Friday, October 31, 2008

Haunted Libraries

Happy Halloween. In honor of the day, I thought it would be nice to have a little library fun. Last year George Eberhart of the American Library Association posted a list of haunted libraries on the Britannica Blog. The list is back by popular demand with updated and added entries.

So have fun, it is Friday and it is Halloween. Get in the spirit of the holiday and read about the haunted libraries in the Northeast, Midwest, South, West, and Internationally.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wolters Kluwer Officially Buys UpToDate

Earlier this year I mentioned that Wolters Kluwer had reached an agreement to acquire UpToDate. Well according to this press release it is official. Wolters Kluwer has officially bought UpToDate, the terms were not disclosed. According to representatives of Berkery Noyes (who acted as UTD's exclusive financial adivsor in negotiations with WK), "With this acquisition, Wolters Kluwer is acquiring the dominant clinical solutions company with the leading market share among clinical users and a presence in 88% of teaching hospitals in the United States."

I think a lot of librarians will be watching how things shake out. I have to say that I am cautiously optomistic about this acquisition. Just a brief search on the MEDLIB-L Archive on UpToDate and you get an idea of the problems librarians have had with them.

My UpToDate/Wolters Kluwer wish list:
  • Better relations with medical librarians
  • Easier to understand pricing structure
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Off campus access included in the price
  • Normal licensing
  • Easy renewal (No counting of doctors, their specialties and whether or not their primary office address is the hospital's address.)
Funny my initial wish list doesn't even include any enhancements to the actual product. That just goes to show you how their customer service (or lack of) overshadowed the product in my mind.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Last Week to Comment on MLA Strategic Plan

MLA Board is reaching out to MLA members, soliciting opinions and comments on the strategic plan. The comment period began October 10 and ends on October 31, 2008. So you only have a few more days to read, comment and become involved in your profession.

So far there have been very few comments on the plan. But I encourage you to read it, think about it and make a comment. It is a big plan to think about all at one time. You don't have to comment on the entire document, but if you see one or two areas for improvement then submit your opinions.

As Scott Plutchak said on his blog about the MLA Board, "We're doing our part. But if the members aren't willing to take the time to participate, then what's the point?" I'll say it a different way, the board members aren't mind readers, they need your feedback. You can't complain about the way MLA is headed if you never bothered to be active and voice your opinion.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Article 2.0 Contest

Elsevier Labs is inviting creative individuals who have wanted the opportunity to view and work with journal article content on the web to enter the Elsevier Article 2.0 Contest. Each contestant will be provided online access to approximately 7,500 full-text XML articles from Elsevier journals, including the associated images, and the Elsevier Article 2.0 API to develop a unique yet useful web-based journal article rendering application.

The contest started September 1, 2008 and it ends December 31, 2008.
Awards January 30, 2009:
First Prize $4,000
Second Prize $2,000
Third Prize $1,000

The Elsevier Article 2.0 API consists of 6 different web service itneractions, the Journals, Volumes, Issues and Articles web service interactions are provided to assist with developing a navigation model to an individual article. The idea behind the contest is to develope a new way of rendering the article information. Elsevier lists three sample apps which illustrate how the Elsevier Article 2.0 API can be used.

Ok you programming medical librarians here is a chance to show your stuff and create something that will be helpful to librarians and researchers world wide, and maybe win a nice sum of money while doing so.

For complete details on the Contest go to http://article20.elsevier.com/contest/home.html
The site has rules, resources, FAQs and information on the Judges.

It will be interesting to see the winning results.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flu Shots at Your Local Public Library

I needed to renew my public libraries books so I went online and I noticed on Cuyahoga County Public Library's website that the public can get the flu shot at various branches (adults 19+ and for a fee). I don't know anything other than what I see on their website, but I thought what a neat opportunity this would make for a consumer health or public library to highlight to their consumer health education resources.
The possibilities are also open to hospital and academic medical libraries who offer to host a flu shot clinic for employees or students. It is not as cool and trendy as having Guitar Hero in the library, but it gets people who otherwise might not come to the library in through the front door. From there it would be up to you and your library staff to creatively seize the opportunity to get some of them interested in what the library can do for them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

iPhone Part 1

I have had my iPhone for a week. I am getting used to it and there are some things I definitely like and don't like.

