Oct 06

Are you going to the MCMLA 2010 Annual Meeting?

I’m speaking at MCMLA 2010 this weekend and just now realizing that I’m not sure I’ll know a soul there.

So that I don’t feel like the new kid at school who has nowhere to sit in the cafeteria at lunch, drop me an email if you’re going to be there? I’d also like to pick your brain a bit as I finish polishing my presentation. My email address is shown in the sidebar of this blog.


Oct 04

Toss out your answering machine

(This may be seen as off-topic for some readers, but I’m writing about it as an example of technology simplifying my life.)

I’ve been slowing realizing over the last several months that neither Liz nor I religiously check our home answering machine. This is bad, because there may be important messages.

We both, however, check our email religiously. I was convinced there was a better way for us to manage the calls to our home that we missed. Eventually, I realized that Google Voice would work quite nicely. Here’s what I did:

In Google services:

1. Set up a new Gmail account.

2. Signed up for Google Voice and chose a number that is local for us.

3. In Settings > Phones, I turned OFF all phones (DEselected the check boxes)…so that none of the phones associated with the account would ring when this number was called. This means that all calls to this number would, by default, go straight to voicemail.

4. In Settings > Voicemail & Text, I recorded a new greeting appropriate for our home phone and set it as the default greeting for all calls.

5. In Settings > Voicemail & Text >Voicemail Notifications, I set notifications to be sent to the account’s Gmail address.

6. I also elected on this screen to have voicemails transcribed. These transcriptions are far from perfect, but they often provide enough information to let us know what should be done with the message.

With my home phone service provider:
(Our home phone provider is Time Warner Cable- they have a VoiceZone service you can sign into to manage these settings yourself. Your provider may or may not have something similar- call them and ask!)

I set calls to forward to my new Google Voice number if we did not answer after four rings:

Back to the new Gmail account:

7. Now that this new Gmail account was receiving emails from Gvoice with the date/time, number, the machine transcription of the message and a link to play the audio, it was time to make sure that Liz and I both got them.

First, I set up all emails from this account to be forwarded to my main email account. Next, I set up a filter to make sure all such emails were forwarded to Liz’s main email account.

So now we were each getting the email when someone called our home phone and left a message.

8. Lastly, I wanted to make sure that neither Liz nor I would accidentally overlook such voicemail-containing emails when we received them, so I made one more filter for each of us that slaps on a big red label:


So here’s what it looks like in my inbox when someone calls our home phone number and leaves a message:

The email contains a link to a Web-based audio player through which either one of us can listen to the message if the machine-transcription is insufficient (as it often is).


1. We can’t fail to notice that we have messages (as we sometimes do now with the little blinking red light on our answering machine).

2. We no longer have to worry about whether one of us or the other has heard a particular message and wonder if it can safely be deleted. We can manage our own listening as we would our own reading. It is as if we are both “cc’d” on voicemails left on our home phone.

3. Neither of us can accidentally delete old messages.

4. We can both easily access our messages anywhere.

5. We’re throwing out our answering machine without having to pay anyone for voicemail service.


Sep 26

Frankie Dolan at Health 2.0

This shows how far behind I am in my blogging:

My friend (and LibWorm co-creator) Frankie Dolan spoke at Health 2.0 in Paris about MedWorm and I haven’t even posted the video of her talk until now. BAD David. Video is embedded below.

Frankie’s bit starts at about 10m 25s if you’d like to skip up to it.


Sep 24

P Younger: “Beyond Wikipedia: how good a reference source are medical wikis?”

(Paula Younger is Electronic Resources Librarian, Exeter Health Library, Exeter, UK.)

