Jul 15

Fasten your seatbelts, I hope it will be a fun ride!

As David mentioned, he’s on vacation this week. Good for him, right? But (more importantly!) what does that mean for you?

My name is Kaura Gale, I have an ALA-accredited MLIS and am the Medical Librarian at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, so you’re in good hands here! Well, at least hands here? I definitely try to wash them both at least twice today. Can we start with that?

Anyhoo, when David asked if anyone wanted to fill-in, I’d been browsing through my RSS’d list of 50+ medblogs, and realized that not one belonged to me. So, here’s my turn to do something for everyone else. If only for a week.

One of the many reasons I enjoy reading David’s blog is that there are mainly tech posts, and this is both an area of interest to me, as it is an area in which I must keep up. David’s well written and chosen topics have the ability to impact my everyday searching and teaching, yet I rarely get or make the time to sort though his recommendations enough to see the shiny from the background.

I’d like to rectify that this week. I’m going to start with MEDIE, and then talk about one PubMed third party tool per day. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you, and hopefully learning from your ideas and experiences with these tools and teaching/learning in general.
Please feel free to use the comments for further dialog.

You can talk to me directly at kauragale@gmail.com, but I’ll prolly check comments more often, so have at it!

Jul 13

Prometeo Network: Another Social Network for Clinicians

To provide researchers in Life Sciences and Physicians with a scientific community online, where they can be able to interact with each other.

To build a trusted and solid community where Researchers and Physicians benefit from networking, sharing knowledge and promoting scientific collaborations.

To promote the formation of subgroups based on scientific topics or nationality, to enhance benefits of our Members.

To give visibility to our Members’ work by publishing it in our website news and/or through Press Agencies.

To make the latest scientific news available to our members on our website and through our partner-site, Within3.

To organize fund-raising events to give grants and scholarships for research projects or training of researchers in Life Sciences.

To facilitate participation of our Members to conferences, supporting them financially, when possible.

To make information and resources in Life Sciences more attainable within the network.

Prometeo Network


Previous posts about Social Networks for Clinicians

Jul 12

Presentation: Social technology in health library practice and outreach

Eugene Barsky gave a presentation on Monday at Vancouver Coastal Health on social software and health libraries. As always, Eugene has generously made his presentation slides available via PDF and via Slideshare (embedded below).

I have to admit how much I enjoyed slide three…

…not only because it appears as though Eugene may have read and liked this post, but because it is flattering to see one’s own name in such good company.

Thanks as always, Eugene. 🙂

Jul 11

Easy Custom Search Engines “On the Fly”

Something useful to libraries from Google Librarian Central!

If you have a page of links on your site for a particular subject, adding this little snippet of code will put a custom search engine on the page that searches all the content on the other ends of these links. When you add new links to the page, the custom search engine will search those sites, too.

Jul 10

On Medical Librarianship Blogs

So I get to give a talk next week at the Mayo Clinic in (Rochester, MN) as a part of Mayo Libraries 2.0.

I’ve been working on my notes and I think I’ve got everything covered that I need to, but I’m wondering if perhaps you have any thoughts to share?


  • What do you think are the must-read blogs for a medical librarian? What do you get from reading them?
  • What are the most popular misconceptions about blogs?
  • What makes a good blog…good?
  • What’s the stuff that other presentations about biblioblogs sometimes miss?

Please leave comments or email me? Thanks!

Jul 10


Endotext.org is the web-based source of information on endocrine disease directed to physicians around the world caring for patients with these problems. It is comprehensive, authoritative, constantly up-dated, un-biased, and available without cost to physicians and trainees. All material may be freely downloaded for personal use. This site covers the broad area of Clinical Endocrinology, emphasizing clinical endocrine practice, including the most current information on the manifestations of endocrine disease, diagnosis and treatment. Endotext.org is the premier provider of well reviewed and organized clinical endocrine information on the Web. Endotext.org is solely responsible for all content. Our site is made available through the fantastic generosity of the authors and editors who have provided their articles as a service to the profession. We are supported in part by Educational Grants, and non-intrusive ads with hyperlinks to company sites providing product information.


