Mar 02

For Want of a Book

From Room to Read:

Embedded video above. Depending on your aggregator, you may need to visit the site to view.

About Room to Read (Canada)
About Room to Read (US)

Room to Read partners with local communities throughout the developing world to establish schools, libraries, and other educational infrastructure. We seek to intervene early in the lives of children in the belief that education is a lifelong gift that empowers people to ultimately improve socioeconomic conditions for their families, communities, countries, and future generations. Through the opportunities that only an education can provide, we strive to break the cycle of poverty, one child at a time.

Feb 22

Ask a Librarian…and get an answer via YouTube

Sophia is going to answer questions sent to her by email about information resources and research. She introduces the idea in a video here.

(Embedding of the video, to my disappointment, is disallowed)

Sophia has also set up a blog for the project.

It is an interesting idea. It would be especially neat if Sophia were to reinforce answers given verbally with text appearing on-screen, or if answers included screen captures.

Sophia’s YouTube channel


Feb 02

Friday Fun: Chronicles of Libraria (EDITED)

…made for the USF (University of South Florida in Tampa) Library…hope you enjoy our library-themed rap based on SNL’s “Lazy Sunday.”

EDIT: Since YouTube pulled them, I found the embeddable videos on Google Video instead. (Proof that Google Video and YouTube are not well synchronized yet).

YouTube is packed with parodies of and tributes to SNL’s “Lazy Sunday”, but you can only see the original here at

Here’s one other video from the USF library: Richard Sly, Library Guy, stars in Databases! I think I like the last 30 seconds best.

Jan 29

Video: Why I Love My Library (Updated)

Update: The final version has been posted, and you’re invited to add your three reasons why you love your library.

This is great:

From (Sponsored by the NJ State Library), the video appears to have been posted to YouTube by Nancy Dowd.

Jan 19

Audio/Video Guides for the Medical Library (Podcasts)

Before we left for our trip to Spain last year, I downloaded a bunch of audio files about major traveler’s destinations in Barcelona. The idea behind these was that you loaded them into your portable audio player and they replaced the need for a tour guide or an audio guide from the site being visited. I liked them. It was convenient, inexpensive to produce or use, and it was great the way the audio complimented and enhanced visits to museums and works of Gaudi’s architecture. I wondered at the time: Why can’t libraries have audio guides that walk the user through the library and the use of its tools?

Are any medical libraries doing this?

A friend emailed me to tell me that the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Library is producing podcasts. This video podcast is about accessing and using Scopus.

I love the idea that a user could put on his or her headphones, sit down at a Library computer, and play with the tool while watching/listening to a tutorial on the use of that tool.

Screen Capture: Scopus podcast

This particular podcast would be greatly improved if it contained more information on actually USING Scopus. Walking the user through a search, for instance, would be really cool. Also, with such a speech-heavy video where the images are often just background, they might reinforce some of the information being spoken. If nothing else, stuff like the Information Desk’s telephone numbers, email address, and web address need to be reinforced visually, and it isn’t difficult or time-consuming to add text to video.

Regardless, providing instructional video on the use of library tools that the user can listen to or watch on his/her iPod while in the library is a great idea. It is probably also cost effective, considering how many university students have iPods of their own.

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 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 16

Librarians ‘should be sexier’


The poll is posted here.

(Suggested substitute titles for when “librarian” is abolished)

1. Bibliodominatrix
2. Information Alchemist
3. Indagatrix (Latin, f. investigator, explorer)
4. InfoWarrior
5. Imperious Knight of the High Knowledge
6. Information Goddess (/God)
7. Knowledge Hacker
8. BookWench (/BookWretch)
9. Faithful of Wiborada (the librarian)
10. Circle of Wiborada (librarians) (Wiborada is the patron saint of the librarians.)
11. Chosen of the Information Matrix
12. Infomagineer


I should probably find this annoying, but I don’t. I keep giggling.

Via lo-fi librarian, I came across this article from, with interesting ideas on how how to improve the perception of Britain’s libraries.

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.”

(A Tory complains about middle-aged conservatism? I don’t know a lot about UK politics, but isn’t middle-aged conservatism sort of the bread-and-butter of the Tories?)

But the response wasn’t entirely negative:

“Librarians come in all shapes and sizes – and that includes the very photogenic,” said one library chief, adding that some of his colleagues are “incredibly exciting”.

[Insert here David’s snorting and snerking sounds as he imagines how fast this would get a library director fired in the states and constructs mental video of a middle aged, balding Englishman calling his colleagues “incredibly exciting” with a straight face and an English accent.]

Anyway, I propose a contest: If the word “Librarian” was to be abolished, what title would we use instead? Remember that Aiken said that “racy” titles should be stressed.

