Mar 13

“Practicality vs. Theory: Are we Preparing Health Sciences Librarians?”

This looks like an interesting project. If you’re a New(ish) health sciences librarian, consider taking this survey? Results will be presented at MLA 2008 in May.

Practicality vs. Theory: Are we Preparing Health Sciences Librarians?

Click here to take the ‘Practicality vs. Theory’ Survey!

As new librarians in the Health Sciences field, Ivonne Martinez and Michele Malloy (Dahlgren Library, Georgetown University Medical Center) discussed the correlation between courses offered within MLS programs and the job duties included in everyday Health Sciences library work. At the MLA 2008 annual meeting we will present a paper entitled ‘Practicality vs. Theory: Are we Preparing Health Sciences Librarians?’, and are asking for your participation. We are seeking newly graduated librarians (within the past 5 years) from ALA accredited programs who are now holding professional positions in Health Sciences within the United States.

The application of information technology has changed the nature of library services and continues to change the tasks of library personnel. It is our objective to explore, from the perspective of recent graduates, the job market practicality of their education. To measure the efficacy of library schools’ current curriculum, we will conduct a survey to measure the impact of our education system on our ability to perform library functions. Survey questions will directly address coursework and job tasks to discover possible correlations and suggest improvements to future library school programs.

Michele and Ivonne thank you in advance for your participation. The survey should take 5-8 minutes to complete. If you have any questions or comments please direct them to

Click here to take the ‘Practicality vs. Theory’ Survey!

Mar 13

Find Physicians with Xoova

Xoova is actually pretty cool in that it allows you to search “by any combination of name, specialist, treatment, condition, health plan & location.”

So if I wanted to find cardiologists in Syracuse, I could search for cardiology Syracuse, NY and get a list.

If I’m looking for a particular physician, it does pretty well with that too. If I search for Wasserman Syracuse cardiology, I’m taken to a page for Dr. Louis Wasserman that contains the contact information for his practice and a photo:

Just below that are (incomplete) lists of accepted health plans and affiliated hospitals:

Each physician’s page also has rating and recommendation features:

It also provides a definition of a cardiologist and a Google map showing where the physician’s office is:

Xoova’s FAQ seems to indicate that these profiles are actually created by the physician (or the physician’s office staff). If that’s the case, some physicians at the hospital where I work are significantly more Web-savvy than I suspected…so I’m thinking that maybe some of this information is imported from elsewhere.

Mar 12

16 Free Online Tools for Working with PDFs

An email conversation with a medical librarian recently reminded me that I’ve been meaning to make a list of the free online tools for working with PDFs that I’ve bookmarked.

Converting to/from other formats and PDF


    Converts files of the following formats (up to 2 MB) to PDF:
    MS Word (DOC | RTF)
    MS PowerPoint (PPT)
    MS Publisher (PUB)
    MS Excel (XLS)
    HTML (MHT)
    Text (TXT)

    Site also has free tools for converting URLs to PDF and for converting PDF to .doc


    Will convert to PDF from the following formats:
    123, bmp, cgm, csv, dbf, dif, doc, dot, dxf, emf, eps, gif, hwp, jpeg, jpg, jtd, jtt, met, mml , odb, odf, odg, odm, odp, ods, odt, otg, oth, otp, ots, ott, pbm, pcd, pct, png, ppm, pps, ppt, psd, pts, ptt, ras, rtf, sda, sdc, sdd, sdp, sdw, sgf, sgl, sgv, slk, smf, stc, std, sti, stw, svm, sxc, sxd, sxg, sxi, sxm, sxt, sxw, tga, tif, tiff, txt, vor, vor, wb2, wk1, wks, wmf, wpd, wps, xbm, xls, xlt, xlw, xml, and xpm
    Adobe’s own online conversion service converts HTML or text to PDF, or PDF to HTML/text.

    Converts Word, Excel or HTML files to PDF.

    In addition to a bajillion other conversions, Zamzar will convert .csv, .doc, .docx, OpenDocument formats, .ppt, .pptx, .pub, .wpd, .wps, .xls or .xlsx files (up to 100MB) to PDF. Zamzar will also convert PDF to doc, html, odt, pcx, png, ps, rtf or txt

    Among lots of other conversions, converts to PDF from a number of file formats. It’ll also convert from PDF to AVS, BMP,CIN, or CMYK

    Converts the text of an RSS feed to a PDF
    Give HTML2PDF a URL or a mess of HTML and it’ll output a PDF

Editing PDFs


    PDFhammer will let you do some lightweight editing online, including appending PDFs to each other, deleting pages, or changing the order of pages.