Purpose – – The purpose of this paper is to examine the case for using subject (medical) wikis as a reference tool.Design/methodology/approach – The paper summarises content of ganfyd and WikiMD, comparing their ethos and approach to information. It describes some other medical and health wikis in brief.Findings – As their audience is somewhat more specialised, medical wikis, currently in their infancy, cover topics in more depth than Wikipedia but coverage remains patchy. They may be of particular use for those without access to expensive resources such as UpToDate requiring a short literature review or overview of a topic. Wikis at present are best used as a signpost to other resources with tighter editorial control.Research limitations/implications – The assessment of the subject wikis is brief and the analysis of wikis as a reference tool is largely drawn from general literature, not medical.Practical implications – This assessment provides exposure of subject wikis as a potential reference tool.Originality/value – The paper highlights the existence of subject wikis as a potential more in-depth tool than Wikipedia.


Sep 20

Looking for mobile-friendly, authoritative texts and databases? Thereā€™s a librarian for that.

By: Susan M. Foster-Harper, MLS, AHIP


As a medical librarian, I like seeing whatā€™s coming at me. On one side, books and biomedical literature are quickly transitioning to an electronic format. Vendors and publishers are presenting new products to improve access.

On the other, iTunes and mobile devices are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. Many of the apps in the Medical category of the Apps Store have proven extremely useful to medical students and healthcare professionals in a clinical environment, i.e., Epocrates, Medscape, Lexi-Comp, iTranslate among others. To students and residents, the speed and immediacy of the information can be exhilarating by the end of a busy day.

Sep 18

Searching PubMed on a Mobile Device



An increasing number of students and faculty come to campus with an iPhone or iPod touch. Aside from recreational use, these devices can be used to search for medical literature, but picking the right applications for searching can be difficult. A comparison test was created to find the best application for searching PubMed from an iPhone or iPod touch. The products tested were PubSearch, PubMed on Tap, and PubMed for Handhelds. Although equally accurate, PubMed on Tap was the superior product due to its simple method for limiting by date and its readily accessible e-mail feature.

Yup. That’s pretty much what I said in the MLA Webcast.

Sep 17

Android for Healthcare


This fall, hospitals and physicians will be able to order Dell’s five-inch Dell Streak Android 2.1-based mini-tablet as an option with Dell’s healthcare solutions, says the company. The device will be loaded with client apps designed to interact with Dell’s EMR and MCC (mobile clinical computing) enterprise software, providing healthcare professionals with digitized patient information, says the company.

While Dell is targeting its Streak tablet at EMR applications, Sprint is aiming its HTC-manufactured Evo 4G Android smartphone more specifically at mobile medical imaging in a partnership with Calgary Scientific. An Android version of the latter’s HIPPA-compliant ResolutionMD Mobile software, said to be “powered by PureWeb,” will be offered on the Evo 4G.

Sprint, meanwhile, has developed a secure platform for ResolutionMD and other medical imaging applications that spans its wireline IP network, as well as 3G and 4G wireless networks, says the carrier.


Sep 16

Ashley Julian at Trent and Company

[Ashley responded! see update here]

Maybe it isn’t fair to pick on Cision quite so much. After all, there are lots of other spammers who don’t even respond to my polite requests asking to be removed from their distribution lists.

One of my least favorite of these is Ashley Julian at Trent and Company.


(Nancy is the President of this firm and can also be reached at 212-966-0024. Anyone have an auto-dialer I can borrow?)

If you’d like to make me smile, please send these two some email? Thanks!

Sep 16

Nice Review of Our Book!


Herein lays the major accomplishment of this fine easy-to-use reference: allowing the reader to more easily and efficiently navigate through some of todayā€™s most useful Internet tools. The book details ways to maximize the efficiency of Internet search engines and tools that allow the busy health care provider to find, manage, and organize the information that they need in a timely fashion. To this end, the authors have done a spectacular job.

This well-planned concise reference book is well organized, with an ample table of contents. The individual chapters contain numerous boxes that contain short key highlights. An adequate number of schematics, most referencing variations of an advanced Google search, make correlation between the text and actual Internet usage more user friendly. While the title implies that this fine book might be most suited for physicians, Internet Cool Tools for Physicians is equally applicable to numerous other groups including, but not limited to, information technology and picture archiving and communication system personnel, nurses, medical researchers, basic scientists, and medical students, as well as undergraduates who are interested in health care professions. In fact, the fi rst seven chapters are so broad in context that any modern-day user of the Internet would most certainly benefit from this book.