Information Alchemist? Knowledge Engineer? How do you make a title both accurate and sexy?

Any ideas? If I get a few, I’ll post a poll so we can vote on the new, sexy title for librarians in the UK.

Nov 16

Clinical Information Technology Gaps Among Physicians

BHIC points out a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on the difference in access to information technology between larger medical practices and smaller ones.

Full text (PDF)

We have a full range of practices affiliated with our hospital. Of course, access to technology is directly related to ability to use that technology, and I think I see that correlation in our library.

Now that our library’s digital resources can be accessed by any physician from any internet-connected computer with Internet Explorer, our new goals need to be promoting awareness of those resources and providing lots of pleasant options physicians take take advantage of in order to learn to use them.

One of the things I did when I made our library’s portal was throw a bunch of training materials in the path of the user. One can’t get to OVID from our portal without tripping over three different kinds of training materials on using OVID. That helps even the access to resources a bit.

Nov 14

Hurray for OCPL!

I know it is a little off-topic, but I wanted to take a few minutes to thank my local public library for a couple of services I just noticed today.

First, Onondaga County Public Library has a new visual discovery tool which is neat:

In addition to the visual discovery on the left and titles with summaries in the middle, the right side of the page lets the user filter search results by format, author, subject, language, series, year, or data sources. But that’s not even the cool part.

The cool part is that OCPL has RSS feeds from their catalogue. 🙂

Patrons can now subscribe to a feed of all new additions to the catalog, or to feeds containing new items that match their query.

I’d still like to see a feed for their events calendar, and I’d love to see them do some blogging- but this is a great start.

Nov 12

More opinions on Dr. Google

The Krafty Librarian (Michelle Kraft) cracked me up with her comments regarding the article on Google as a diagnostic tool I posted about the other day.

Michelle posted a link on her blog to audio that summed up her reaction (and that of many healthcare information professionals) to the assertion from the article on Google as a Diagnostic Tool that “[g]oogle is likely to be a useful aid in diagnosis too. It has the advantage of being easier to use and freely available on the internet.”

Press the play button on the flash player below to hear the audio:

(Link to audio)

Many knickers have been twisted in reaction to this article. For a sampling, check out the Rapid Responses at the BMJ site, or some of the postings to MEDLIB-L.

Let’s try to do a little knicker-untwisting.

In the Forbes article about the study, the study’s lead author is quoted as saying:

The most obvious drawback is believing everything one reads, therefore, doctors need to have skills in critical appraisal of stuff they find on the net.” Similarly, “patients doing a search should use common sense, so if something is too good to be true, then… Another potential drawback is self-diagnosis by patients. I don’t think search engines can ever replace a good clinician who has plenty of common sense.

Some points this brings to mind for me:

  • Google is suggested as a tool for the clinician as an experienced professional pursuing a diagnosis in the context of her/his expert training.
  • The authors acknowledge that both clinicians and healthcare consumers need information literacy skills, not just Google.
  • The authors are focused on the use of Google as a diagnostic tool by clinicians, not by patients. Some in the popular media have been irresponsible in suggesting to readers that because Google can be useful to physicians in this manner, patients should do the same.

Here is a part of a very reasonable response that was posted to MEDLIB-L by Margaret Henderson:

…this study was specifically on looking for a diagnosis not conducting a thorough search for articles (as you would for EBM). Given that the other available tools for diagnosis are excessively expensive (note our recent discussions on Up To Date, FirstConsult, etc.) I can see that using Google as an option is a viable one for doctors with no access to these databases.

Whatever we think, it does impact the way we teach our patrons and provide reference.

Margaret’s last sentence is perhaps the most important I’ve seen in discussion on this topic. This article should help to underline for medical libraryfolk a couple of important points:

  • Medical libraries need to do a heck of a lot more self-promotion to make sure that clinicians understand the tools and services available to them when faced with a difficult diagnosis.
  • One of the reasons Google is so appealing to clinicians is because it is easy to access and easy to use. Medical libraries must do more to not only develop tools with easy-to-use interfaces, but to get these tools so thoroughly incorporated into the point-of-care that using them is actually quicker and easier than using Google.

Google isn’t the problem. The problem is that medical libraries are not evolving fast enough to keep up with our patrons’ needs and expectations.

Nov 12

Looking for a Library on Google Local

Bill Slawski has an interesting post on the difficulties in using Google Local to find libraries.

I’ll probably look at some more libraries to get a better sense of what is going on with Google Local Search and libraries, but it appears that the smaller the city, the less relevant the results may become. Many libraries don’t have a web site associated with them, and if they have a web page on a site, the link displayed may go to the front page of that site. But some or the results are mystifying, like the link to the University of Virginia for the University of Delaware result.