    BookletCreator is a free online tool that allows to create a booklet from a PDF document. It reorders pages so that after printing and folding the pages you get a small book.


    PDFescape will let you add things to PDFs like text fields (for filling out forms), arrows, shapes and “white-out”.
    Screen capture from editing:

  • Sharing PDFs


    You can think of Scribd as sort of a YouTube for PDFs (and other kinds of documents). You can upload and tag, share, and embed documents as flash objects. The example below is an embedded version of Eugene Barsky’s handy Google “Cheat Sheet”:

    Read this doc on Scribd: Google Cheat Sheet 20060503


    Another YouTube for documents.

    PDFmenot is another way to view a PDF without an installed reader (or to post one online that users won’t need a reader to view). See example (again using Eugene’s PDF) by clicking here.

    Issuu lets you upload a PDF and either share a link to a flash viewer (sort of like PDFmenot) or embed it on a Web page. Click on the embedded version will launch the full-screen viewer. The example below was again made with Eugene’s handout.

This is far from a comprehensive list. Do you have a favorite that isn’t mentioned?

Mar 11

Kvetching about Susannah Fox and “Health 2.0”

This is a good example of the kind of “Health 2.0” stuff that baffles me. The speaker in this video is Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. She is speaking at the Health 2.0 Conference. You can watch the embedded video or read the text of her remarks (from here) beneath it.

After the market crash, there were quite a few people on the internet sidelines who were eager to say “I told you so” and warn people against the dangers of the internet. My favorite example is the 2001 press release from the American Medical Association suggesting that Americans make a New Year’s resolution to “trust your physician, not a chat room” since the information found online puts “lives at risk.”

So…is Fox actually disagreeing with those who think it wiser to seek advice from physicians than to take seriously medical advice received from anonymous strangers in internet chat rooms? As I see it, acting on medical advice from an unidentified, unqualified strangers on the internet can “put lives at risk.”I’d also really like to see that AMA 2001 press release- I haven’t been able to find it yet..

Of course most people ignored that advice and flocked online for health information, just as they ignored the advice of the recording industry and flocked to music downloading sites.

This analogy to the recording industry is a very poor one.

If a consumer illegally downloads an mp3 of a commercially-available pop tune instead of buying it on iTunes, he is essentially getting the same product (the same audio, compressed for fast downloads) in a superior version (no DRM) for a lower cost (free instead of about a buck). If a consumer goes to an unidentified stranger in a chat room, he’s probably not getting a qualified physician (at the very least, he has no assurance that the person he’s taking advice from has the appropriate education and skills to dispense advice), so he’s consuming a significantly inferior product.

When the RIAA advises people not to download songs illegally, they do so because they believe illegal downloads erode the profits of the recording companies. It cannot, however, be argued that pirated music could do harm to consumers. When the AMA advises that doctors are a more trustworthy source than strangers in chat rooms, they very well might be trying to protect the income of primary care physicians- but they’re also right that medical advice from unqualified, unidentified providers can cause harm.

Fox goes on in the extended text version of her remarks:

But let’s give the AMA some credit. Inaccurate and outdated medical information does exist online.

To say that “[i]naccurate and outdated medical information does exist online” is an awful understatement that seems to erroneously imply that online healthcare misinformation is rare.

Medical librarians say people should check the source and date of the health information they find online. But few sites display those quality markers and few e-patients look for them.

First, medical librarians judge the quality of an online resource by a whole lot more than just the source and date.

Second, really reliable sites absolutely do display these markers. If few patients look for quality indicators, the reasonable solution is to help healthcare consumers be more discerning and to help guide them quickly to quality information. One way physicians and other healthcare providers can help their patients do this by directing them to MedlinePlus. Also, if consumers don’t have the information literacy to navigate the health information published online by authoritative institutions like the National Library of Medicine, how the heck are they going to sort through the inevitably massive amount of information put up by other consumers?

I do not believe that online resources collaboratively created by patients will solve the problems and dangers of healthcare misinformation online.

Let us say that a healthcare consumer has heard that ginkgo biloba will help improve his concentration. He visits MamaHerb (a consumer-created wiki for “natural remedies”) and decides there’s no reason why he shouldn’t start taking ginkgo.