Touch Screen: I like it, but it takes some time to get used to the typing. I am not always a big fan of auto correct typing where it tries to predict the word you are typing. When it suggests the right word it is great, when it suggests the wrong word it is a pain.
Because there is no cover to this phone, I highly suggest getting a cover or skin to help protect the touch screen. Everybody has an opinion on the best skin protection for the iPhone. Do some research to find what fits your needs. I like the clear plastic sticky skins for the touch screen, but I don't like the silicone protector that I bought. Skins/protectors come in a variety of styles and prices so it is worth it to do a little homework.

Email: You can sync your email to the phone. It supports Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, and most other email systems. I have my phone set to sync with my personal email. Even though it supports Microsoft Exchange you might find that your hospital/institution does not support your iPhone.
For example my institution's IT department has this nice little paragraph about the email and the iPhone.
"There have been several inquiries regarding the iPhone and the ability to get it connected to the Enterprise for email. While all of the advertising states that the device is 'enterprise ready,' it is not yet ready for our enterprise. We have chosen the Blackberry as the mobile device of choice due to several factors. These factors include security, device management, application management, troubleshooting tools, ease of use, and supportability. We are committed to keeping an eye on the advances being made to enable the iPhone to truly become an 'enterprise ready' device and will re-evaluate the feasibility of supporting this device at that time."

So if you need to access your work email from your phone (which means you most likely have a Blackberry), don't get an iPhone.

The iPhone's default is to alert you every time you get an email. I found this extremely distracting as I would hear a ding and my phone would vibrate everytime I had something in my In Box. I eventually turned this feature off. It took me a while to figure it out because I kept going to Settings and Mail to find out why it was buzzing me each time. I finally discovered you must go into Settings and then Sounds and scroll to New Mail and flip it to Off.

Important: The iPhone supports multiple POP3 accounts but it only syncs with one Exchange server. That means you can have it monitor two Yahoo or Google accounts but if you have two Exchange accounts then you have to choose which one you want it to use. Since my work email is my only Exchange account and they have a no iPhone support policy, this wasn't an issue for me.

Calendar: You can sync your iPhone to Outlook's calendar (if your institution allows it). I use Google Calendar. I like Google Calendar because I can call it up anywhere there is a computer and check our schedule. My husband can add and edit things and we print off this month's page every time we edit and tape it next to the phone. I don't use Outlook because it is behind work's firewall and my husband can't view it or edit it. I have been able to sync my Google Calendar to my iPhone by using NuevaSync.com. NeuvaSync allows direct synchronization of smart phones with Google Calendar and other calendaring services. You must create a free account with them and it uses Microsoft Exchange, but I found it be easy and well worth it. Now I can consult my calendar when I am out and anything I add is updated on to Google Calendar instantaneously.

3G and WiFi: First I am sure there are experts out there who will tell me 3G is slower than most WiFi. I don't notice the difference. I primarily stay on 3G unless I am home and using my iPhone, then I use my home's WiFi. Of course when I am at home and want to use the Internet I use my home computer. The reason I don't use the iPhone's WiFi all that much is that it gets cranky if the WiFi is locked down or unstable.
Two examples:
1. I was at the Monday Night Football game where the Browns actually won against the Giants. There was a small debate going on between our friends as to where a certain player went to college. At halftime I realized I could check on my phone and settle it once and for all. (The outcome determined who bought the next round.) Well there were three WiFi signals, two appeared to be unlocked but they kept dropping me and I couldn't get any type of search done. So I switched to 3G, but unless you change the settings the phone automatically tries to get a WiFi first before it will do 3G. I had to change the settings and the turn the phone off and on to get it to accept 3G.
2. My work's WiFi blocks all multimedia websites. So while I can get on the WiFi easily, I can't view any multimedia. However I have found that I can view all the multimedia sites on my iPhone using the 3G. This might come in handy when there is a particular medical video that I want to view before recommending it to somebody to view at home (off of our network).