If you run a Library, I believe that you can submit information about your library to the Google Local Business Center even though it isn’t a “business.” That may help information about your library show up correctly in Google Local listings.

[via digg]

Nov 10

The Changing Library: What Clinicians Need to Know

I love this article from the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine:

The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine
Vol. 73(6) October 2006 pgs. 857-863.
“The Changing Library: What Clinicians Need to Know”
by Pauline S. Beam, Laura M. Schimming, Alan B. Drissoff and Lynn K. Morgan


Over the last two decades, changes in technology have allowed academic medical center libraries to bring the world of biomedical information to the physician’s computer desktop. Because digital libraries have grown so rapidly and in so many ways, some clinicians may be uncertain about the services and resources that are available to them. This article explains how clinical faculty can best utilize their library to support their research and patient care. It addresses some of the most common myths about the “new” medical library, and it highlights innovations in library resources and services that can help physicians to better access, use and manage medical information.

Some of the myths featured include:

  • Myth #1: Everything Is Online
  • Myth #2: Everything Online is Free
  • Myth #3: MEDLINE is Difficult to Use
  • Myth #4: Google Can Replace MEDLINE Databases

There’s lots of great stuff here. Go read it.

(Ruth Lebowitz posted a note about this article to MEDLIB-L over a week ago, but I didn’t get to it until today. Thanks, Ruth!)

Oct 04

Medical Librarians Month

I was going to post about National Medical Librarians Month, but The Krafty Librarian beat me to it, and she’s nailed it.

Michelle points out that library promotion shouldn’t be limited to one month of the year, but should be active every month.

For example:

  • January: Cervical Health Awareness Month and National Birth Defects Prevention Month. -Go to the OB/GYN department.
  • Februrary: Heart Month –Go to Cardiology
  • March: National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, National Nutrition Month, National Kidney Month, National Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month –Go to Oncology dept, Nutritional Services/Dietary dept, Urology dept, and HR.
  • April: Counseling Awareness Month, National Occupational Therapy Month –Go to Psychiatry department and Pastoral Care, Occupation Therapy

It is a great idea- and I need to find the time to do these things.

Read the whole post.

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 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 21

Getting ’em to use the tools

Email from a medical librarian in the midwestern United States:

Most of my doctors don’t know what RSS is (techno babble to them) how can I get them to use it when many still aren’t using their email?

I hear this question (or a variation on this theme) an awful lot. This isn’t really a question about feeds or aggregators (though this post has some tips on how to make feeds more “pushy” for users)- what it is asking is for advice on how to convince the library’s patrons to USE its super-cool new tools and services.

Putting the problem in historical perspective
When I teach classes in my library on the use of email, I always include a section on email etiquette. As I start that section, I explain WHY we need to teach email etiquette.

Imagine a friend invites you over for dinner and a movie- you arrive at the expected time and knock on the door. When your friend comes to the door, you can see she has her cordless telephone between her shoulder and ear and is having a phone conversation. As she waves you inside, you automatically do a number of things:

  • You don’t speak to your friend or distract her from her conversation.
  • You try not to make noise that would make it hard for her to continue her phone conversation
  • While she’s on the phone in the kitchen, you busy yourself in the living room with browsing her bookshelves (you’re both librarians in this hypothetical, okay?) so that you don’t eavesdrop on her conversation.

And you do all of these things without even thinking, right? This is when I point out to my class that the telephone is a relatively new invention, and that most Americans didn’t have phones at home just a few short generations ago- and it has taken those generations decades of time time in which to evolve the consistant CULTURE and behavioral expectations around the use of telephone that would let us incorporate it smoothly into our lives. We’re so familiar with them now, that we do it without thinking.

Email, I tell my class, is much newer, and nowhere near as commonly used as telephones, so there’s no shame in not knowing the etiquette that surrounds the technology, and that’s why we teach it in class. I also point out that I believe email etiquette (and that of other text-based communication technologies) will eventually be as obvious to their grandchildren one day as telephone etiquette is to us now. (Cell phone/mobile phone etiquette, by the way, I think will never evolve- but that’s a topic for a future post.)

The point of this?
The adoption of many new technologies frequently moves a lot slower in the U.S. than does the development of the technologies themselves. That’s not a bad thing in itself (I like Neil Postman), but it needs to be accepted as a reality.

There are still clinicians affiliated with our hospital that choose not to use email. That’s fine. That’s okay. That’s their choice, and I’m certainly not going to give them a hard time about it.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep utilizing technology to expand the breadth and depth of my library’s services and to dramatically enhance user access and ease at very low cost to our organization by using new technologies.