Jul 08

Why medical librarians should care about tagging

I was already working on a post about tagging, but I got email the other day from one of my favorite medical librarians that helped me pull it together. This medical librarian wrote:

I’ve been wondering what the point to tagging is in the clinical field, when we have (as I see it) a really useful controlled vocab… maybe consumer health or somesuch? Just don’t get it. (rhetorical question)

There are a few ways social bookmarking might be used

  • First, one could use MeSH terms for social bookmarking tags if one chose to. If an individual medical library wishes to index various Web resources using MeSH, I can think of no more convenient way to do it than with del.icio.us or a similar social bookmarking tool.
  • What if one wants to categorize Web resources based on the roles or positions in the hospital to which they might be of most use? One could create a series of tags like staff_development, ED_docs, ED_nurses or RNs. Each of these tags can output its own RSS feed, so this would be an incredibly quick and efficient way to recommend particular Web resources to particular segments of the library’s clinical patrons.
  • I frequently use del.icio.us to mark items for later follow-up, using tags like blog_this, try_this, or read_later. When I stumble across something that would be useful in reference to something I’m writing, I’ll even user tags likeMLANews_article
  • On your library’s intranet site, do you organize links to internet sites of clinical interest to your patrons by MeSH? Most that I have seen don’t. However, you can adapt social bookmarking tags to suit whatever organizational schemes your intranet uses, and have them populate to the page as soon as you tag them in del.icio.us.

But these are just a few ideas- how else can social bookmarking be used in a medical library? Which social bookmarking tools are best suited for clinical purposes? I’ve played with Connotea and CiteULike, but not enough to have useful thoughts about them.

Since Ratcatcher knows more about social bookmarking than I do, I asked her if she’d write a post on the topic as well. Go and check it out over on her blog.

Jul 06

Want to write about an electronic resource for the JMLA?

Well, here’s your chance:

Call for Electronic Resources Reviews for the JMLA

The Journal of the Medical Library Association is seeking authors for electronic resource reviews for upcoming issues. The purpose of the electronic resources reviews in the JMLA is to provide critical appraisals of electronic products that can assist staff in health sciences libraries as they make collection development and technology implementation decisions. Reviewers can evaluate any relevant type of resource, such as databases and catalogs, electronic collections, research and reference tools, library management systems, and educational instruments. Health sciences resources are the primary focus of reviews. To be reviewed, resources must be readily accessible for use in health sciences libraries.

Electronic resource reviews are short pieces, generally 2-3 double-spaced pages in length. Reviewers are not required to be members of MLA. Additional guidelines for electronic resource reviewers are online at http://www.mlanet.org/publications/jmla/jmla_eresource.html

Please contact Rachel R. Walden, MLIS at jmlaeditor [AT] vanderbilt [DOT] edu to propose a topic of review if you are interested in writing a piece for this section of the journal.

Jul 06

BioText Search engine

This is a super-cool way to search PubMed Central.

Developed as part of the BioText project at the University of California, Berkeley, the BioText Search Engine is a freely available Web-based application that provides biologists with new ways to access the scientific literature.

The interface has been carefully designed according to usability principles and techniques. Three views allow different types of browsing:

* Abstracts (List View): Allows users to search over titles, abstracts and authors. Returns a list of abstracts showing the figures associated with each article.
* Captions (List View): Allows users to search over captions. Returns a list of captions and their figures.
* Captions (Grid View): Allows users to search over captions. Returns figures and truncated captions in a grid arrangement.

Go try it.

Jul 04

The Future of the Hospital Librarian

I saw some interesting comments on MEDLIB-L not too long ago:

“I do not think MLA, HLS, its officers, certainly not academic medical center librarians, understand that hospital libraries have ten years of life left,” writes the anonymous commenter. The commenter appears to hear the Joint Commission and others saying, “Let technology provide us with the information we need,” instead of relying on librarians.

The commenter continues:

How many IT people you know who use libraries? I know one PhD student who is excited that some paper she has written has been asked to be published in some obscure “journal” in the IT field. Frightening! Down right scary. I am old enough to be leaving the work where the techie future picture is not a pretty one for me. Where idiots with ear plugs and i-pods think they know what life is about. God save us, everyone.

This post is a reply to the anonymous commenter (who I’ll call “Nonnie”) and those who share his/her views. I can’t promise that my views will be the same in six months, but this is how I’m thinking lately.

Nonnie, I think you’re absolutely right about one thing: Hospital libraries as we know them may not exist in a decade or two. However, I don’t see this in the same dark way that you appear to. I think they’ll still exist, but will be significantly different.

