Aug 02

TextBookFlix: Order textbook rentals online

Okay, it has a terrible name (dervied from Netflix but having nothing to do with movies), but TextBookFlix might actually work out well for some students.

I just wish I could get past the awful, awful name. It’s a book rental service that allows you order online. The “order online” and “rental” are the only things it has in common with Netflix.


Apr 20

Syracuse University’s MSLIS News blog posts about

(From NYLINE listserv:) is a coordinated effort to collect and present information supplied by educators, librarians, and other educational sources for people interested in pursuing a library and information science career.

I’m very flattered that the page about medical librarians includes a link to this blog and a link to the Masterlist of MedLib blogs I started at LISWiki.

Feb 12

News about Social Bookmarking and News Sites…printed on dead trees

This WSJ article, “The Wizards of Buzz”, examines the influence of Digg, StumbleUpon,, Reddit, Newsvine, and Netscape.

To find the key influencers, The Wall Street Journal analyzed more than 25,000 submissions across six major sites. With the help of Dapper, a company that designs software to track information published on the Web, this analysis sifted through snapshots of the sites’ home pages every 30 minutes over three weeks. The data included which users posted the submissions and the number of votes each received from fellow users. We then contacted scores of individual users to find which ones are tracked by the wider community.

Full article

My mother was surprised to hear the other day that we don’t subscribe to our local newspaper and that I think that in my lifetime, news will be printed to hard copy only on demand. The next day, I saw this article from Ha’aretz (an Israeli newspaper) in which Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman and publisher of the New York Times, is quoted as saying:

“I really don’t know whether we’ll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don’t care either…”


Sulzberger says the New York Times is on a journey that will conclude the day the company decides to stop printing the paper.


“These costs aren’t anywhere near what print costs,” Sulzberger says. “The last time we made a major investment in print, it cost no less than $1 billion. Site development costs don’t grow to that magnitude.”

This makes me think of a few MLIS students I have met who seem shocked and disheartened when they realize that many library resources previously stored on dead trees are moving to digital platforms. Other benefits aside, it is a matter of economics not terribly dissimilar from those which caused earlier dead-tree archives at the public library to be abandoned in favor of microfilm and microfiche- but some MLIS students I have met seem repulsed at the idea that they need technology skills in order to pursue a career in librarianship.

Just to re-state: The owner of the New York Times is planning to stop printing on paper. He’s not preparing for the possibility– he knows it will eventually happen and that the only question is how fast it’ll happen.

Those technology skills you’re being encouraged to gain in library school? They’re not optional if you want to be employable.

Feb 07

S.U.’s MSLIS program gets social

I got really exciting news today via an S.U. Listserv. The MSLIS program at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies has launched a blog!


…and look down the sidebar to find the link to the program’s new Wiki!


Naturally, the news came from Dr. Scott Nicholson. You might associate Dr. Nicholson’s name with Bibliomining, or you may have noticed the recent buzz over the report for the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy which he co-authored with R. David Lankes and Joanne Silverstein, Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation. If you’re into gaming in libraries, you might be familiar with some of Dr. Nicholson’s other interests, too.

Feb 06

5 Laws of Library Science for the 21st Century

In a recent post at Tame the Web, Michael Stephens writes that a group in his LIS701 class came up with a revision of Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science.

For review, here are Ranganathan’s original laws:

1. Books are for use.
2. Every reader his book.
3. Every book its reader.
4. Save the time of the reader.
5. The Library is a growing organism.

…and here are the revised laws from the group in Michael Stephens’ LIS701 course:

1. Collections are for use.
2. Every collection its user.
3. Every user his collection.
4. Save time & energy of user.
5. The library is a growing organism.

I’m trying to figure out why their revisions leave me feeling so unsatisfied.

Perhaps it is because changing “book” to “collection” is too easy.

One might just as well change “book” to “resource” or “library” or “information object”, but this doesn’t really suggest any change other than the fact that books are no longer the only resource offered by libraries. It doesn’t help us adapt the ideals expressed by Ranganathan’s Five Laws to the realities of the present.

More challenging questions might be:

  • “How do we interpret and apply these laws to the present?”
  • “What changes in libraries and library science since 1931 (when S.R. Ranganathan first published his laws) present obstacles to running libraries in the spirit of Ranganathan’s laws? How might these obstacles be overcome?”
  • “If you were asked to author policies for [insert favorite library service or department here], how would you write these policies in the spirit of Ranganathan’s laws?”
  • “Review your institution’s Web site. Where does it fail to live up to Ranganathan’s Five Laws?”
  • “You are a special librarian in an institution that is not primarily academic or a public library (e.g. hospital librarian, corporate librarian). Can all of Ranganathan’s laws be applied unaltered? Are there laws that can only be applied conditionally?”