Some clinicians will use them right away, others won’t. But some traditionalists didn’t like that newfangled talkybox, either. Now everyone uses telephones. They might not want the newfangled technology-based services now, but they’ll be demanding ’em eventually. I can be ahead of the curve (get users what they want before they even know they want it), on the curve (get the users what they want soon after they ask for it), or behind the curve (annoying users because their colleagues elsewhere already HAVE this stuff and we don’t). I choose to be ahead of the curve whenever possible.

While continuing to leverage technology this way, I’m consistantly trying to place these tools in front of new eyeballs.

  • I teach three orientation classes for new employees every month on using computers at our hospital. I always have a short section on using the library’s digital resources, and demonstrate a few of them.
  • I attend each meeting of the Continuing Medical Education committee to let them know what neat new materials and services the library has for doctors.
  • I regularly touch base with the nurse educators in Staff Development, and made a point of building a page in our library’s portal just to address the library needs of nurses (our hospital is not affiliated with a nursing school, and I think our library has historically underserved nurses).
  • I offer courses every month on using clinical knowledge bases. If someone wants to learn how to use these tools, I drop what I’m doing and go teach that instead.
  • I identify and keep notes on which clinicians LIKE technology and which clinicians GET technology. Both groups can be great spreaders of the library’s gospel, and will likely be pleased to be asked to trial a new product, offer feedback on library services, and tell their colleagues about the coolest stuff the library does for them.

Of course, this isn’t nearly enough promotion. I need to find the time to do a LOT more promotion of the library’s services to the clinicians it serves, and have plans that I hope to execute in the coming year that I hope will significantly increase our library’s visibility.

Proving value to the clinician

I’ve said before that I think most clinicians WILL use new technologies if it can be proven to the clinician’s satisfaction both that:

  1. The technology is easy to use
  2. and

  3. The technology will save the clinician time, money, hassle, professional error, or embarassment.

Saving the clinician money
A physician affilliated with our hospital invited me to his office to talk about a computer problem he was having, and I noticed that he had UpToDate CDs on his desk. Although it was unrelated to why I was there, I pointed out that he could use the hospital’s UpToDate from his office at no charge. He boggled, and insisted it must be difficult to access. Without touching his keyboard myself, I talked him through connecting to the hospital’s network and pulling up UpToDate. He boggled again, then cancelled his UpToDate subscription. The library had just saved his practice a small fortune. This physician now contacts me routinely, and is pretty much willing to try anything I suggest, because I’ve proven to him repeatedly that I want to make his work easier and more productive.

Saving the clinician time/hassle
An obstetric surgeon visited my library and asked me to walk her through some searches in OVID- she does this every few months to see if anything new has been published on obstetric hemorrhage. I asked her how she would like it if she could make the search happen automatically and EMAIL her when it found something. She boggled. I walked her through setting up the search in PubMed for her terms and the specific journals she cares about, and walked her through setting up the email alert or RSS feed. She asked me for written instructions on how to do this herself, and I sent them to her. I hardly ever see her physically in the library now (which is a bummer because I enjoy talking with her), but she’s getting a whole lot more use out of the library, and I’m really happy about that.

Proving the technology is easy to use
I have a favorite line for doctors who insist that a technology is too hard for them: “If you say so, Doc- but I had a bunch of LPNs in here last week who figured it out, and they didn’t even have medical degrees.” As long as I say it with a smile, a doc will give it another go. Once they’re willing, the trick, I think, is not to give ANY unneccessary information. Show ’em what it DOES for them first, how to CUSTOMIZE it for themselves second. If they’re interested in HOW it works (they usually are), they’ll ask. If THEY ask, the learning is their idea- and they’ll be a lot more attentive and receptiveto the explanation.

Metaphors be with you
I’m also a strong believer in the power of metaphor in explaining technology to non-techie people. Here’s an example of what I mean by that– I hope to write more posts like that one in the future.

Wiser folks, please chime in
I’m hoping readers with stronger backgrounds in education and promotion will chime in- the above are just some notes on what I find is working for me.

Here’s the bottom line:
If you’ve made it easy and demonstrated the benefits and the clinician STILL doesn’t want to use it, you can’t make her/him- But you still need to get the services ready. As some forward-thinking hospital libraries will develop these sorts of services for their users, your clinicians will eventually hear about them and will eventually demand them. And you, you forward-thinking MedLib, you- you’ll be ready.

Sep 19

Sage advice from the maven

Alexia Estabrook (The Medical Librarian Maven) writes a golden little post about describing and communicating the library’s value to clinicians:

We’ve developed a script of sorts at My Place of Work. We acknowledge that physicians are the experts at diagnosing and treating patients. We then explain to them that we are experts at finding, evaluating and disseminating information. We tell them that we are here to help them by doing what we do best – finding information. This allows them to spend their time most wisely doing what they do best – practicing medicine.

Read the rest.

Also, you may wish to subscribe to Alexia’s feed.