Unless you specifically turn off the search for WiFi networks and the Ask to Join Networks, your phone is going to pester you to get off 3G and join the WiFi network it found. Not only this is annoying and makes surfing a pain, I was told that this drains your battery faster.

Apps Store: The Apps store is a great place to get iPhone applications. There a lot of free apps as well as paid ones ($.99 -$20). So far I have download a few games and I downloaded Stanza an app that allows you read ebooks on your PC or Mac and share it with your iPhone. I haven't done much with it yet and when I do I will tell you all about it.
Believe it or not, now that Apple has made it easier to develop programs for their phone, I think there will be some enterprising programming librarians looking at making apps for the iPhone. I don't know when, I just think it is a high possibility.

Apple Warranty: I was given the opportunity to purchase Apple's second year warranty (Apple Care) when I bought my phone. Apple's regular warranty supposedly protects it in the first year. Apple Care must be bought before your second year of ownership and it is $69, but all it covers are "normal issues."
IMPORTANT Apple's warranty does not protect it against anything other than defects or problems occurring during "normal" usage. So if you accidentally spill a coffee on it and it goes kerplunk you are dead. They have a little light they shine in the earphone jack to view a liquid sensor to see if it was exposed to liquid. If you drop your phone and it doesn't work, you are dead.
I am a klutz. I have kids. I am human. I have had my fair share of water logged and crunched phones. So this issue terrifies me. One accidental arm movement and I could have a $200 water logged brick and I would either be stuck paying for an unused iPhone data plan or I would have to plunk down $399 (full price) for a new phone. After listening to a friend's story I was almost convinced I needed to wrap the thing in a Ziplock bag and bubble wrap. But after doing some research I did find the site, SquareTrade that has a 2 year plan for $89 that includes water and accidental damage. If you want the accident coverage you have to buy the plan within 30 days of purchasing your phone. A couple of people with iPhones in the forum, MacRumors, have started going with them.
Neither AppleCare or SquareTrade will cover you if you decide to jailbrake your phone.

Now that I think I have covered some of the nitty gritty, my next post on the iPhone will be on medical and library applications.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kindling Medical Texts

Kindle is Amazon.com's e-book reader which according to various market reports has been flying off of Amazon’s shelves. Released November 2007 the first Kindles were sold out after five and half hours, even with $399 price tag. Kindle users can download content from Amazon.com's Kindle store and Amazon offers an service that converts HTML, Word docs, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP to Kindle format (AZW). Audiobooks in MP3, Audible, and Audiobooks can be listened to on Kindle through USB or SD card.

Some libraries public libraries have already started circulating Kindles and there are some questions among the public library community about the legalities of circulating them. According to Rochelle Hartman Amazon.com customer service agents have provided contradictory information about loaning Kindles. While Drew Herdener, Amazon spokesman, told LJ that libraries could loan a Kindle without content is but sharing a device loaded with content "with a wide group of people would not be in line with the terms of use." Of course librarians are asking what constitutes "a wide group of people." Diane Lapsley, Assistant Director of Sparta Public Library has received no word from Amazon regarding the library loaning Kindles. The LJ article quotes Lapsely, "All we see ourselves doing is providing a great service—and advertising the heck out of their product."


So why does this matter to me the medical librarian? Well in last few weeks I have been running across some interesting blog posts, articles and other bits of information that mention the use of Kindles in the medical community.

John Halamka, CIO and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, mentions implementing Kindle support for all of their 20,000 educational resources and HMS on his blog, The Health Care Blog. You read that right, twenty thousand. Users enter their Kindle account into the MyCourses Kindle set page and can click on any "My Kindle" resource to sent to the device.