Thanks, Dr. Stoffey!

[Book available here]

Sep 16

Dear Cision…

To the folks at Cision

I receive a HUGE amount of unsolicited email (aka SPAM, UBE or UCE) in which I have no interest. This SPAM is problematic for me because I am a busy person with many things to do. Wading through this dreck to get to information I actually want takes up far too much of my valuable time.

An impressive proportion of this SPAM comes from your clients with a link to your site at which I can “opt out” of receiving future emails from that client.

Here’s the automated response your clients will receive when I get email from them through your services:

It is bad enough to receive unsolicited bulk email, but getting it from a Cision client is especially unpleasant.

Yours is only one of far too many organizations who send me emails like this. In order to “opt out” (which is an odd term because I never “opted in”) of emails from EACH of Cision’s clients, I have to click on a link in the email. This wouldn’t be so awful if:

1. …I had “opted in”
2. …Cision allowed me to “opt out” of emails from ALL their clients at once. They don’t. I have to “opt out” of email from each one of their clients.
3. …Cision offered contact information at their site where I could directly express these concerns to them.

Since none of these things is true, I urge you to take up this issue with Cision. I also urge you to either stop using bulk email entirely or at least use it much more selectively. If you had ever taken 2 minutes to look at my blog, you’d see that your message is a poor fit for my little site.


-David L. Rothman

This email is an automated response. I have not seen your email, nor will I ever see any email sent to me by a Cision system.

Since you offer no universal “opt-out” nor information on how to reach you and request to be removed from your database, I’m hoping this post might reach you somehow. If it doesn’t, you’re not very good at what you claim to do.

While you operate as a supposedly reputable company providing a valuable marketing service, I think you no better than the spammers who send me unsolicited email offering products that claim to alter the size or function of sexual organs.

Please, be better than them and let people like me choose to stop being harassed by people like you.

Most sincerely,

-David Rothman


Well, it worked. Received this email:

from Libby vanBuskirk to David Rothman
date Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 4:32 PM
subject Removal from Cision
mailed-by cision.com
4:32 PM (30 minutes ago)

Hello Mr. Rothman,

I work for Cision, the media research company based in Chicago. In response to your blog post, I just wanted to let you know that we have removed your name and contact information from our database. I sincerely apologize for the problems this listing has caused you.

Thank you,
Libby vanBuskirk
Supervisor, Internet Media

332 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60604
Direct: 312-873-6644
Main: 1-866-639-5087

Email: Libby.vanBuskirk@cision.com

So if you get an absurd number of these emails, Libby may be the person to contact.

Now they need to make it possible for recipients to remove themselves without having to resort to this sort of public shaming.


May 04

“Professional Librarian?”

I’m reading, re-reading, and loving this post from Ryan Deschamps:

Ten Reasons Why ā€˜Professional Librarianā€™ is an Oxymoron

Deschamps’ 10 Reasons are:
1. Librarians Have No Monopoly on the Activities They Claim
2. There are No Consequences For Failing to Adhere to Ethical Practices
3. Librarianship is Too Generalized to Claim Any Expertise
4. ā€™Librarianā€™ Assumes a Place of Work, Rather than the Work Itself
5. Peer Review in Librarianship Does Not Work Because There is No Competitive Process to Go With It
6. Values Are Not Enough
7. The Primary Motivation for Professionalization is the Monopoly of Labor
8. Accredited Library Schools Do Not Adequately Prepare Students for Library Work
9. Competing Professions Are Offering Different Paradigms to Achieve the Same Goals
10. Nobody Can Name a ā€˜Greatā€™ Librarian

Go read the whole thing. Even if you don’t agree with him, you’re still likely to find it meaty food for thought.