MedlinePlus, on the other hand, goes into significant detail about potential risks and reasons why our consumer might want to reconsider or discuss with his physician before taking ginkgo.

Some will probably say that I’m defining “Health 2.0” too narrowly. After all, the term only makes sense if it refers to the application of “Web 2.0” trends to the needs of healthcare consumers. The Health 2.0 Conference apparently featured Phreesia, an service which I cannot work out a way to describe as “Web 2.0.”. Phreesia is an application which offers providers’ offices a convenient technology in exchange for the opportunity to market drugs to the patient. As a patient, I’m already annoyed with how badly physicians allow pharma marketing to infiltrate their offices and bombard their patients. So if “Health 2.0” is just a buzzword for “innovations in healthcare IT” or “the next generation of healthcare,” why bother with the “2.0” suffix?

Mar 10

On Microblogging (with video)

Michelle already elaborated a bit on Microblogging in a follow-up from the MLA Webcast last week, but this great video from CommonCraft provides a good, short explanation of the most popular microblogging platform, Twitter:

I have a Twitter account, I sometimes update my Facebook status, and I have a Pownce account that I don’t use. I haven’t seen any applications of microblogging that struck me as particularly useful to libraries or medicine, but I’ve found they can be a good bit of fun.

Additional reading:

Mar 05

Webcast Rehearsal, 3/4/2008

Photos from rehearsal for the Webcast:

Dale Prince really likes his iPhone. So do I, actually.

What may not be immediately obvious to those who have not met him is that Bart actually has a halo that is visible in person.

Michelle agrees with me that Dale rocks.
Mar 04

JMLA Case Studies Blog: Search Challenge

(Just a quick note from a rehearsal break in Chicago)

I love this announcement from the JMLA Case Studies in Health Sciences Librarianship blog:

“…we’re going to start posting a “search challenge” question each Monday. We encourage you to post your ideas and questions in the comments or to us by email (using our profile links above). You can also feel free to “reference interview” us by posting questions for clarification or more detail as needed.

Then, each Friday we’ll post a search strategy and other thoughts on that question. We hope this will add to the usefulness of the cases by giving another outlet for developing searching skills and discussing strategies with colleagues.”

Mar 02

A week off


Monday through Wednesday this week I’ll be in Chicago for the MLA Webcast.

My wife is leaving on Friday for 10 days overseas (she’s taking 7 students to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris to study Picasso!).

So…when I’m not in Chicago or at work, I’ll be wanting to spend time with Liz.

I think this means I’m taking the week off from blogging, but reserve the right to change my mind. 🙂

Have a great week!

Mar 01

Want to play with Google Sites?

Gabe Rios’ post about the new Google Sites service made me want to try it, so I added it to my existing Google Apps account. It’s neat- a really nice, intuitive, WYSIWYG wiki. I’m looking forward to seeing what features Google is going to add to it.

While I believe Google is seeing this tool as another facet of their Apps services (which seems built to erode Microsoft’s core businesses), Phil Bradley is annoyed that it is only available to those with a domain name and the ability to customize MX and CNAME records. That’s a fair point, I guess. It would be a lot cooler if one could share “sites” as easily as one shares Google Docs, Spreadsheets, or presentations (without restricting access to a domain).

Phil’s comments also made me wonder if maybe there were a number of libraryfolk who would like to try Google Sites but who don’t have their own domains to play with.

So I set up a Google Sites sandbox here for libraryfolk to play with:

Want to play in the sandbox? Email me (the address is on the right sidebar of this blog) and I’ll send you the login and password. Please be courteous and play nicely with others.


Mar 01

More PubMed for Facebook

Gerry McKiernan points out two Facebook applications for searching PubMed, PubFace and PubMed Search.

PubFace Results:

PubMed Search Results:

It’s sort of neat to be able to quickly share a PubMed citation with another Facebook user (see the link in the PubFace results above for “Send to a friend” or PubMed Search’s “Share this” button) and it is handy to be able to add citations to a collection (see PubFace’s “Add to MyLibrary” links or PubMed Search’s “add this to your favorites”)… but I’m having trouble seeing how it is preferable to using PubMed itself and making use of MyNCBI or “Send to email”…or using a powerful bookmarking tool like, Connotea or CiteULike.

I’m only a casual Facebook user, so it is entirely possible I’m missing something. If so, please clue me in? Thanks!