That is all fine and dandy but if the publishers have got to be on board, because if there isn't any medical content then there is going to be little use for them in a medical institution. The good news is, publishers are coming to Kindle. According to Inside Higher ED, Princeton University Press, Yale University Press, Oxford University Press, University of California Press are all publishing books available through Kindle. Additionally, CNET reports that Amazon is working on new models of to support the academic side of things.

Just browsing the medical subject section of the Kindle Store there are already quite a few books that are found in academic medical libraries and hospital libraries.

For example:

Browse the Kindle Store for medical titles isn't the best. There are a lot of consumer health titles intermixed with medical texts and sometimes you have to watch out for the edition. While many of the titles appeared to be the most recent there are a few listed which have more current editions in print. For example Surgical Anatomy and Technique: A Pocket Manual, this Kindle book is for the 1994 edition, but the most recent version is actually the 2000 edition.

Of course at $399 a pop, plus the cost of the Kindle book, could be an awful pricey ebook model. Kindle is also a closed device. That means only Kindle books work on Kindles. So what does that mean to libraries who subscribe to various ebook collections through other vendors such as Ovid, Springer, Rittenhouse, Unbound Medicine? I don't know. My guess is that those couldn't be converted to be read on the Kindle. (Please anybody more familiar with ebook correct me if I am wrong or feel free to elaborate more.) Not only are the price and the format a possible barrier for adoption within medical libraries, there are some that believe Stanza and the iPhone might actually kill the Kindle.

A recent Forbes article reported the iPhone is more popular than Kindle and with the new Stanza application (freely available on Apple's iPhone Apps Store) is entering into Kindle's territory as a competing device. The iPhone App Store reports Stanza has been downloaded more than 395,000 time and is installed at a rate of 5,000 copies per day. The Forbes article reports that Citigroup estimates that Amazon will sell around 380,000 Kindles in 2008. Jane McEntegart on Tom's Guide thinks the growth of Stanza is due in part to iPhone's already strong popularity and the fact the iPhone is more versatile than Kindle. "For a start, the iPhone does the three things Apple feels everyone sees as a necessity: Phone, Internet, mp3 player. Phone calls, mobile browsing and music are all mandatory and any of the third party applications available from the App Store are extras you can add on if you want them. If you want Tetris, you can have Tetris, if you don’t, no one is going to try and sell it to you. The Kindle does one thing and some think that’s where it falls down."

Stanza and its books are currently free, which is another reason why you see so many downloads. Yours truly downloaded Stanza on to the sparkly new iPhone. Where Stanza falls for medical libraries is the book selection. Currently Stanza does not yet support books encumbered with Digital Rights Management. Most medical books are not free and have copyright and digital rights associated with them. According to the Forbes article Marc Prudhommeaux, Lexcycle chief executive, is working on deals with major publisher to provide newer ebooks for a fee. He claims, that once that happens the iPhone users will be able to shop, buy and read books just like they do with Kindle.

So what is a medical librarian to do? It is very confusing. But it is definitely something to keep an eye on and keep in the back of your brain. It has the potential to add another layer to ebooks.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Review of OvidSP Platform

Marie Fitzsimmons and Valerie Gross recently published an interesting article in Medical Reference Services Quarterly, A Review of the OvidSP Platform. (2008. v.27 (4) 394-405 DOI: 10.1080/02763860802368142)



Abstract:
As part of its mission to advance the technological capabilities of its products, Ovid introduced a redesign of its database platform in fall 2007. The platform redesign brought new features and enhancements to an already robust system. The transition between Ovid Gateway and the OvidSP platform was orchestrated seamlessly. With the OvidSP platform came innovative changes such as the incorporation of Natural Language Processing associated with the new Basic Search mode. Discussed are OvidSP features, advantages and disadvantages of the new platform, customizable settings, and future direction.

The article discusses OvidSP Advanced, OvidSP Basic (Natural Language Processing), and the advantages and disadvantages of the new platform. The article was received June 13, 2008, a pretty good publishing turn around time for an article in Haworth Press, however it is important to note that Ovid has done at least one update since the article was written.