I strongly suspect Deschamps’ post is in response to this piece by Rory Litwin:

The Library Paraprofessional Movement and the Deprofessionalization of Librarianship

It will probably come as no surprise that I don’t care for Litwin’s piece.

A little fisking follows to supplement the things I like about Deschamps’ post.

Litwin writes:

Most librarians support the requirement of the masterā€™s degree for professionalā€level work, but many find the issue difficult to discuss when it is restated in terms of fairness toward working-class library workers, who are pursuing their rights.

Seeing “working-class library workers” literally made me snort aloud. Class has no meaningful or useful place in a discussion about where we are and where we need to go, especially when many degreed librarians make far less than many “working-class” people in many lines of work. I dearly wish that I could say my libraryfolk friends with multiple masters degrees and years of experience had as much income as my plumber, but they don’t. I also distrust anyone (and I mean *anyone*) who uses the term “working class.”

While it is difficult to say exactly what will be required of students who go through this certification program, one can assume that the academic standards of graduate education will not apply…

When the standards are as hugely varying as they are in library schools, they aren’t really “standards” at all. Like most, I know some paraprofessionals with greater knowledge and skills than some degreed librarians. Let’s stop pretending that the degree necessarily says something about the skills and knowledge of the person holding it…because it doesn’t. (See Deschamps’ #8.)

Litwin pretty much admits this:

There can be no denying that many paraprofessionals are more talented, more experienced, and even better educated than many MLSā€holding librarians. There are also libraries that fill their professional positions with nonā€MLS holding librarians who, after years of working closely with their communities, can serve as positive examples for the profession in many respects. This is all true.

If you put aside Litwin’s condescending tone ([sarcasm]”I CAN, Rory?! In MANY respects?! Wow, thanks!”[/sarcasm]), we seem to agree.

The problem with framing the question in these terms, however, is that it overlooks the value of the professional status of librarians itself, both for the institutions in which they work and for the world of libraries as a whole.

Think about this for a minute: Litwin is comparing “library professionals” with “library paraprofessionals” but DOESN’T think that comparing skill-sets or experience isn’t a good way to frame the comparison. I call shenannigansWhich is a nicer term for the subject of this book.

After telling us that we’re overlooking “the value of the professional status,” Litwin gives several paragraphs on sociological theory and completely fails to support his assertion.

A profession that is dedicated to sharing knowledge is unlikely to create effective barriers to its knowledge base, a factor undercutting the professionā€™s defense of its degree of autonomy.

Two things here: The first is that Litwin is saying the failure of librarians to create effective barriers to knowledge is a bad thing. The second is that I reject his assertion that there is a significant difference in the level of autononomy of an employee in a library depending on whether he/she is classified as a professional or a paraprofessional (or, as Litwin writes elsewhere in his piece, salaried or paid an hourly wage). In my experience, the autonomy of an individual employee is largely based on the management philosophies of those they report to and the credibility the employee has earned. Perhaps this is different in academic libraries.

A librarian in technical services, according to Gillham, is a manager, meaning that the department is left without an autonomous professional presence and the attributes that accompany it (code of professional ethics, graduateā€level education, intrinsic reward of service, etc.).

So…now it seems that one cannot ascribe to a code of ethics or experience intrisic reward of service without an MLIS? I’m calling shenannigans again.

Litwin’s article isn’t *all* bad. If you remove the unsupported (or just poorly-supported) assertions about libraries, it is an interesting review of sociological literature on “deprofessionalism.” *With* the library stuff, it is pseudointellectual gobbledygook that provides no useful insight or guidance. (See Deschamps’ reason #5.)

By contrast, Deschamps’ piece is clear, succinct, and lays out the reality of our circumstances in a way that cuts through all the shennanigans.

Since I’m giving Litwin such a hard time, though, I’ll try to find some nits to pick about Deschamps’ post.