Extra Credit Question: Write a poem about Colon Classification (or faceted classification generally) and contemporary web technology. Must have at least one attempted rhyme for “Ranganathan,” “Shiyali,” or “Ramamrita.”

Additional reading:
Full text of Ranganathan’s Five Laws
Application of Ranganathan’s Laws to the Web by Alireza Noruzi

Jan 31

Three Must-Read Items for Aspiring Librarians

1. David Lee King has a great post from ALA Midwinter 2007 on Raising the Next-Gen Resource Sharing Librarian with insights from Mary Hollerich (National Library of Medicine), Audrey Huff (Northwestern University School of Law), Michael Porter (WebJunction), and Michael Stephens (Dominican University). All good stuff that I want to keep in mind as I proceed through coursework.

2. Speaking of Michael Stephens, he’s posted an interview with Michael Habib on ALA Techsource. If you haven’t read Habib on Library 2.0, you’re missing out. Habib just graduated from his program, and has absolutely earned all the attention his work gets from librarians I admire and respect.

3. T. Scott has some great advice for young librarians. I should probably qualify that: I don’t have the knowledge or experience to KNOW this is great advice, but I strongly suspect it. Perhaps someone who has been working in the field much longer than I have can confirm.

This ends today’s extra-curricular reading recommendations- we now return you to your regularly-scheduled coursework.

Jan 30

A Lesson in Music Cataloging

From the creator, Jason Poole:

Final project for my cataloging class at Final project for my cataloging class at UB, as a part of the requirements for a Master’s in Library Science. It consists of the results of an informal survey I did regarding the classification systems used by librarians in Monroe County as well as a brief overview of the ANSCR classification system. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds!!

Jan 18

Sneaking into the back of Dr. MacCall’s class

Steven L. MacCall, Ph.D. teaches courses in medical librarianship at the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies…and I am jealous of his students.

He has uploaded a bunch of his course presentations to Slideshare, including this one, introducing Consumer Health Collection Development for his LS 534, Health Sciences Librarianship:

It isn’t the same as actually sneaking into the back row of his class, but it’s still pretty neat.

Oct 19

Health Literacy Course at Syracuse University

Syracuse University is not only offering a course on Health Literacy, but they’ve announced it to S.U.’s LIS students:

HSHP is offering a new course in Spring 2007, HTS 311/600, HEALTH LITERACY, taught by Luvenia W. Cowart, Ed.D., RN, Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow and Associate Professor of Practice in the College.

The undergraduate course is class number 40063, HTW 311, M001, Health Literacy, 3 credits.
The graduate course class number is 40832, HTW 600, Selected Topics: Health Literacy, 3 credits.


This course is designed to introduce the health literacy phenomenon and to explore the multi-layered links between health literacy, health outcomes, and health care disparities. Critique of current health literacy literature and research findings will be emphasized. Foundational to the course is developing an understanding of social, economical, and personal barriers experienced by adults with poor literacy. Course participants will learn strategies for assessing readability and suitability of writing and printed materials and for evaluating individual reading skills of adults. Ethics and socio-political structures that address health literacy will be explored.

It’s wonderful that they’re promoting the course to LIS students. Whether a student plans a career in public, school, or academic librarianship, this is essential knowledge and these are essential skills.

Many thanks to Dr. Luvenia W. Cowart for allowing me to reproduce her announcement.

Oct 11

Jargon Problems

Several months ago, a physician affiliated with our hospital asked me to come to his office for a tutorial on Microsoft Excel.

David: …and the place where a row and a column intersect is called a “cell.”

Physician: I’m not going to remember “cell.” I’m going to call it a “box.”

David: I really think you need to call it a “cell.”

Physician: Why can’t I call it whatever I want?

David: Well, imagine you’re a pre-med student, and in class you’re discussing the duodenum. You decide that you won’t remember “duodenum,” and decide to call it a “flibbertygibbit.” What’s wrong with that?

Physician: If I don’t know what other people call it, I can’t look up anything about it in the medical literature or ask a colleague about it.

David: Exactly. We need to know the correct terms because knowing them will help us or help others solve our problems. Without the correct terms, we’re nearly helpless.

So the physician understood that I wasn’t being a stickler for the terms because I’m a geek, but because the knowledge of the term was essential to his successful use of the technology.

A couple of things recently have made me think back on this conversation. One was this item from BBC news:

According to research from Nielsen/NetRatings, people are buying cutting-edge technology but often don’t understand the terms that describe what their device actually does.


“In the relentless quest for the next big thing when it comes to new forms of digital consumption, there is a significant tendency for the industry to over-estimate consumer’s knowledge and understanding of the seemingly limitless new terms and products out there,” said Alex Burmaster, internet analyst with Nielsen/NetRatings.


“There is a certain level of knowledge snobbery in so far as if you talk in acronyms you sound like you really know what you are talking about and if others don’t understand then they are seen in some way as inferior…”

The other reason I’ve been thinking about this is an assignment for the class I’m in right now on reference librarianship that required that I attempt to define the “essence” of dictionaries. After thinking on this for some time, I remembered something Neil Postman wrote in Conscientious Objections: Stirring Up Trouble About Language, Technology and Education:

History is not events that once occurred; it is language describing and interpreting events. And astronomy is not planets and stars but a specialized way of talking about planets and stars.

And so a student must know the language of a subject, but that is only the beginning.

I reasoned, then, that if a dictionary is primarily descriptive, its essence perhaps is in being the foundation by which all the rest of literature can be made accessible. An astronomy dictionary allows a reader to access the rest of astronomy literature, and a medical dictionary allows access to the world of medical literature.

I think that too often, those of us charged with teaching the use of technology in a professional (non-academic) setting fail give students the “dictionary” for the subject, and this prevents their continuing to learn after class is dismissed. Too often, we teach the procedural methods to accomplish particular tasks, or define terms that serve only as labels. We don’t give those labels meaning, explain their value, or place the procedural description in a useful context.

We know that clinicians seem slow to adopt new technologies, and we know that there may be no other profession where the adoption of information technologies has such great potential for creating important positive change in people’s lives. Medical librarians know how vital EBM/EBP and clinician use of library resources is to the quality of patient care, but perhaps medical libararies need to do a lot more than try to teach clinicians how and why to use these resources.

I tend to think that medical libraries need to take the role of intermediaries between clinicians and technology. This should mean not just teaching clinicians how to use information tools, not just teaching clinicians how to use computers more generally, but constantly developing more effective ways to help clinicians grasp the ideas and the concepts behind the tools. Medical libraries need to be the “dictionary” for use of technology in hospitals. We need to put teaching before almost every other priority, and discipline ourselves rigorously in our teaching methods so as to never condescend or presume the clinicians’ computer literacy (or lack thereof).

A friend of mine has suggested that in our economic system, some kinds of experts retain their economic value by keeping their specialized knowledge out of reach. He even suggested that this is one reason why some academics sometimes use needlessly complex language. If this is true, the economic value of librarians can be enhanced and proven in doing the opposite; by demystifying technology, by defining terms and concepts clearly, and by working to place it in everyone’s reach.

I know I’m preaching to the choir on this point, but the point isn’t repeated often enough. Medical libraries need to be centers of technology and of technology education.

This concludes today’s semi-coherent rant.

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.

Aug 31

LS534 – University of Alabama Health Sciences Librarianship blogs

It looks like students taking Health Sciences Librarianship (LS534) at the University of Alabama are being required to post article summaries in WordPress blogs. Here are a few I’ve run into:

Found a few more by searching BlogLines.

I’m curious why the professor is requiring students to post article summaries to blogs. If the idea is to share their work with their classmates, wouldn’t WebCT or Blackboard be a better option? Perhaps the prof. feels strongly about blogging and is hoping to create another Health Sciences Librarianship blogger or two.

Aug 09

RSS in Special Libraries

Joy, the MLIS student who was looking for medical libraries that use RSS for clinician current awareness, has posted some of her notes on the uses of RSS in special libraries at her class group’s blog.

There are some good resources Joy’s group has noted on their blog that are worth checking out, too.

Aug 08

If your medical library uses RSS…

If your medical library uses RSS, please let me know!

Yesterday, I got a lovely email from Joy, an MLIS student (who also holds a B.S. in nursing!). Among other things, she asks:

…Are you aware of non-academic, smaller hospital libraries utilizing RSS for their health care professional staff?

Aside from my own meager efforts, I’m not aware of any non-academic medical libraries that do this. If yours is one of them, please leave a comment or email me at david[DOT]rothman[AT] It would be a great help to Joy (who is doing a class project on RSS and special libraries), and I’d love to hear from you, too.

Also, help me convince Joy that with a B.S. in nursing and an MLIS she REALLY needs to consider medical librarianship as a career path!

Jul 26

Health Sciences Librarianship Wiki

Dean Giustini announces the anticipated Health Sciences Librarianship Wiki that his LIBR 534 students will start.

Here's hoping it is a bit like The Library Success Wiki.

This is great news and potentially a really useful resource to a lot of people in the profession.

I hope very much, though, that Dean allows it to be editable by even non UBC libraryfolk.  If outsiders will be allowed to contribute, Dean should count on my regular visits.

And I was JUST TODAY talking to someone about the need for a Wiki dedicated medical librarianship.  As usual, Dean is a few (or perhaps many) steps ahead of me.