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 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 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 11

Why Wiki?

I’m a bit annoyed with myself that I didn’t notice these sooner.

John Hubbard at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries put together a great four-part video series about Wikis called “Why Wiki?

New to Wikis and not quite sure what they’re about or how they might be used in a library? Watch these as a pleasant introduction to the topic.

» Part One – Introduction (28:39)

Start here to get an overview of how Wikis work and how to use Wikipedia. This section includes a guided tour of some articles which have been produced by the Wikipedia community.

» Part Two – Caveats (20:37)

What are the problems with Wikipedia? This section covers topics such as vandalism, content controversies, and coverage biases. The future of Wikipedia is also discussed.

» Part Three – Comparisons (11:46)

How does Wikipedia measure up to other sources? Given Wikipedia’s failures, this section emphasizes the need to critically evaluate information from all publication formats.

» Part Four – Other Wikis (20:54)

This section covers Wikipedia’s sister projects and other fan sites which use the Wiki software. It ends with a review of how libraries and librarians are using Wikis, and how you can create your own Wiki.

Nov 09

MN Medicine: Google, RSS, Podcasts, Oh My!

From Minnesota Medicine, an article with tips for clinicians on using web technology to stay up to date. Includes great introductions for beginners to some google tools, RSS, and social bookmarking.

Thanks to Melissa Rethlefsen for pointing this out! 🙂

Nov 07

More RSS for Lawyers

Law Practice Today has a decent article that those in Law Librarianship won’t want to miss:

RSS Resources You Can Use: Automated Web Surfing for Lawyers, by Tom Mighell and Dennis Kennedy.

It’s a very good introduction to the what, why, and how of RSS for lawyers and law practices. It mentions Steve Matthews’ Top Ten Uses for RSS in Law Firms, but neglects to mention Jason Eiseman’s RSS Tutorial for Law Librarians (which I posted about here).

EDIT: D’oh! They DID mention Jason’s tutorials! My apologies to Tom and Dennis.

[Via the WisBlawg (University of Wisconsin Law Library), who got it from the Vancouver Law Librarian Link Blog.]

Nov 01

Free Audio & Video Podcasts for Health Professionals by Cleveland Clinic

Almost missed this item from Clinical Cases and Images:

Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuous Medical Educations now features free audio and video podcasts. The series starts with the Sessions from the 18th Annual Intensive Review of Internal Medicine. You can either listen/view podcasts online or subscribe…

Cool…but wouldn’t it be even cooler if the Cleveland Clinic also had the audio transcribed so that their content was searchable? (See previous post on Podcasts).

Oct 30

Will an information literacy exam become the next SAT?

Article from ars technica:

ETS [Educational Testing Service] has developed an ICT Literacy Assessment (test a demo version) that gives students short tasks (3-5 minutes, testing one particular skill) and long tasks (15 minutes, testing skills in combination) to complete on a computer. These include things like sifting through e-mail and developing accurate search queries for academic databases, along with other, more business-related projects.

Another group, the National Forum on Information Literacy, has just announced the creation of an “ICT Literary Policy Council” that will review the ETS exam and issue recommendations for “cut points.” These will be used to map exam scores to achievement levels, so that educators can determine “which students are proficient and which may need additional ICT literacy instruction or remediation.”

Read the article

Oct 24

RSS Tutorials for Law Librarians

Great set of three flash-based tutorials with audio on RSS from the perspective of law librarianship by Jason Eiseman, Computer Automation Librarian at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt.

Part 1: Introduction (approx. 6 min.)
Part 1 introduces RSS as a concept. This tutorial discusses why RSS is important, and looks at an RSS feed.

Part 2: Using an aggregator (approx. 13 min.)
Part 2 deals with how to set up an RSS aggregator and subscribe to RSS feeds.

Part 3: Advanced RSS (approx. 15 min.)
Part 3 goes over specific tools that law librarians can use to set up RSS feeds which might benefit their libraries.

[via lo-fi librarian]
(addded to my aggregator today)

Oct 24

RSS Round up (Woodman and Rubel)

  • Mark Woodman over at InkBlots has a great little post of 5 reasons someone might resist trying/using feeds, and 5 matching suggestions for overcomming these.
    InkBlots logo
    Good advice, short post.

    (Thanks, Hope!)

  • Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion has a post called Pimp Every Room in Your House with RSS which details some of the many ways RSS feeds could be used through out the home. It includes neat stuff like an aggregator for TiVo and an aggregator for Windows Media Center PC from Newsgator that allows the user to subscribe to and view video podcasts on one’s television. It also includes a completely insane gadget from Taiwan called the RSStroom Reader that prints your favorite feed posts on your toilet paper:
    RSStroom Reader
    (Click for larger image).

    Hey, I love RSS, but even I know this is ridiculous…after thinking about it for a few minutes.

Oct 17

Chimato on Practicing Medical Reference

I’ve been taking a class on Reference Librarianship this semester, so I was especially interested to see Mary Carmen Chimato has posted some thoughts on Practicing Medical Reference.

The only times I have flat out conducted a full-on database search for someone is when a doctor has come down to the library, in scrubs (this has happened more than once or twice) or about to go into surgery and needs to find out something immediately.

I think medical librarians remain important when they empart their skills and knowledge to others through instruction and training, not by mechanically answering question after question after question. Anyone can pretend to do that well, but by showing our patrons what we do is a skill and takes time and practice to get really good at doing, they value us more.

Read the whole thing.

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.

Oct 03

RSS Info Sheet from NN/LM NER

Got a great email a couple of weeks ago from Emily Whitcher Hindle, a medical library paraprofessional in New England, who attended a NECHI (Northeastern Consortium for Health Information) event at which Donna Berryman, MLIS (of the U Mass Med School) was speaking in her capacity as Outreach and Education Coordinator for the New England Region (NER) of the NN/LM about blogs and RSS.

Emily thought I’d be interested in seeing the RSS Info Sheet that Donna handed out- and I sure was. It completely made my day.

Donna has kindly allowed me to post her info sheet here. It is my entirely biased view that it lists some great and useful resources.
RSS Info Sheet

Many thanks to both Emily and Donna. 🙂

Sep 29

Friday Aggregator Cleaning

Okay, my aggregator was getting cluttered, so I needed clean out all of those “Keep New” items by saving them elsewhere, deleting them, or posting them. These are a few things I’ve been meaning to post about and not finding time for:

  • Via BHIC

    “Teaching Patients With Low Literacy Skills, 2nd Ed.” 1996, JB Lippincott Pub. is now available on line and may be read and downloaded at no charge.

  • Also via BHIC

    Remaking American Medicine … Health Care for the 21st Century, a four-part television series, is scheduled to begin airing on October 5 at 10 p.m. on PBS. Underwritten by RWJF, the series explores the nation’s health care crisis and considers the innovative ways in which providers, patients and their families are transforming care. Organizations across the country are also forming coalitions and organizing community-based events as part of an outreach campaign around the series. Please check your local listings for specific broadcast dates and times in your community.

  • From the NN/LM MCR News Blog

    RSS feeds for NIH Clinical Alerts and Advisories

    NLM is now offering RSS feeds for NIH Clinical Alerts and Advisories. This means that individuals can arrange to receive an alert directly to their desktop. Instructions for setting up a feed are available from the NLM RSS Feeds and Podcasts Web page.

    From the NLM Technical Bulletin September-October 2006 issue.

Sep 26

Creating Passionate Users

In the post about getting ’em to use the tools, I should have mentioned Creating Passionate Users.

Creating Passionate Users Logo This is a great blog written by authors of O’Reilly’s Head First books. I bought and loved Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML and reccommend it without hesitation or reservation to anyone seeking to learn these things from scratch.

The blog has great insights into user perception and explains them well while still entertaining the reader. I mean, look at this recent graph that attempt to describe why users resist upgrades:


Love it. Useful insights for any libraryfolk who care about the user’s/patron’s experience. Also great for people in marketing, promotion, interface design, or training/education. Subscribe to their feed.

Sep 22

RSS the “Oprah way”

Via The Louisville, KY Courrier Journal, a great explaination of RSS for non-geeks at Back in Skinny Jeans:

So, to make RSS much easier to understand, in Oprah speak, RSS stands for: I’m “Ready for Some Stories”. It is a way online for you to get a quick list of the latest story headlines from all your favorite websites and blogs all in one place. How cool is that? (Click on image for larger view)

Image from Back in Skinny Jeans

I like it. It breaks the ideas down in a simple, digestible way without dumbing it down.

Read the whole thing here– it may give you ideas about how to best explain feeds to your users.

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.