[Insert 30 minute pause here]

Deschamps’ #5 is “Peer Review in Librarianship Does Not Work Because There is No Competitive Process to Go With It”

I disagree that so much of library literature is mediocre because of the collaborative habits of libraryfolk. Rather, I think it is largely because of Reason #8, “Accredited Library Schools Do Not Adequately Prepare Students for Library Work.” The degree is frequently not academically demanding, so it doesn’t produce a lot of academics.

Deschamps’ phrasing of his Reason #7 (“The Primary Motivation for Professionalization is the Monopoly of Labor”) could, I think, be improved. I might rephrase it:

“The Primary Motivation for the Whining about ‘Deprofessionalization’ is the Fear of Losing Work or Having Needlessly Invested a lot of Effort, Time, Money, and Psychic Energy becoming a ‘Professional’ Librarian.”

But these are nitpicks.


Apr 28

Listen to Punk. LibPunk.

So I listened to the first LibPunk podcast and can honestly say I’ve never so enjoyed listening to libaryfolk talk about librarianating.

You can download the mp3 or listen in the embedded player below:

Sarah and Kendra have a site here: http://libpunk.info/

Here’s the Podcast feed.

Want to join in? Do!

Apr 26

Questions from Readers: Please Help?

Got a couple questions from readers recently that I’m not sure how to answer- so I’m hoping that some of you (especially those of you in academic health sciences libraries) might. Please email me or leave a comment here if you can help with either of these?

Question 1: (Cited References)
It is rare that I need this sort of information, so I’m not really sure how to answer this question.

If i had had access to the “cited by” function of scopus when i was doing my undergrad degree, it certainly would have saved me some freaking time. i know that pubmed has instituted this feature in the sidebar for papers in biomed central, but im freaking impatient, and it just seems wrong that that kind of information is locked up behind a paywall. how do we get this going on a cloud or whatever the newfangled web 3.4 alpha architecture or whatever is? is metadata like this copyrighted?

My understanding is that the ‘cited by’ information available in SCOPUS is *created* by SCOPUS…and that this is part of SCOPUS’ value. Some journals offer ‘cited by’ information at no costs on their sites. ISI Web of Science is another good source for this info, EBSCO lets you search for cited references, and Google Scholar catches some…but that none of these is perfect. Do y’all have any favorite tools/techniques/practices for finding cited references in biomedical literature?

Question 2:
Please note: I’ve changed some of the wording in this question to conceal the writer’s identity and to clarify because the writer is not a native speaker of English. This question is a three-parter that, if Eugene Barsky was still a physiotherapy librarian, I’d forward to him for his thoughts. Offhand, I don’t believe I know any other geeky librarians who specialize in this.

I’m working on a thesis in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation that analyzes the sources and quality of information for PM&R specialists.

1. How best does one measure (quantify) the category of publications (ISI of knowledge, impact factor, etc) in the speciality
2. What databases exist that serve this speciality?
3. What are the best “non conventional” sources or resources of knowledge (internet, blogs, social communities, etc.)?

Any ideas? Again, please email me or leave a comment here with any thoughts! Thanks in advance!

Mar 23

We Live in the Future

Sure, I still want my jetpack and hovercraft, but we DO live in the future. In a talk I gave recently, I illustrated this position with few small examples of how far we’ve come.

When I was born, my father (an IBM programmer) used some cutting-edge computer technology to make my birth announcements. See images below.


MFCUI love that acronym, “MFCU.” Sounds like something out of a 70s blaxploitation film.

How did he use these? He made birth announcements on 96-column punch cards in which the punches spelled out the word “BOY.”


In 1972, here’s what the cutting-edge of MEDLINE looked like to most users:


According the NLMā€™s Janet Zipser, MEDLINE was the first remote access, real-time database in existence. By the end of 1972 about 150 libraries had access to MEDLINEĀ® all at medical schools and research facilities. The rate was $6/hour, a 4-fold reduction over direct dial. The highest speed available was 30 characters/second. Most people had 10 characters/second Texas Instrument Silent 700s.