Ovid has made some serious investment in the SP platform so I think we will see some interesting features and improvements to the platform in the future. One thing I hope they will consider doing sooner rather than later is to allow people to email citations in HTML. That is a crucial feature when dealing with research, full text articles and links. You cannot provide one stop shopping research services if you patrons have to open up two windows (your A-Z list of online journals and their email with Ovid citations) to find and download the full text of an article.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to Test Mobile Devices Without Owning One

So you don't have a couple of gift cards and an AT&T rebate check to help take the sting out of the $199 price of an iPhone? Or perhaps you don't think you will use a mobile device enough to justify the purchase of the product as well as the data plan. Despite what Apple, Blackberry, and the fine folks at the cellular companies think, not everybody needs a smart phone. But how do you know what resources are available and how do you test them and the phones if you don't have a smart phone? Never fear, the Pacific Northwest Regional Medical Library blog, Dragonfly, has an informative post, Tiny Little Screens, that offers information on some information resources for/on handhelds and lists some simulator sites for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Palm where you can test and see how things display and function.

Monday, October 13, 2008

iPhone

I splurged this weekend. I went out and got an iPhone. Until recently I was a very happy dumb phone user. I had a cell phone that made calls and got voicemail and I was completely happy. Then my brother in law got an iPhone. Curious about what all the fuss was about, I tried his. I was hooked. My old dumb phone was suddenly deficient. Yeah it could get the Internet on it, but who wanted to look at that on a 1.5 x 1.5 inch screen? In fact getting the Internet on cell phones has been around for a while now, but Apple has made it easier and more enjoyable to do so on their phone. They have people like me, previously happy with their dumb phone, thinking about buying an iPhone. That is a big step. Until I bought this still rather pricey phone, I had always been the type of person who got the phone that came free with the cell plan. I never bought a cell phone.
Now I have all sorts of things I am doing with my phone. I found out that there is a free app that I can download to sync my Google Calendar to my iPhone calendar (essential for work and for a family of four). There are a lot of medical applications (free and paid) as well as fun things like a program that turns your iPhone into a lightsaber sounding device. I am learning how to type using iPhone's touch screen, it takes a little practice. I don't find it as cumbersome as John Halamka does, but I never had a Blackberry to compare it too.

There are a lot of things that I am learning and finding interesting. So I am going to take one for the team. I am going to unselfishly test this new device and report back on its medical and library applications. It will be hardwork but somebody has to do it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Get Involved

Do have great ideas bursting out of you? Or do you want to change the way things are done, shake things up a little bit? Get involved.

The Medical Library Association Board reviews MLA's strategic plan regularly and they revising it as changes in the profession and health care occur. "The strategic plan drives the association’s priorities for each year and is the basis for the association’s business plan." This year, the Board wants you (picture a board member pointing at you ala Uncle Sam) an MLA member to comment on the strategic plan and make suggestions. You can access the Strategic Plan at http://www.mlanet.org/about/strategic.html. You join the discussion through the MLA Connections members' blog. The comment period will end on October 31, 2008. Visit MLA Connections today to register.

Commenting and submitting your thoughts on the grand plan is great and nice way to get involved, but lets say you were thinking of other methods to be involved. If so, you should consider applying for a 2009/2010 MLA Committee Position. October 31, is the deadline for applications. Being on a committee will not only help develop your leadership and networking skills, but it is another way for you to become involved in the organization. You must complete the application available online. You will need your MLANET username/ID and password to enter this members-only section. There are a whole slew of committees to satisfy many varied interests.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

BMJ Changes Publishing Procedures

BMJ is shifting the way they publish. BMJ intends for this to benefit readers and authors. Since July BMJ has been publishing content continuously on bmj.com. At first that sound like a no brainer, of course a major publisher will continually put their content online. But here is the issue, all of BMJ's articles will be "published online as they become ready, so bmj.com will update several times a day. Once published, articles will then be selected for a subsequent print issue."