As I see it, the job of the hospital librarian has been primarily to utilize expertise in the application of information tools to either:

  1. Find and/or evaluate health information for clinicians,
  2. assist clinicians in the use of tools for finding and/or evaluating health information,
  3. teach clinicians how to use the tools effectively so that they can find and/or evaluate health information for themselves.

What’s changing now at an incredibly quick pace is only the tools themselves as they become increasingly digital. The mission and the role are exactly the same.

The question becomes: How do hospital librarians set about to manage this change and continue to be invaluable to a hospital?

First: The hospital librarian must recognize that this challenge is NOT unique to hospital libraries (or libraries generally)

This very same kind of change is having its way with a LOT of other professions.

Putting aside the way information technologies are transforming other kinds of industries, lets look at a few changes just in healthcare:

  • Physicians are faced with CPOE in hospitals and increasing pressure to implement EMRs in their own practices.
  • Hospital nurses are transitioning to EMRs that manage nursing workflow and make patient charts completely digital. Drugs are frequently dispensed from stations that are really networked computers. Computer literacy is quickly becoming a requirement of the nursing profession.
  • Hospital Environmental Services Departments now have to manage their own databases of Material Safety Data Sheets.
  • Hospital HR departments have to care about the export formats of their HR software and whether their chosen carriers can parse their export files. Time clocks are almost entirely computerized and someone in HR has to be a systems admin.
  • Hospital Staff Development departments have to manage and record in-service activities digitally.
  • Hospital foundations and development offices absolutely must utilize one of several donor/donation database management software options.
  • Account management and patient financial management have been transformed by computers and communications with insurance carriers are largely on-line now.
  • Many hospitals are utilizing sophisticated software to help manage their purchasing and inventory with more efficiency and at lower costs.
  • How about the variety of kinds of systems issues faced by Health Information Management departments? Imagine what changes they’re facing as hospitals convert to EMRs.
  • How about the challenges faced by Radiology departments as they must become masters of PACS systems?

Where computers used to support healthcare, they’re now essential, elemental parts of it.

Hospital librarians need to let go of the idea that the challenge they face is unique (or even unusual) and get on with learning the new skills. This profession is not a special sort of victim and dealing with technological change shouldn’t be new to librarians. When my mentor first had to learn to put the telephone handset into a special cradle to dial up a distant computer and execute queries with a highly specialized syntax, I don’t think she complained about having to learn these new skills. I think she was excited about what this new technology could do for her library. It is now our turn to get excited about what new technologies can do for our libraries. Hospital libraries should be the first department facing and mastering these challenges so that they can help departments that aren’t so fortunate as to be staffed with information professionals.

Second: The hospital librarian must become a technologist

Wait! Come back! It isn’t as scary or difficult as it sounds!

“Nonnie” seems to say that a lot of IS staffers aren’t any good at using information tools. I see some truth in this generalization. Some IS professionals I’ve met in the last seven years or so are a little like auto mechanics who don’t know how to drive. (That’s okay, by the way. Their jobs don’t require them to be experts at using or teaching particular applications.) But here’s the thing: I think that as the tools of health information management (HIM) and health librarianship become increasingly digital, the hospital departments of IS, HIM and Library Services will be strongly tied to each other, overseen by a common person in senior management (probably the CIO)Tangent: I also think that in 15 or 20 years a person with an MSLIS degree would make an excellent hospital CIO.. But since so many IS people are like mechanics who don’t know how to drive, it’ll be the role of librarians to be expert drivers and driving instructors. In my experience, librarians are frequently the best possible advocates for the needs of a hospital’s technology users. In our hospital, the library teaches computer orientation classes, teaches classes on using various computer applications (including our EMR), writes user documentation and makes house calls throughout the hospital to help users solve their computer problems. Not only do I think this will be a growing trend, I think it is a trend hospital libraries should embrace. We’re already expert at teaching people how to use information tools- who could be better equipped to perform this essential function?

At this point, some readers are wondering what about this makes the librarian a technologist. Short answer: You don’t have to be a programmer to be a technologist. Someone who is expert in using these computer tools and can teach others to use them is a technologist. There’s been a growing trend for years now in which programmers develop tools to let people who don’t know how to code (but who can understand a little bit about programming conceptually) make new applications without ever writing a lick of code. I’ve seen people who know very little about (X)HTML make useful Web pages with a WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver or Google Page Creator. Tools like Pipes, Popfly and Dapper (among many others) are letting users who understand the ideas make new and useful tools.

This is the reason why the famous librarian advocates of “social software”Check out everything Meredith Farkas writes, especially her new book. and “Web 2.0”Phil Bradley’s new book is an excellent, painless introduction to “Web 2.0”- it is a shame that the outrageous price they’re charging for it ($125.00!) will prevent many from purchasing a copy. or “Library 2.0”I haven’t had a chance to read Casey and Savastinuk’s new book yet- but I will. are constantly on about these technologies! They can be used to enhance your library’s services at little cost- and if you were able to earn an MLS, they are easily within your ability to learn.

Third: Hospital librarians need to change the way they talk about technology and the way they talk with technologists

Communicating with IS professionals
The best thing about being a power user (expert driver) of technologies is that you are better able to communicate effectively with IS professionals. I’ve known a lot of geeks and am even related to a couple. In my experience, the vast majority of IS professionals are incredibly generous with their knowledge and expertise when you’re willing to make the effort to meet them halfway.

When I was working as a Business Systems Analyst for a benefits data management company, I was expected to use the graphical user interface (GUI) that most other BSA’s did to get information from our databases. It didn’t take long for me to grow frustrated with the GUI’s limitations and envy the programmers for their ability to write queries which fetched exactly the information they wanted at incredible speeds. I asked a couple of the programmers what it would take for me to learn to do that. They look surprised, but were incredibly helpful in finding me some good tutorials and loaning me a good book on the topic. When I came back to them after that with questions about our company’s data model or how to accomplish a particular task, they were incredibly generous and patient, taking huge amounts of time to make sure I walked away knowing how to fish, not just with a fish in hand. They patiently explained how they structured the logic of their programs, and when I did or said something stupid, they were kind and gentle in explaining my mistake to me. Not once did they become exasperated with my questions. Not a single time.

Why were they so helpful? Partially because they were good at what they did and enjoyed sharing their expertise with someone who was genuinely interested. More importantly, they were investing in me. My understanding these things better made me easier to work with. Once they had taught me to speak a few words of “Geek,” I could explain problems I was seeing in a vocabulary that made sense to them and helped us communicate efficiently. With the knowledge they had invested in me, I was better able to help other non-programmers I worked with appreciate the challenges the programmers faced. In my experience, this sort of IS professional isn’t the exception- they’re the norm. They’ll help you- you just have to make the sincere effort to meet them halfway.

Writing about technology
Libraryfolk who write about technology need to stay caught up on how technologists write about technology and use a common vocabulary. This is essential for two reasons. First, so that libraryfolk who read LIS literature about technology can use it as a springboard to explore the larger body of technology literature outside of LIS circles. Second, so that IS professionals can be effectively shown that libraryfolk can keep up with the conversation and can make valuable contributions about the way technologies should work. If we don’t speak a common language (or at least share some vocabulary), we’ll just keep talking past each other.

Engaging with technologists outside of libraries
While we’re talking about technology, we have to be careful about how we present ourselves to technology powers. I don’t think it is advisable to tell Google they’ve lost the respect of medical librarians.Rachel, will this post suffice? Frankly, Google doesn’t have to give a rat’s whisker what medical librarians think of it. Instead of giving the impression that we’re emotionally hurt by being left out of the rush to create quality online health information search services, we should be demonstrating what medical librarians can contribute to that efforts as the only professionals on the planet whose job it is to find and evaluate health information.

I know for a fact that there are a lot of medical librarians who are truly expert in seeking health information online, but so few of them are making their voices heard! One of the reasons my respect for Dean Giustini continues to grow (despite the fact that we frequently disagree) is that he makes his voice heard to technology powerhouses. Medical librarians who are expert in online searching need to demonstrate this expertise outside of the LIS community and directly in front of search professionals. Submit articles to technology journals and magazines! Submit them to medical journals (as Dean has to BMJ)!

If the value of the profession is under-rated, I think it may be partially because medical libraryfolk spend too much time talking only to each other.

Fourth: Hospital librarians must accept the reality that their work requires constant learning and development of new skills

“Nonnie” wrote:

I am old enough to be leaving the work where the techie future picture is not a pretty one for me. Where idiots with ear plugs and i-pods think they know what life is about. God save us, everyone.

The problem “Nonnie” illustrates here isn’t the changing workplace- it is the unchanging librarian.

We’re in an age where virtually no professional career path can accommodate someone who finds stagnation of skills acceptable. The UPS driver who balks at the the new tablet computer he’s required to use is silly enough, but this is so much sillier to see in an information professional. Insulting the “idiots with ear plugs and i-pods” is as ridiculous as bemoaning the demise of the card catalog, the horse-drawn carriage and the telegraph. The digitization of information tools is as inevitable as microfilm and microfiche once were, and for similar economic reasons. Librarians are already being faced with the decision to either grow their technology skills or take early retirement.See American Libraries item: Digital Transition Brings Changes to LC’s Workforce This isn’t temporary and the rate of change isn’t likely to slow down any time soon. Instead of mocking iPod users, why not explore the many ways this technology might be used to enhance or expand your library’s services?How can iPods and podcasting be leveraged in medical libraries? Here are a few examples: 1, 2, 3, 4

I think this is both the longest and most opinionated thing I’ve posted here. I’d be really grateful to hear your thoughts (good, bad or ugly) in the comments.

Jul 03

Verbs in MEDLINE Searches & MEDIE (Third-Party PubMed Tool)

Created by the University of Tokyo’s Tsujii Laboratory, I was reminded of MEDIE by seeing the title of a recent article:

Bertaud, Valerie; Said, W.; Garcelon, Nicolas; Marin, Franck;
Duvauferrier, Regis. “The value of using verbs in Medline searches”
Medical Informatics & The Internet in Medicine 32.2 (2007). 05 Jun. 2007

MEDIE is an intelligent search engine to retrieve biomedical correlations from MEDLINE. You can find abstracts/sentences in MEDLINE by specifying semantics of correlations


MEDIE formulates queries by offering the user three fields: Subject, Verb, and Object.


Previous posts about third-party PubMed tools

Jul 02

This blog is one year old

This blog’s first post was on 7/3/2006, making it one year old this week. I figure a year of blogging entitles me to just a little navel gazing.

The first thing I should do is thank the people who, in one way or another, helped push this blog along.

My sincere thanks to Michael Stephens and Meredith Farkas, whose encouragement convinced me that maybe I should have a blog and whose encouragement has never waned. They continue to answer my newbie questions with more generosity of spirit than I ever could have hoped to expect.

Thanks to Steven Cohen for being the first biblioblogger to link to this blog. Steven was also incredibly understanding when I explained why I had to miss our opportunity to go get some dinner when he was in Syracuse.

I’ve emailed Dr. Kevin Pho three times for advice about matters of bloggery. All three times, he has responded almost immediately with insightful, detailed guidance.

Through this blog I’ve gotten acquainted with medical librarians like Mary Carmen Chimato, Rachel Walden, Melissa Rethlefsen, Alexia Estabrook, Kaura Gale, and Becky Jerome. Each of these medical librarians has been spectacularly kind to me and helped advance my education. Jane Blumenthal was incredibly kind upon discovering I’d done something truly stupid.

Thanks to Randy Morin for being the person I go to when I have RSS questions.

Thanks also to Hope Leman for unfailingly letting me know every time she sees something that she thinks I might want to write about and for her unrestrained enthusiasm.

Thanks are also due to the CGH VP who gave me the go-ahead to have a blog that clearly stated who I am and where I work. Not all employers will do that, and I don’t take it for granted.

I also must thank my wife, Dr. Elizabeth J. Fowler, who decided early on that if her husband was going to be obsessed with a hobby, blogging about medical library geekery was a reasonably inexpensive and harmless choice.

Lastly, thank YOU. If you’ve stopped by the site, subscribed to the feed, left a comment or dropped me an email, thank you. This wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without you. 🙂


There have been almost 660 posts in the last 363 days, so I’ve averaged about 1.8 posts per day, more than 12 posts per week. My original goal was to post at least once per weekday, so I’m pretty pleased with this. There have been nearly 1,100 comments. Wow!

Feed Subscribers (via FeedBurner):

Note: I only got the FeedBurner working properly in November 2006

Unique Visits (via Google Analytics):
In June, I saw a record number of over 7,000 visits to this blog.