Please understand how amazingly fast people thought 30 characters/second was. Please also understand how that compares to today’s speeds:


And now PubMed is available to everyone with an internet connection…for free. Anna Kushnir-type gripes aside, this is amazing.

I looked at what storage memory cost circa 1979:

Compare that to the flash drive I keep in my pocket at most times:

The IBM 3340 Direct Access Storage Facility was introduced in March 1973 ā€¦Two, three or four 3340 drives could be attached to the IBM System/370 Model 115 processor — which had been announced concurrently with the 3340 — providing a storage capacity of up to 280 million bytes.


In order to match the storage capacity of my flash drive, this is how many IBM 3340s you’d need:

In order to match the storage capacity of the laptop I was using at the time, this is how many IBM 3340s you’d need:

xkcd put it nicely:

iTunes, as far as I can tell, has over 11 Million tracks.

But what brought this all to mind was something I stumbled across via PopURLs the other day:



We live in the future.


Via Joe (http://friendfeed.com/jokrausdu), here’s what 200 MB looked like in 1970:

200 MBs in 1970

200 MBs in 1970


Mar 20

Unsolicited Answers to Rhetorical Questions

From something I saw in Facebook recently:


Q: Will NextBio do away with PubMed?
A: Absolutely not. In order to even have a chance at making PubMed irrelevant, a 3rd-party tool would have to be free. I believe I have played with the vast majority of 3rd-party PubMed/MEDLINE tools available (see this post category for details).

Q: …will Pubget do away with PubMed?
A: In some libraries for some users, PubGet will be a the preferred option. Will it make PubMed irrelevant? Good lord, no.

K adds:

Suspect they use PubMed to get their lit content, esp since they say they include all the full text from PubMed Central.

K is absolutely right. Both PubGet and NextBio get their data through NCBI API tools.

Now, if GoPubMed (free) did LinkOut and/or made PDF retrieval as easy as PubGet (free) does and marketed it well…that could threaten to make PubMed irrelevant.

However, PubMed makes the index of the world’s medical literature available to millions and it used worldwide as an essential healthcare tool. Ask yourself: Do you want to trust a private corporation to take good and ethical care of such an important public good? I don’t. I’d rather trust the NLM.

Mar 19

MEDLINE Trends, MEDSUM, Compare PubMed (3rd-Party PubMed/MEDLINE Tool)

Alexandru Dan Corlan made this nifty tool, MEDLINE Trend.


From the site:

Examples of usage

  • To find out just how many papers have been indexed by PubMed every year, enter an empty query (simply press ‘Build Trend’);
  • To find the history of a subject, enter a few keywords describing the subject. For example, clopidogrel will tell you that discussion about this drug first appeared in 1987, was ocasional (under one paper a month) by 1996 and really took off in after 2000;
  • To make statistics of the languages of papers as indexed by PubMed and how they evolved in time enter something like fre[la] and you will see their number is geting reduced in time, despite the increase in the general number of papers, so the prevalence of papers in french in the database falls from about 10%, forty years ago, to less than 2% in 2004;
  • To see how many papers have been published in journals published in a given country year by year enter something like france[pl] and one can see that the number of biomedical papers published in France, indexed in Medline, is quite constant over the years, despite the previous statistics;
  • queries can be combined, for example:
    eng[la] france[pl]
    and you will see that a progressive number of papers published in france, but in english, are indexed by PubMed every year;
  • trying pitie-salpetriere[ad] will show you that, while the number of papers published from this famous hospital is increasing yearly, the fraction of these papers from all papers in PubMed in the respective year is relatively constant.

Trend analysis for “ulcerative colitis”

[Via @laikas and @radagabriel]

[via Mike G.]


Here’s a graph of papers by year for the query “ulcerative colitis”
(Click image for full-size)

Compare-Stuff.com PubMed
(Previously mentioned here)
I just tried this again and I don’t think it works properly any longer. šŸ™

I suspect I’m forgetting another tool or two that will do this. If you know what they are, let me know?