languages other than english and use machine translation to work out what they say if a post looks interesting, but it might encourage more anglophones to read these if each included translation buttons in their sidebars. Babelfish makes this pretty easy, just copy and paste the code here into your page. (I know other web-based machine translation services offer similar tools- anyone have a favorite?)

I have added this to my own sidebar. The machine translation is far from perfect, but it is enough generally to allow me to understand what is being written about in German or Dutch, so I am hopeful that it will function as well for readers whose English proficiency is similar to my proficiency in German or Dutch.

Additional Links to our European MedLib Blogger friends:

Nov 29

Update: Consumer Health & Patient Education Custom Search Engine (CSE)

Update, 12/2/2006: Further information on the CSE and the Second Life Library Search HUD at InfoIsland.


Guus van den Brekel (a.k.a. Namro Orman) made my day today.

He’s going to try to make the CSE that I made available from the Second Life Librares in the Library Search HUD (HeadsUp Display).


Guus, don’t worry about the delayed guest post. Doing the work is more important than writing about it, but you gotta’ write about it eventually. 🙂

Nov 29

Sliders: Library Rap

Why can’t some really talented hip-hop artists do library promotion? How about Jurassic 5? I’d love to see a Chali 2na READ poster.

Look at the lower left corner of the screen. This fictional hip-hop group (from the television show Sliders) is called MC Poindexter and the Study Crew.

(Embedded Video below)


Yo homes, what up?
What up with you?
What we gonna say?
What we gonna do?
Where we gonna go?
What we gonna see?
We’re goin’ to
The Library.

I’m moving down the aisle with my homeys in tow
We’re groovin’ in the home of the librarian (yo!)
She checks us out from behind thick glasses
We walk right past and we wiggle our asses.

Hemingway, Lawrence, Chekhov and Miller
Fitzgerald was a freak, Mailer is a killer

Quiet please!
Quiet please!

The silence is golden
To books I am beholden
I know I’m bad,
‘Cuz of the knowledge that I’m holdin’!

And I give you one warnin’
There will be no repeats:
Get out of my face
While I’m readin’ my Keats.

(Lyrics found here)

*Sigh.* Such whack rhymes. If you like it anyway, there is an mp3 here.

Nov 29

Why don’t we do it in our sleeves?

“The purpose of this video is to make coughing into one’s sleeve fashionable- and even patriotic!”

(Embedded flash video is below- click here if you’d prefer .wmv or .mov.)

This is educational and I think it’s funny! I’m sick right now- sneezy, coughing (into my sleeve!), and dopey from cold medicine, so it is possible that I am overestimating it’s entertainment value.

More from

More from the CDC, including handouts/posters

Heh. Infection control humor. Love it. (*cough!*)

One critique of the video: With the title they chose, it should have had a Beatles parody for theme music.


Nov 28

Brian Kelly’s ‘Web 2.0: What Is It, How Can I Use It, How Can I Deploy It?’

I really like this presentation from the University of Bath’s Brian Kelly. Excellent introduction that should be raided for ideas about how to explain “Web 2.0” to others.

Embedded SlideShare version is below. Be sure not to miss slide 23, “Beware the IT Fundamentalists.” Great stuff.


Nov 27

LibWorm Updates

I should first share my thanks and Frankie’s for the lovely response we’ve had to LibWorm so far. Just a few notes on recent developments:

  • I recently discovered that Kevin at made a LibWorm search add-on for Firefox or IE7 that’ll let you search LibWorm from your browser’s search bar!

    To install it, you can visit Kevin’s page or click here.

  • If you use and dig LibWorm, remember to Digg LibWorm!
  • Want to keep up with news about LibWorm without having to read posts at about other things? Subscribe to this feed, which will contain just items about LibWorm
  • We’ve already received a great number of new feeds suggested to be added to LibWorm. Except where the URL provided was bad or not a feed, we’re adding ’em all in. At this point, we can’t promise a turn-around time (how much time elapses between the submission of the )feed and its inclusion in LibWorm), but it should be pretty quick.
  • We’ve gotten some really great suggestions of Subjects to add (like “Reader’s advisory”- I could kick myself for not thinking of it) that we’re going to be implementing shortly. Thanks for these ideas- please keep ’em coming!
  • We’ve received several other really good ideas that we’re still working out how to apply, but I’ll announce when they are up and running.

I need to especially thank Marjolein Hoekstra for providing really thoughtful and detailed feedback that will doubtless help shape LibWorm’s future development. Thanks, Marjolein! (Marjolein writes about RSS and other fun stuff at her blog, CleverClogs. She writes from the perspective of a user, but with the comprehension of a geek. I highly recommend subscribing to her feed.)

Thanks again, and please keep the ideas coming!

Nov 25

LibWorm: Search and Current Awareness for Libraryfolk

I am very bad at keeping secret anything that I’m excited about, so I am especially pleased that in the last three months, I’ve been able to keep the secret of, created by MedWorm‘s Frankie Dolan and by me.

  • With LibWorm, you can search over 1100 feeds, including more than 800 biblioblogs, many LIS journal TOCs, and many other information sources of interest to libraryfolk.
  • Any search in LibWorm can be outputted as an RSS feed, so LibWorm should be a very useful way to track mentions of your favorite subjects in the biblioblogosphere and beyond.
  • You can choose to use LibWorm’s built-in aggregator by registering for an account, and this will also facilitate the social aspects of the site that will be implemented in the future.

You can go check it out now, and you may wish to read the FAQ.

Questions? Suggestions? Critiques? Compliments? Please use the contact form at LibWorm (beneath the FAQ) or email me at david[AT]libworm[dot]com. I’ll probably be answering questions about it here in posts at We’ve been working on this since mid-September, and we’re very excited to roll it out for you to play with.

If you like it, please feel free to spread the word. If you don’t like it, be sure to tell us what we can do to make it better.

Nov 23

Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday!

To those of you in the US: Happy Thanksgiving!
To those of you anywhere else: Happy…Thursday!

(Didja’ notice that the Wikipedia entry on Thanksgiving doesn’t even mention Sukkot? Gotta’ do something about that.)

I’ll likely be posting very little (if at all) for the next few days while visiting with family halfway across the continent, but will have a very exciting announcement to make probably early next week.

Hope you get to spend some time with your extended family this weekend, too.

Thankful for many things,


Nov 22

Expanding Library Services & Content With New Technologies

Wow! Found a great presentation for libraryfolk on handy web-based tools via

The identity of the author isn’t clear, which bothers me because I’d like to give credit whewre it is obviously due.

It appears this was created to be presented at the New Hampshire State Library (NHSL) on 11/14/2006– so it was probably made by one of these fine people.

Nov 22

Updated: “Final” Poll Results

Update: Well, I’m not thrilled with the winning title, but it won by a significant margin:


Well, I have to say that I’m a little disappointed.

Alex Aiken, a Westminster council official and “former policy director for the Tories,” expressed to a conference of the Public Library Authorities his belief that “[t]he concept of the librarian has to change and perhaps a start would be to abolish the title itself, with its connotations of middle-aged conservatism. requested suggestions on what new and sexier term might replace “librarian,” and posted a poll with those suggestions.

With 35 votes recorded, there is a clear favorite: Information Goddess/God. C’mon, folks! Can’t we be more than egotists? My personal favorite is “Information Alchemist,” but I like “Indagatrix”, too.

Poll results as of Friday, 11/21/2006 11:21 PM EST

Here’s the poll again, I’ll leave it open through the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Nov 21

Mapping ICD-9 to MedlinePlus or MeSH

Got an interesting question from an acquaintance made via the Web4Lib listserv:

One of our members is looking to map the terms in MedlinePlus to corresponding terms in the ICD-9 vocabulary. Do you know of anyone who’s done this? Is there an existing mapping that can be licensed?

The end goal is to two-fold:

1. Allow a search engine to find articles on, say, consumer health articles tagged with “breast cancer” AND articles in an external information service (don’t know which one) tagged with “breast neoplasm.”

2. Create “see also” references in an A – Z index so that if someone looks up the term “breast neoplasm” they’ll get a “see also” to “breast cancer.”

Well, if a tool exists to easily translate ICD-9 to MeSH, I can’t find it.

Goal #2 above can be achieved by searching MeSH at NCBI. For example, one could use this tool to search for breast cancer, and get results like this:

This includes links to searches on the following suggested terms: Breast cancer; Cancer, breast; Brain cancer; Breast cysts; Brain cancers; Pancreas cancer; Breast disease; Bone cancer; Breast cyst; Bladder cancer; more…

I know that MedlinePlus attempts to map search terms to MeSH:

Controlled Vocabulary: Searches are expanded using a thesaurus. The thesaurus contains a list of all the words found in all documents on the site and additional synonyms from NLM’s MeSH (Medical Subject Headings. When there is a match between a search term and a word in the controlled vocabulary, the controlled vocabulary word is added to the search as an “or” term.

So the real goal is to match ICD-9 to MeSH, because one can search MeSH in MedlinePlus.

So if we search for “Breast Cancer” in MedlinePlus, we get this result set:

Search results found in:
Health Topics
Breast Cancer (102)
Male Breast Cancer (21)
Mastectomy (28)
Mammography (23)
Breast Diseases (23)
Show all Health Topics
Drugs & Supplements (500)
Medical Encyclopedia (78)
News (44)
Other (0)

Still, this gets us no closer to a mapping between ICD-9 and MeSH. I thought that it might be possible through the UMLS, and that someone had to have attempted to build a tool to do this. It turns out that the someone was Vanderbilt- they called it WizOrder.

Any research on the topic always seems to lead back to this article.

Any thoughts? Any ideas on how to help the person who sent me the question?