This change is to speed up the process and help articles be published faster. According to BMJ, "Continuous publication also gives readers more flexibility in the way they engage with our content: as a continuous stream or in a weekly "package," or both. And it will allow us to tailor the print journal—which is read largely by UK readers—to their needs."

This change affects how articles will be organized and cited. From now on each article will have online one permanent citation and IT WILL NO LONGER DERIVE FROM PRINT. The citation will be year, volume, and e-locator (unique identifier for that article). The e-locator is what will appear in MEDLINE as well as other bibliographic indexes. Authors will need to need to use this information when citing a BMJ article, not the traditional method for citing articles with the year, volume, and page number.

I did a quick search on PubMed and here is a sample BMJ citation retrieved from PubMed.

Consensus statement on ovarian cancer aims to settle dispute over symptoms.
BMJ. 2008 Oct 7;337:a2007. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a2007. No abstract available.
PMID: 18840635 [PubMed - in process]

I am assuming since BMJ is continually publishing, there will be no "epub ahead of print" on BMJ citations.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My NCBI Changes and PubMed's ATM Goofs

If you are big PubMed user you probably already know that My NCBI has changed. The biggest change you will notice upon login is the display. The My NCBI homepage for your account displays your preferences, filters, saved searches, collections and bibliography.

My Bibliography is new. It is designed to "make it easier for authors to search and collection citations for their publications." Using a template, an author can create a saved search and when it is updated the new citations are added to the bibliography. The search strategies are based on either an author's name or a list of PMIDs. Each bibliography can hold up to 1500 citations.
To learn more about these and other My NCBI changes go to : McGhee M. Coming Soon to My NCBI: New Features, New Navigation, and My Bibliography. In the NLM Technical Bulletin.

The bibliography feature is interesting. I am curious to see how it will be used, especially how those who use RefMan, EndNote, or Refworks might use it.

While some PubMed changes like My NCBI were a little more obvious to the naked eye, there were other things happening that you may not be aware of. A few months ago the folks at PubMed poked a stick at the hornet's nest by implementing Automatic Term Mapping (ATM). Well there have been some changes with that as well as citation censor. I heard about these changes from a librarian with the GMR while I was at the Ohio Health Sciences Library Association meeting Friday.

ATM has changed. For example if you type in the term multiple sclerosis then click on the Details tab you will see:
"multiple sclerosis"[MeSH Terms] OR ("multiple"[All Fields] AND "sclerosis"[All
Fields]) OR "multiple sclerosis"[All Fields]

Notice how multiple sclerosis is split apart and you are searching for any article where multiple can be found in any field with any article where sclerosis is found in any field.

In previous examples they use factor b as a search term to illustrate that it won't be split up like multiple sclerosis. However, when I did a search in PubMed typing brain ct in the search box I got four results, so I clicked on the Details tab I saw this:
brain ct[Author]

Hmm, not what I would normally want if I was searching brain ct. You have to type "brain ct" with the quotation marks for it to search it in all fields and to treat it as one word. Of course using quotations prevents PubMed from searching MeSH as you can see if you type "multiple sclerosis" in the search box and click Details.

What normal searcher is going to type brain ct in the search box and expect to get the four articles by Dr. C. T. Brain (yes there is one) instead of articles on Brain Computed Tomography!??

The folks in charge of PubMed want it to be more user friendly, I certainly don't see how that is user friendly. I absolutely LOVE Ovid's mapping. When I searched for brain ct, Ovid's mapping was at least smart enough to map me to something appropriate, it did not try and connect me with Dr. Brain's articles which have nothing to do with computer tomography what so ever.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Last Day for Poster and Paper Submissions for MLA 2009 Hawaii

All paper and poster submissions for MLA 2009 Hawaii must be submitted by midnight (central time) October 6th.
For submission information go to http://www.mlanet.org/am/am2009/call.html

Don't get shut out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Second Masters Degree or Ph.D. in Information Science?

Until recently I have not given much thought about going back to school to get a second graduate degree or even a Ph.D. It was just too expensive for somebody who is still paying off "his and hers" student loans, has two kids, and has the rest of life's expenses. However things have changed, my employer's tuition reimbursement plan has made it so that it might be financially possible for me to go back to school. I am wondering, is it worth getting a second masters degree or a Ph.D.? It is no secret that some day I would like to become a library director. I realize a second masters degree or Ph.D. won't get me that library director position, but will not having it shut me out of some potential positions?

I realize this a fairly hot topic for debate within the academic library world. When I was going to library school the hot topic of conversation among library students was the about whether a second masters degree or a Ph.D. in a subject specialty was a perceived or real need. Not only were single master students (those who would just have a masters in library science) and dual masters students discussing the pros and cons about it, but both students found that the salary (often in low to mid 30's) did not match that value of dual advance degree.

There are many successful single masters degree librarians out there, many in the medical library world. So I don't think having one masters degree specifically limits your success, but does it limit you in your career advancement? Notice, success and advancement are not the same? (That is not a coincidence, one does not always beget the other.)

The article "Subject Experts Need Not Apply: Recent job postings and hires suggest that many academic libraries are losing interest in hiring humanities Ph.D.'s," in The Chronicle of Higher Education (July 1, 2008) by Todd Gilman implies the trend to hire librarians with subject specialty masters degrees or Ph.D.'s is lessening. "Many recent job postings for humanities librarians, reference librarians, or those specializing in research education do not list subject expertise as a requirement. In place of subject expertise, those job postings require relevant library experience (variously defined) and, more often than not, technology skills, neither of which, to my mind, makes up for a lack of advanced education in a particular discipline." Gilman, the librarian for literature in English at Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library, thinks libraries need advanced degree subject specialists because they can better serve the subject collection and they can be seen as "true partners in education" because they are "players in the same intellectual ballpark as professors."
Gilman is a librarian in the humanities, he is not a biomedical librarian. It is a rare occasion you find an M.D. who decided to get an MLS and become a librarian. Slightly less rare are the R.N.'s who are now librarians. There are quite a few librarians who have advanced degrees in the sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.) and even more that have undergraduate degrees in those subject. There are many successful medical librarians who have undergraduate degrees in non-science subjects and who don't hold any advanced degrees. What can an advanced degree do for the current medical librarian?

In May at MLA's Not-so Dangerous Liaisons: Best Practices for Library Liaison Work symposium I sat across from the speaker, Patrick McCarthy the Director of Saint Louis University Medical Center Library. He described the medical library's liaison librarians. These librarians are subject specialist medical librarians, their library jobs were their second career. He described a shift in his library and institution to hire medical librarians with advanced degrees in biomedical subjects. Their library website says, "The Medical Center Library's Liaison Program links our reference subject specialists with each health sciences department and program. The purpose of this program is to foster communication in research, teaching, and clinical care between the Library and the Schools it serves." At MLA McCarthy said this liaison program increased faculty involvement in the medical library. Is this the way things are now moving in medical libraries? I quickly looked at both Harvard and Yale's medical library websites, each list their library staff just like Saint Louis University. Neither Harvard nor Yale included any initials after the library staff names (unlike SLU) so it was difficult to determine at a glance if these big academic medical libraries are doing this as well.

So, I am still left with the question regarding advanced degrees and librarians. Is getting a second masters degree worth it? Does it help get a foot in the door for an interview and once you land the library job, does it pay for itself? At MLA McCarthy answered this a similar question. He said that his library increased salaries for those librarians with advanced degrees which in fact lured a few librarians away from a competing university. But is this the norm? Will having a second masters degree or a Ph.D. help towards getting a library director position? Are there director positions out there that require an advance degree as one of the job requirements or is that more of a "preferred" qualification allowing otherwise qualified candidates to have an equal shot at the position?

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The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: