Friday, April 17, 2009

Online at MLA

You have just one week left to apply to be an Official MLA Blogger for the Annual Meeting in Hawaii. If you are going to the meeting and are interested in blogging, please consider applying. Your colleagues who are unable to attend will benefit from your experiences. Being an Official Blogger is a great way to get free wifi courtesy of MLA for the duration of the conference. Not traveling with a laptop? Don't worry, you can still be an Official Blogger if you don't have your own laptop. Hurry, the deadline is April 24th!

Follow the blog using the following RSS feed

The Official Blog is just one way to follow the events at MLA. A Twitter account has been set up for the meeting as well. The MLA 2009 Twitter account is mla2009. Following MLA 2009 on Twitter is very easy.

You can follow without signing up for a Twitter account. You can either go to the website and watch the posts, or you can subscribe to the RSS feed at

If you want to interact with people, comment, or pose questions then you will need to create your own Twitter account. Simply go to and join. Once you have joined and created a username go to Find People and type in mla2009. Click on the icon and then click Follow.

Just a few days before meeting mla2009 will "follow" all of its followers. That will allow everybody following on mla2009 to see each others posts and to view what is going on at the convention. If you plan to post about the convention please try and remember to use the hashtag #mla09 before you type. The hashtags index the thread so that it can be found and easier to follow.

Note: The Twitter website does not automatically refresh, so you will either need to hit the browser's refresh button every once and a while or you might want to look at some Twitter clients like twhril or TweetDeck which make managing your Twitter account a little easier.

Are you going to the meeting and are you planning on taking a lot of pictures? Please consider uploading to the MLA 2009 group on flickr. This will allow us to pool all of our photos into one group so everybody can see them.

Anybody can view the photos if they go to

If you want to post your photos to the group here's how:
  • You must have a flickr account
  • Once you have a flickr account and logged in you must join the group
  • Click the Groups tab and then Search for a Group. Search for MLA 2009
  • Click on the MLA 2009 Group and then click "Join?"
Once you have joined the group it is very easy to post your photos to the group. The easiest way to add a photo to a group is to go to your account home page and click on your photo stream. Then click on the photo you want to send to the group. Next, click the "Send to Group" button (located above the photo, between the photo title and the photo). Then choose the group you want to send it to, and you're done!

If you are sharing photos on the MLA 2009 Group please remember to tag them all with the term mla2009.

If you aren't going to the meeting this year, we will miss you. But at least you have some options for staying in touch and following some of the activities and staying up to date. Additionally if there is anybody else on the NPC or any of the Section Programs who is doing something online that will allow folks at home to follow along to, please leave a comment.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twittering All Over

It seems you can't go anywhere recently without hearing about Twitter in the news. Astronauts are tweeting, a hospital tweeted updates during a hysterectomy, and even President Obama has a Twitter account.
USA Today reports traffic to Twitter has soared within the last few months. "Worldwide visitors neared 10 million in February, up more than 700 percent in a year. In the U.S., Twitter hit 4 million visitors -- up more than 1,000 percent from a year ago." This isn't just for the young. The article reports 45-54 year olds are the 36% more likely to visit Twitter.

I ran across two interesting articles on Twitter, "How to be a Better Tweeter," on cnet news and an article in BuisnessWeek, "Twitter: Building Businesses Tweet by Tweet."

I have a Twitter account and I tweet. I like it but I just don't seem to feel a connection with Twitter as I do with blogging or using email. I feel a like I could be a better tweeter. I enjoy following my friends. But as Twitter has become more popular more people have found me and asked to "follow" me. As a general rule I usually accepted people I knew or who had something to do with medicine or libraries. My smallish group of friends on Twitter has become a larger group of people, some I have met once, some I know of only by name, and others I have not met nor may never meet. As my Twitter world expands I have begun to question whether my tweets about a finding a good fish fry one Friday evening were really Twitter worthy. The cnet article has confirmed my personal suspicions, I could be a better tweeter. Not only do I need to start thinking about what I tweet but also remember to re-tweet interesting tweets within the Twitter stream and to use hashtags for hot topics.

Twitter is not just for individuals. A whole slew of groups, organizations, media outlets, and businesses are creating a presence on Twitter. Twitter is just another method for businesses to reach out to current clients or potential clients. The BusinessWeek article mentions how one consultant found 10 new paying clients within the last six months through Twitter and how a t-shirt company uses Twitterpic to help ordering customers see their designs ahead of time. Businesses aren't the only ones using Twitter to reach clients. Large group of libraries have also set up Twitter accounts as well. Curiosity got the better of me one day and I decided to search Twitter for all accounts with library in the name. There were 605. The vast majority were public libraries but I ran across 4 law libraries and 3 medical libraries. The two medical libraries I found were ucsf_library -UCSF Library Academic health sciences library, MDAndersonLib - MD Anderson Library The Research Medical Library serves the staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, fiumedlib - FIU Medical Library Medical Library of Florida International University College of Medicine.
There are a lot of hospitals and medical schools on Twitter, just a quick search on medical yielded 169 accounts and a search on hospital found 81. While not all of those accounts were medical schools or hospitals, a vast majority were. This got me thinking about medical library vendors, I did a short brainstorming session and did a search for as many companies and vendors that are used in medical libraries.

Here is what I found:
  • MHMedical -McGraw-Hill Medical Updates, news, special offers, and other tweets from McGraw-Hill’s Medical Editorial team.
  • McGrawHillTweet -McGrawHill Tweets Latest updates and news on publications from McGrawHill.
  • mdconsult -Medical news from MD Consult
  • 2collab - Elsevier's 2collab The research collaboration tool from Elsevier
  • SciTopics -Elsevier's SciTopics Research summaries by experts
  • elsmedstudents -Elsevier Med Student Resources for Medical Students from Elsevier, Student Consult & USMLE Consult, Netter
  • ELSORTHOPAEDICS - Elsevier Orthopaedic Elsevier produces the world's finest selection of health care textbooks, reference books, review books, periodicals, electronic titles, and online resources.
  • ELS_RADIOLOGY - ELSEVIER RADIOLOGY Elsevier produces the world's finest selection of health care textbooks, reference books, review books, periodicals, electronic titles, and online
  • pubmed
  • ncbi_pubmed -ncbi pubmed
  • cochranecollab -Cochrane Collab The Cochrane Collaboration: The reliable source of evidence in health care
  • BMJ_latest -BMJ - British Medical Journal aims to lead the debate on health, and to engage doctors, researchers and health professionals to improve outcomes for patients.
  • Scopus -Scopus (Fabian)Literature research database for everyone with a passion for Science
  • BiolSciNews -Wiley-Blackwell Sci The latest updates & news from the books, journals & online resources available from the Wiley-Blackwell Biological Sciences subject.
  • unboundmedicine / Unbound Medicine
  • NatureMedicine - Nature Medicine Nature Medicine is a biomedical research journal devoted to publishing the latest & most exciting advances in biomedical research for scientists and physicians
  • lippincott -Your medical, nursing and allied health resource.

Don't forget your fellow medical librarian Twitter accounts.

  • medlibs - Medical Librarians Group Tweet for Medical Library folk
  • mla2009 - Group Tweet for MLA2009 Annual Meeting
This by no means a complete and thorough search. Twitter's Find People Search is very limited and you are limited to doing only a certain amount of searches. I found their lack robust searching to be the most frustrating. The limit on searches was fairly high and I only ran in to it after to doing A LOT of searching for medical vendors on my brainstorming list.

So what does all of this mean? First I want to say if you aren't in to Twittering, don't worry you don't have to be. It isn't for everyone, even I am not sure if I am quite in to it. Should medical libraries start a Twitter account? For most libraries, no. I know, shock and awe that I said no to something so techie and 2.0ish. Even though Twitter is experiencing some rather large growth with people and businesses jumping into the Twitter stream, it still may not be the most effective place for most libraries yet. That doesn't mean it should be ignored, on the contrary, keep your eyes open and watch for if and when the time is right for your library. If you have a personal Twitter account, it might behoove you to follow another medical or academic library to see how they are using Twitter and think strategically before you implement. It is ok to experiment and play with technology, but I don't believe in adopting technology just for technology sake.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Follow a Conference on Twitter

Next week I am going to try a personal experiment. I am going to try and follow the HIMSS '09 conference on Twitter. I have a Twitter account and I used the "Find People" feature to find the HIMSS Twitter feed and I subscribed to it. There are over 1300 followers and 750 updates so far, and the conference has yet to start.

I am especially interested in following anything on the HIMSS Social Networking 101, Meet the Bloggers, and HIMSS Virtual Conference sessions.

HIMSS Social Networking 101
Facebook...Twitter...Linkedin...SharePoint...HIMSS Connect! With the numerous, and seemingly ever-growing, social networking sites available to us where does one go online to find HIMSS members? Join us for an in-depth exploration of the sites currently being utilized by HIMSS staff (and members) and learn how each provides their own unique way for you to connect online with your peers.

Meet the Bloggers
You've read their posts, you've commented on their ideas, now is the time to meet face-to-face. Join this uncommon experience and hear from bloggers themselves on what it takes to create, maintain and locate blogs regarding healthcare IT. This moderated roundtable is intended to discuss the responsibilities and dedication required to run a professional blog.

HIMSS Virtual Conference

What happens when you can't get away from work or simply don't have the budget to attend large, national conferences? Does it signal the end of learning, networking and professional development? No! Join us for a demonstration the attendee experience at a HIMSS' Virtual Conference & Expo as well as a discussion of the benefits of virtual conferences, such as: Synchronous online learning and live chat Dynamic, real-time participant movement in and out of exhibit booths and educational sessions Interactive attendee networking opportunities Vendor presentations.

The MLA has been working toward making meetings more virtual and available to those unable to attend. In 2008 the Annual Meeting had Webcast one of the Plenary Sessions, they had 10 Official Bloggers dedicated to blogging the meeting, and some some industrious fast fingered librarians started unofficially Twittering the conference which if my memory is right helped bring about the medlibs Twitter feed.

This year MLA will be trying to reach out to non-attendees again. Some of the developments that I know of are:

MLA 2009 Blog -I am still looking for more people. You know who you are, and you know you can blog. Applications are still being accepted so hurry up fill one out and blog.

MIS Top Technology Trends III Program Session - Has plans to have a virtual presenter, will be Twittering the session, and plans to accept Twittered questions.

MLA 2009 Twittered - You can follow the conference on Twitter using the MLA 2009 Twitter feed. It is an experimental method for us, twitterers will be your peers who happened to like to Twitter.

I am not sure of other plans, perhaps those who are in different areas of programing can share some of their methods to making the conference a little more available to non-attendees.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Creating Survey Forms Using Google Docs

I needed to make a simple online form that could be easily linked to online and I could easily share with others. I have used SurveyMonkey and a couple of other products before, however this time I don't think they were going to work for me. As I mentioned I wanted something that I could easily share with others. Enter Google Docs yet again. I must have been snoozing in September 2008 when they added the ability to create, share, and store online forms, because I had no idea they did that too.

If you already have a Google Docs account it is very easy to create a form. Just click New and highlight form. It is a simple form, but it can serve many purposes. Janetta at Fusion Finds has created a very nice Camtasia video on how to use Google Forms. She published 2 screencasts on using this tool. The first one shows you how to create a form. The second screencast shows how to share the form, access the data, and edit the form (sometimes you have to hit the refresh button if it doesn't start right away).

If you are looking quick and simple form you can share that will also import the data into a spreadsheet, you might check out Google Docs Forms.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cochrane Collaboration on Twitter

According to Alan at (the) health informaticist, "The Cochrane Colloboration have had a sudden rush of blood to the head - they are now on Twitter." They just started on Feb. 9th and already they have 55 followers. It appears some of their tweets are actually from their news feed which displays at the top of their web page. Interesting method for getting news out to people, I never quite thought of that.

This has me wondering about what other medical/health organizations or groups are using Twitter. I did a very unscientific and quick search on Twitter for anything with hospital. Here are the results. There are 26 Twitter accounts with hospital in the name, and some have quite a following.

  • HospitalGroup / Hospital Group This list is managed by Ed Bennett of @ummc and follows all official U.S. Hospital accounts - 363 followers
  • erlangerhealth / Erlanger Hospital Erlanger is a non-profit, academic teaching center affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. -272 followers
  • MHA / MS Hospital Assoc. Serving those who serve us all - Mississippi hospital employees. - 205 followers
  • stmarysmadison / St. Mary's Hospital Tertiary care hospital located in Madison, Wis. -155 followers
  • Doctors Hosptial in Columbus has two Twitter accounts OH_Doctors - 105 followers and doctorshospital - 96 followers
  • LakewoodHosp / Lakewood Hospital Lakewood Hospital is a community-oriented hospital located in the city of Lakewood on Cleveland's west side. -23 followers

Typing medical into the search produces 66 accounts, including medlibs - 178 followers.

I am not sure what to do with this sort of information or what it means for the future of medicine, libraries, and Twitter. I just find it interesting and something that I like to keep an eye on in case the future does produce something. The one bummer thing about Twitter is you kind of have to know the name of a person or group to find them and follow them. So unless you know an organization like the Cochrane Collaboration is on Twitter (and frankly I would have never guessed that they were) then you aren't going to find them very easily if at all.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Social Bookmariking Project: Call for Participants

(courtesy MidContinental Regional News)

For those of you in the MidContinental Region (Utah, Colorad, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri), Sharon Dennis, Technology Coordinator, and Rebecca Brown, Technology Liaison, are asking for volunteers to participate in a regional social bookmarking project. Social bookmarking is a Web 2.0 tool. Delicious is a social bookmarking site that allows you to bookmark a web page and add tags to categorize your bookmarks. Delicious can be used to tag any site that you feel is pertinent to your professional work and also of interest to medical librarians throughout the region.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, please e-mail Sharon at
sdennis[atsign]lib[dot]med[dot]utah[dot]edu or Rebecca at rbrown3[atsign]kumc[dot]edu.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Twitter in Health Care

Friday Eric Schnell posted Microblogging the US Airways Miracle about an article in the Guardian by Caitlin Fitzsimmons describing how our society has moved from rapid to almost instantaneous information dissemination. The article points out that much of the early information, pictures and reports of the Hudson River plane crash provided came from the average person with a cell phone. Reports were flying in through the web on sites like Twitter. Janis Krum posted on twitpic (a site to share pictures on Twitter) and uploaded this now rather famous picture of the plane floating on the Hudson while tweeting, "There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy." His tweet was posted only 6 minutes after the plane landed in the river (official timeline: 3:30:30: The plane touches down in the water). According to the Guardian article, within 10 minutes other twitterers were posting about the plane and linking ot Krum's tweet. Fitzsimmons writes, "Twitter proved itself as an excellent news aggregator, pointing me to links to the best media coverage. I particularly appreciated the live video streaming on and among others."

Eric mentions that this news media phenomenon is "referred to as mobcasting or citizen media reporting like that which occurred during the Virginia Tech tragedy, the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, or even a power outage that occurred yesterday in Toronto. A person even twittered while still on a plane as it burned on the runway in Denver in December 2008. Heck, even Santa Twittered. "

I have been twittering for a little while. I have yet to really figure out what voice I want within it. Do I want to have a professional twitter feed keeping people updated with library news, activities, and things similar to this blog? Or do I post about non library events like I did during the inauguration today? I enjoy hearing from other people and keeping up with events, but I am still trying to find my twitter legs.

What is hard to think of is how Twitter might be used within medical libraries or health care. John Sharp directed my attention to an interesting article, 140 Health Care Uses for Twitter by Phil Baumann. The article acknowledges that health care twittering does have some challenges (confidentiality, legal, etc.) but Baumann believes the advantages and possibilities of health care twittering far outweigh constraints brought on by these challenges unique to the health care world. Only by exploring twittering ideas and methods can these issues be addressed and handled appropriately. The list is more of a brainstorm of the 140 possible uses Twitter can play in health care.

I am not going to list all 140 ideas (if you want the full list go to the article), some on the list are similar to each other and really could be lumped together, which is what I did. Here are some I found to especially helpful and could be implemented fairly easily and other uses that I had previously never considered.

  • Disaster alerting and response - You already see this to a certain extent with college campuses and text messaging services. Not hard to think how this can move to the Twitter medium.
  • Alarming silent codes (psychiatric emergencies, security incidents) - Another very good method for informing people that is already texted to people.
  • Augmenting telemedicine - Twittering doesn't have to be by itself, I can imagine it serving as closed caption or commentary for online videos or as a discussion area separate from the actual lecture script/text being shown.
  • Biomedical device data capture and reporting - Interesting. I had a friend who was pregnant and on bed rest, she had to call a phone number so that her medical device could download specific information to some computer.
  • “Quick and dirty” diagnostic brainstorming between physicians (e.g. ’symptom clustering’), Clinical case education for (residents following attendings), Physician opinion-sharing - As long as patient confidentiality is maintained it could be another way to communicate and brainstorm.
  • Remote wound care assistance, Rural area health care communication - Didn't we just have a doctor who performed an amputation following text messages? Is this much different?
  • Transmitting patient data to patients who are traveling abroad, Patient-information retrieval, Micro-sharing documentation for advanced medical directives, Micro-sharing of pertinent patient information, Micro-sharing of diagnostic results (blood tests, echocardiography, radiological images) - Not for Twitter per se but it might work within a closed microblogging application unique to the institution.
  • Updating patient family members during procedures, Live-tweeting surgical procedures for education - Holy crow, this has already been done. First Live-Tweeted Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital @HenryFordNews.
  • Real-time satisfaction surveys with immediate follow-up for problem resolution - Huh never thought of that.
  • Live-tweeting medical conferences, Following ad-hoc conferences on eHealth like HealthCampPhila - There are conference twitterers already. A few people at MLA Chicago experimented last year and MLA Hawaii already has created an account.
  • Posting quick nursing assessments that feed into electronic medical records (EMRs) - Defintiely can't be Twitter, but can definitely be a closed system that works within the EMR. Might be useful area within the chart with certain guidelines and such.
  • Discussing HIPAA reform in the age of micro-sharing - Of course!

Just some interesting ways that people are thinking about using Twitter in the health care world. Do you have any ideas that Phil missed? What about libraries, how can libraries might use Twitter?

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mobile Medical Applications

Today I am speaking in Boston at Simmons College for the New England Chapter of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (NEASIS&T). The program, Mobile Mania: Developing Information Services for Portable Devices, will have five people (including myself), speaking about portable digital devices. I will specifically be speaking about mobile medical applications. I want to share one very good and interesting article that I found while preparing for this talk. (Here are my slides if you are interested. I just found out that they will be recording me. If it works out I will try and add the audio of my presentation to the slides.)

Surfing the web: practicing medicine in a technological age: using smartphones in clinical practice. Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Jul 1;47(1):117-22. PMID: 18491969. (not free full text)


Mobile technology has the potential to revolutionize how physicians practice medicine. From having access to the latest medical research at the point of care to being able to communicate at a moment's notice with physicians and colleagues around the world, we are practicing medicine in a technological age. During recent years, many physicians have been simultaneously using a pager, cellular telephone, and personal digital assistant (PDA) to keep in communication with the hospital and to access medical information or calendar functions. Many physicians have begun replacing multiple devices with a "smartphone," which functions as a cellular telephone, pager, and PDA. The goal of this article is to provide an overview of the currently available platforms that make up the smartphone devices and the available medical software. Each platform has its unique advantages and disadvantages, and available software will vary by device and is in constant flux.

I like this article for two main reasons:

  1. It specifically speaks about smartphones. Most of the research out there is about 2-3 years old despite having 2007 and 2008 published dates. These older articles mention PDAs as the main handheld devices in use. This is no longer the case, we are in the midst of a major change from PDA's to smartphones. In 2007 PDA sales fell by 43% while smartphone sales increased by 60%.

  2. They review 6 out of the 7 smartphone operating systems, Google's G1 Android and the 3G version of the iPhone were unavailable. The authors mentions each operating system's strengths and weaknesses as a whole. Additionally they mention which systems tend to have the most medical applications available.
If you are helping a doctor or nurse decide what smartphone they might want to purchase you might want to forward them this article. In addition to the phone's operating systems and medical resource compatibility, they have to be aware of cell phone plans/charges and what their institution supports. Interesting note: A lot institutions only support Blackberry's for institutional email access, but according to the article, "Blackberry devices still lag somewhat in availability of medical software." So one might have to make some trade offs in functionality and institutional access depending on the device and institutional support.

For those of you who have IT's ear or any IT department readers, you might want to check out the following article:

CIOs will need to support an array of mobile devices and applications. With no dominant applications, healthcare IT executives must provide clinicians with maximum flexibility for their mobile needs. Healthc Inform. 2008 Feb;25(2):54, 56. PMID: 18320880 (free full text)

Perhaps those IT departments that only support Blackberry access might take a lesson from this article as well as from Yale who supports email access for several types of phones but does say to those who "have a need to use a PDA or SmartPhone to send or receive ePHI or other information that may be considered confidential or sensitive, please consult with their IT support provider for recommendations."

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Library Blog Study

Walt at Random is conducting a study on library blogs, The Liblog Landscape, 2007-2008: A Lateral View (may or may not be the final title). He is just finishing up Phase 1 of the study which is to identify liblogs that should be a part of the study and doing blog level metrics for those blogs.

If you know of a blog or blogs (perhaps your own) that meet the criteria for the study and aren't currently on his list you can send him an email and request it to be included. Deadline for submission is this Friday, September 12, 2008.

For more information check out his blog post New libr* blogs? A one-week limited-time request. Let's make sure the medical librarian blogs are represented. :)

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Monday, September 08, 2008


John Sharp added to my Word of the Day Calendar by asking what my thoughts were on apomediation in health care. Apomediation is a new scholarly and social technology term that characterizes the process of disintermediation.

Disintemediation is the removal of the intermediary from the process. In other words "cutting out the middleman." A common example is consumers using the Internet to purchase goods or services directly. Before the Internet, many people relied upon travel agents to get the best deals on airline tickets and vacations. Now days people often book directly online, bypassing the travel agents. Of course the Internet also has acted as intermediary or enabled a different type of intermediary to develop.

An intermediary is a third party who stands in between a consumer and a service, often acting as sort of middle man for the consumer to obtain goods or services by a supplier. For example Autozone serves as the middle man should I want to buy new window wipers. I can't exactly go to the factory and plunk down my credit card and purchase a set so I rely upon Autozone to purchase some from the factory and have them availble for sale.

Apo is latin for spearate or off. An Apomediary would be somebody who is seperate from the process but available should the consumer need help. Gunther Eysenbach goes into great detail about apomediation and Medicine/Health2.0 in his post, Medicine 2.0 Congress Website Launched (and: Definition of Medicine 2.0 / Health 2.0).

In the health context, disintermediation (cutting out the middleman) means
a more direct access of consumer to their personal data (e.g. in web accessible
EHRs – left circle of the diagram) and general medical information (on the web –
right circle of the diagram) with all its advantages and hazards. The main
problem of cutting out the gatekeeper is that the traditional role of the
middleman is to guide consumers to relevant and credible information (the
intersection of both circles in the center of the diagram
) and that by bypassing
the middleman consumers/users may “get lost” in the vast amount of information.
Apomediation theory conceptualizes that “apomediaries” (which includes Web 2.0
approaches) can partly take over the role of the intermediary and “push” or
“guide” users to relevant and accurate information.

As you can see from the diagram librarians and health professionals are labled as intermediaries. While Eysenbach lists friends and online users as apomediaries (the blue green dots sprinkled around the dotted funnel) he primarily focuses on online programs and tools which act as the middleman. Some of the examples he gives are Digg, CiteULike, and the ratings. Eysenbach further states, "health professionals now partly bypass traditional intermediaries such as information brokers or librarians. I remember that when I was in medical school I had a summer job as information broker, where health professionals or scientists would call or see me and I would do an online Medline search for them. "

He acted specifically as an intermediary funneling informaiton to people. He believes things have changed since then. "Today, people obviously use PubMed and other Internet tools directly, and search the web and/or the library for relevant information. But what is "relevant", and how can we deal with the onslaught of information? The "apomediaries" here are shared bookmarking tools such as CiteULike or Connotea, where people receive pointers to recently published relevant literature based on what others with a similar citation/bookmarking behavior have cited/bookmarked." Of course can use CiteULike to your heart's content but if your library didn't purchase the online access to the journal you aren't going to be able to read it to cite it. So merely pointing to the relevant literature may not always fulfill your informational needs.

While I agree that these type of online tools have helped guide people to information and have served as a sort of apomediation function, I disagree that librarians are all intermediaries. I have always thought of my self as an apomediator (even though I had never heard of the word until now). Health professionals do not have to come to me get information, but when they do I guide them (or provide them) to the needed resources and information. Those health professionals that do not specifically come to me for my services are using resources that we create or provide that help them find the information. We are not directly consulted but the tools we have created, paid for, licensed, displayed, are in fact still used to find information. One example is Ebling's Library Tool Bar which is a tool bar plug in to help find information using tools that other Ebling users have found useful. Other librarians have created accounts for users to peruse and help patrons get RSS feeds to searches and journal table of contents. So does that mean librarians are still intermediaries because the tools we create are guiding the users, or are we apomediaries who stand by and create products and guides to push people in the direction when needed?

Are librarians truely intermediaries or are we a combination of an apomediary and intermediary?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Virtual House Cleaning

The school year has started and in our family that means that it is time to put away some of the summer play clothes and begin to make room for fall and winter clothes. Determine what will get packed away for next year, what will get donated to charity, and what will get handed down to the little brother.
The same is kind of true with my online world. Instead of packing up the sunscreen and swim suits, I am looking at my RSS feeds, SDIs, and account. I find that I need to do this once or twice a year to keep things fresh and current. Those of us who have SDIs on MEDLINE are well aware that we should look at them once a year after NLM has finished with their Year End Processing. The same can be said for RSS feeds and

I subscribe to about 150 feeds. That is a lot, but there are quite a few feeds in that list that are probably dead. The blogger stopped blogging long ago and like that favorite pair of jeans that I can't quite fit into I am reluctant to give it up. Usually these dead blogs didn't just cease all of a sudden, posts gradually became more infrequent until one day they stopped all together. There was something that attracted me to each blog, it could have been funny, insightful, or it covered a topic of my interest. I hold on to the feed out of hope that the author will some day begin posting once again. Just like those old jeans in my closet, the dead blog feeds hang in my Bloglines account taking up space and adding to the clutter.
In addition to the dead blogs are active blogs that I really don't read any more. Sometimes they have served my informational needs and I no longer need them. Most often my though, I find that my tastes have changed and I am not as interested in them as I once was. Like the totally cute green sparkly high heeled shoes that I had to have last year, they have been pushed to the back in favor of my new interests. Not to say that the blog or the green sparkly shoes aren't still great, I am just not as interested in them any more. Should I keep the blog in Bloglines on the off chance that it piques my interest again, or should I remove it from my collection like I did to make room for the sleek little patent leather peep toe pumps?
There is also the matter of organizing this information. My Bloglines is simple, it is broken into 4 main categories, medical library stuff, library stuff, fun/humor, and searches. Every blog within the category is arranged alphabetically. It is in much better shape than my closet. My account is my dirty little librarian secret. It is almost in worse shape than my attic was a year ago. As a librarian I love the concept of adding tags and organizing my Internet sites. I love how I can call them up on any computer and share them with friends and family. As a librarian you would think that I would stick to my own controlled vocabulary style and have some method to my madness. Alas, this is not the case. While my inner librarian took control and organized the attic, it was snoozing big time when it came to I have about 100 or so tagged items and my top tag (NIH) only has been used 6 times. The next closest term is web2.0 used 4 times. There is no rhyme or reason as to why I did or didn't use the tag social_networking for things I indexed with terms like twitter, wiki, blog, or blogging. Yes, I have blog and blogging as tags, why I did this I have no idea. The best way I can describe this mess is that my account is my Internet attic. I find a page and if I love it I put it in I know I will use that page, but probably not often enough to immediately type its URL from memory. That is why I put it in I find that I am usually in a hurry when tagging something so I just slap a few tags (often just one tag) on there and save it. Since the items are usually displayed in order of when it was tagged, the most recent are in front while the older and increasingly no longer used items creep to the back. Only after I try and retrieve a long ago tagged item, must I remember where stored it. Is it under blog or blogging? What about web2.0? I fear that in order to straighten this mess out that I will have get down and dirty like I did with the attic. I will look at each tag and figure out what the item is, whether it should be kept or removed. If I am keeping it, then it needs to assigned some predetermined terms and assigned a location (bundle).
Finally you can't forget about your searches. At this time of year I am on the look out for a winter coat for son. I scan the Sunday ads and my email account for sales and deals. Right now it is a winter coat, last November it was a new dishwasher. My needs change with my life. My current awareness searches change as well. Many of my personal current awareness searches are created from PubMed, Medworm, LibWorm and a few other places, the RSS of the search is saved and I read it in my Bloglines account. I find that each year as new trends emerge and others lose favor, I must adjust my searches so that I can stay on top of the information. For example, what good is it to have a current awareness search on Ovid CINAHL when it has moved to EBSCO? Probably just as effective as ads and sales on infant clothes going to my email account when I have six year old and a two year old.

Virtual house cleaning is important in managing the information overload. If you don't do it every once and a while you are going to be met with a ton of information and you won't know what to do with it nor will you be satisfied with what you have. Just like opening the closet to find that among all of those clothes, you can't find anything to wear.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Use For Google Docs

My sister, Danielle and her husband, Ryan in two days will be starting the first leg of the dream trip. They each are taking a 6 months leave absence from their jobs to travel the world. Everything they have must be able to be carried on their backs, there is not a lot of room for extras. However, when you are visiting 30 different places you have a lot of paperwork such as reservations, train tickets, airplane tickets, etc. It is always a good idea to have a photocopy back up of all this paperwork.
In the past Ryan used to just put the photocopied documents in a separate bag, but this trip is a little different. In his blog, Ryan discusses the need to keep backup paperwork for the trip, but also the need to conserve space. According to Ryan, if he were to copy every reservation, airline ticket, insurance document and carry them, it would be like carrying a huge textbook in his backpack. Not only does it add more weight but it takes up precious space. The solution, Google Docs. He was able to store all of his important documents in Word, Excel and PDF. Ryan says, "The last (PDF) is the most useful format in that on most computers these days you can print or save to PDF format. So when completing a reservation on a website, just save the receipt/booking page to PDF and you will be able to open it on pretty much any computer in the world."

So whether you travel for work or for fun this might be a nice way to keep the backups safe and available.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

What is Knol

Google has been testing a new product called Knol. Knol is intended to be a site where authoritative articles on specific topics are available. These articles are written by people "who know all about those subjects." According to the Official Google Blog, "every know will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content."
At first glance there appears to be a lot of health care information on Knol. One of the Feature Knols is Migraine: Mechanisms and Management,by Richard Kraig. Knol topics include Tuberculosis, Pancreatitis, Glaucoma, and many more. From what I can tell many are written by physicians based on the brief author information on each knol. However, I found many authors did not provide Knol with their biographical information, leaving me to question whether the friendly face in the picture really is a physician and if so what their qualifications are. Additionally, Knol has no specific guidelines as to what somebody could publish.

Introduction to Knol:

"So what subjects can I write on?
(Almost) anything you like. You pick the subject and write it the way you
see fit. We don't edit knols nor do we try to enforce any particular viewpoint –
your knol should be written as you want it to be written."

Read Write Web's article, Knol: Google Takes on Wikipedia, provides a nice overview of Knol and mentions that authors can validate their identity on Knol through either a credit card or a phone number. I am less than impressed by this method of validation. I would much rather see some in depth information as to why I should trust Dr. Smart Brain's knol on congestive heart failure vs. Dr. Also Smart on the same knol. You see not only are there no stringent author requirements for posting medical information, but there can be more than one knol on a topic. Great for restaurant and hotel reviews, but potentially confusing (at best) for medical information.

If Knol seems at all familiar then you may have heard about Medpedia, which was recently posted on David Rothman's blog who noted that he saw no criteria for the acceptance of applications for submitting to Medpedia. In a comment to David's post, Angela Simmen said,
"We are confident that a large number of passionate people — some with medical credentials and some without credentials — can collaborate to produce something of very high quality. We also believe that the result of their work will do a better job of answering the general public’s questions than the most popular medical websites of today." Fine and dandy, but what happens if you have an author writing an popular point of view or writes about a controversial topic. There are plenty of passionate people who view early child immunization shots as a direct contributor to autism. Almost equally controversial is the debate on circumcision. Those are just two examples, and we haven't even scratched the surface with drug trials. Need we forget that at one time rofecoxib (Vioxx) was used to treat osteoarthritis and was approved and thought safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration only later to be pulled by the manufacturer concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use.

David has also done a very nice job of compiling a list of medical wikis. Speaking as a consumer (let's forget for a second that I am also a librarian), I would be extremely concerned that neither of these two sites (as well as other medical wikis) do not have any authorship controls. Excellent websites post their authors' credentials and an excellent wiki should also require authors to provide appropriate credentials. AskDrWiki does this, only "licensed clinical professionals who have proven their credentials to the satisfaction of editors," are allowed to contribute. I would challenge all other professional medical wikis to do the same and create some actual standards and criteria for posting.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our Desire To Be Social and Privacy

Two interesting posts today reflect how our desire to be social often carries the a heavy burden of responsibility that many do not adhere to.

John Sharp at eHealth directed my attention to the article, Content of Weblogs Written by Health Professionals, (Journal of General Internal Medicine doi 10.1007/s11606-008-0726-6) studying 271 blogs by medical professionals. It turns out many the blogs (42%)described individual patients, some of those blogs described patient interaction in sufficient enough detail for patients to identify their doctors or themselves. Three blogs included identifiable photos of patients. The study concludes that while bloggs offers an opportunity for professional sharing, many are not being very professional about it by revealing confidential information, their unprofessional narrative tone or content. The authors of the paper feel that "health professions should assume some responsibility for helping authors and readers negotiate these challenges." John Sharp "wonders if there are similar privacy and confidentiality violations within social networking sites for medical professionals."

Well John, I would venture to guess that there are similar privacy and confidentiality issues are happening on social networking sites. Sarah Arnquist recently blogged about the article, Study: Med students sharing a bit too much info on Facebook. This brief article talks about the incredibly poor judgement and unprofessional nature of some medical students.

So where do hospitals stand regarding social networking, blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc.? How many hospitals have policies regarding these technologies and do these policies include a code of conduct or patient confidentiality? Is this whole issue largely under the radar for most hospital administration? Even it it is, where are these people's peers (the blog readers themselves) who should be holding their colleagues feet to the fire regarding the patient confidentiality issues?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

MLA 2008: Social Networking Still Needs A Network

I have to applaud the LAC and all the people behind finding MLA Bloggers to help cover the conference. You all did a great job. Unfortunately, we as an organization still have a long way to go. Despite having Official MLA Bloggers, the first webcast of a plenary session, MLA twitter feed, and what appears (to my eyes) more laptop toting and iPhone clicking people milling about, there was very little social networking (blogging, twittering, or texting) going on. The reason, there was no freaking network on which to be social.

Me and my fellow laptop toters were using laptops almost as divining rods to search for that elusive Internet access. There was no Internet access available in the conference rooms. The MLA wifi router gave out a very weak signal that allowed us to access wifi within a few hundred feet of the MLA LAC booth. Somebody had mentioned to me that I didn't need wifi access I just needed an aircard. Of course that means I would have needed a cell phone signal for the aircard to work. The conference rooms were underground therefore there were no cell phone signals. On the first day of the conference it was actually quite humorous to watch almost everyone stare at their cell phones and do the cell phone dance/contortion to try and find a signal. Although I didn't see anybody go to the lengths this gentleman did, there were many a librarian running up the escalators popping their heads above ground like gophers with cell phones checking voice mail and messages. Two positive things came out of it, I didn't go over my texting plan this meeting and I found out folks with Verizon were able to get some reception as one person lent me a Verizon aircard.

I am not alone in my frustrations. While I think MLA had one of its most "connected" meetings, it really could have been so much more with just a little planning and some wireless access.
It still felt as if MLA treated wifi access as an after thought. Have you ever gone to an ALA? For the past two years (2006 and 2007) free wifi was included. I realize MLA has made deals with the hotel room rates and conference room usage rates years in advance, but let's start thinking of ways to make wifi available. Why have we not investigated having a vendor sponsor free wifi for the meeting? I would gladly give up my meeting bag for free wifi. Why can't we have a few more routers (or stronger ones) strategically placed through out the conference hall so that we can get wifi within the actual meeting rooms? Why is it that while the presenters and speakers are talking about social networking tools, the participants within that same meeting room can't use the very tools the they are talking about?

We have come a long way since my first conference blogging experience in 2006, and with a little planning and creativity we can go even further.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

MySpace, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed

Well if you aren't into the whole Social Networking craze then take heart because according to Lance Ulanoff of, "My Space, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed." He believes the hype and the fate of these programs is similar to the same fate of the millions of personal web pages created in the 1990's.

His theory is that My Space, Second Life, Twitter are "huge, ugly, unmonitored, unrestrained, and pointless." I am sure there are other's out there in the library community and elsewhere who are thinking the same thing. I am not sure if they feel exactly the same or they are just suffering from what I call Burnout 2.0.

If it is true, and all of these and other programs are doomed for failure, I have to ask the question, "Is that necessarily a bad thing?" The Discovery Channel is the most popular television channel in my house. My four year old son and I love watching Dinosaur Planet. His eyes are riveted to the screen as he watches dinosaurs, eat, hunt, migrate, hatch and die. He has learned that birds and dinosaurs are closely related and on some level he has learned about evolution.

So, I have to say that Lance is probably right. These programs are doomed, they will die off. When, who knows. He believes sooner rather than later. Me? I don't know. What I find more interesting is what will take their take their place. What will evolve from these social networking tools? What will these "dinosaurs" of the Internet become?

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

MySpace For Doctors

I have heard of MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But until I read John Sharp's presentation at HIMSS in Cleveland, I had never heard of Sermo. Sermo is "the fastest-growing community created by physicians, for physicians. Here physicians aggregate observations form their daily practice and then -rapidly in large numbers -challenge or corroborate each others opinions, accelerating the emergence of trends and new insights on medications, devices, and treatments."

Sermo is only for MDs and DOs licensed to practice in the United States and is free (more on the free later). It boasts of a membership of over 10,000 physicians and a "patent pending technology to authenticate and credential physicians in real-time." They authenticate each physician at registration and then re-validate upon every sign in.

Sermo users can discuss any topics, pose questions, note other physician observations, comment, search for information, post images, and send posting to colleagues who are not members of Sermo. In short it is MySpace or Facebook for doctors and appears to be very similar to LinkedIn which is an online network for business professionals.

I mentioned earlier that Sermo is free. Sermo is a little vague as to how it supports itself and is able to make money. "Sermo's business model is one of information arbitrage, the opportunity that arises when breaking medical insights intersect with the demand for actionable, market-changing events in healthcare." To me that is vague.

Why do I care how Sermo makes money and I don't care how MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn make money? Because we are talking about medicine and money, and even though big money drug reps can't join, there are plenty of documented cases where doctors with conflicts of interest have promoted one drug or product over another. If you don't believe me or think those are isolated incidents then you didn't hear Arthur Caplan's lecture at MLA this year.

Which brings me to another topic of concern...

There are some paying Sermo clients. Remember when I said that Sermo is free and only doctors can join? Well, I lied. Actually, Sermo kind of did. If you read their FAQ's you will see the question, "How will Sermo paying clients use information from the Sermo community?" Huh!? I thought it was free and only doctors could join. Oh contraire.

"Sermo's clients will use data collected from the Sermo system to help
forecast potential problems or new uses for commercially significant medical
products and therapies, gain early insight into outbreaks and other changes in
disease states and conditions that can affect the public health, perform
epidemiologic research investigations, survey the opinion of practicing
physicians on topics related to medical care, assess the success and adoption of
best practice recommendations, look for opportunities to improve medical
practice, and protect and promote patient safety and the public health."

"Sermo doesn't presume the relative value of any piece of information.
We leave it up to our clients to perceive that value and assign a dollar value
on any piece of information that reflects their interest in a particular topic.
Clients use it to further their goals and get information, the same way
physicians use it to get their questions answered. By maintaining system
availability to all different parties it creates a more diverse community. So
all kinds of different ideas are afforded potential value as opposed to being
given a pre-assigned market value. It is truly grassroots."

There is no indication as to what type of people the paying clients are. Maybe I just watched the X-Files too much and it made me paranoid, but I would like to know more about who can get access by paying money. Because "At the present time, Sermo is open to physicians licensed to practice in the United States." In the future, they will have ways for non-physicians to access Sermo. Are the paying clients the future non-physicians?

I think Sermo is an interesting idea and great way for physicians to network and communicate. It especially offers physicians working in rural or remote locations in the U.S. another means to collaborate and communicate with their peers. I am concerned about the whole money thing. Perhaps I am being too picky but since it has to do with medicine, I think a little more transparency is needed. Perhaps they are vague because it is a hot technology and a hot idea and they are nervous about competition. After all, they are venture backed startup that the folks at The Motley Fool said to add to the IPO watch list.

What is an interesting side note for all of you hospital librarians with IT blocking issues. My hospital blocks MySpace and Facebook but does not block LinkedIn and Sermo. Hmmm, is that an issue of content or could it be that the IT department hasn't learned to block these two social networking sites? It will be interesting if Sermo ends up getting blocked. I bet that is one thing Sermo hasn't considered, hospital IT departments blocking their site just like they block MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, chatting, videos, etc.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Healthcare and Web 2.0

John Sharp, eHealth mentions his presentation on Web 2.0 and Healthcare to the Northern Ohio Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) in Cleveland.

The main themes to John's presentation are:

  • What you need to know about Web 2.0
  • Why you should worry about Web 2.0
  • Why you should use Web 2.0

Because the hospital's network and security is IT's job they are going to come down on the conservative side of things. After all you aren't the one who will be getting paged at 2:30 in the morning if something bad happens. Our job as librarians is to connect people to information freely, and the some of the ways we connect or want to connect people to that information can be understandably scary for the IT people. They aren't the only ones who get freaky with the ideas of access to everything, information control by the masses, and perpetual beta....Just ask a cataloger about social bookmarking and tagging within "their" catalog.

Even though IT people are worried about some Web 2.0 applications, there are reasons to use them as John mentions. The trick is to do so without comprimising the hospital system's network or security. The trick is to come out somewhere in between. Where that is? I am not sure. I am not an IT person I don't know about all of their issues and concerns. However, the IT people are not librarians either, and they don't know or understand all of our issues and concerns.

This presentation is from perspective of the hospital IT people, the very people some of us librarians are trying to reach out to and collaborate with. (Or at the very least get on their email/call list when IP ranges change.) The IT people know about Web 2.0, some are proactive and some aren't. By looking through this presentation and others like it you begin to get some insights into their perspectives. You may not agree with everything, but you at least know a little bit more about what they are thinking. That way when you approach your IT person about chat ref, blogs, wikis, etc. you might be able to address some of their concerns and hopefully get their approval.

That is of course if you can actually get a hold of a friendly face within IT to build a work relationship with. It always seems that once we find "that person" they end up getting transfered to a different area in the hospital system or they leave for another IT company's greener pastures and we are left seeking out another victim...uh I mean friend to educate about the library's IT needs.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

AskDrWiki Editorial Board

If you have been following the AskDrWiki threads around the blogosphere (David Rothman, Doctor Wiki, AMA News, etc.) you will know that the creators of AskDrWiki have instituted a detailed editorial policy to help ensure that accurate and quality medical information is posted.

Unlike many wiki and blog pages, editors on AskDrWiki are not anonymous and are identified with their name and degree. Now the Who is Dr Wiki Page not only lists the editors but it will also link to their resume or curriculum vitae. Examples: Kenny Civello MPH, MD and Brian Jefferson MD.

AskDrWiki is still a little subject heavy in Cardiology, however they are looking for editors in every specialty. For example the Biomedical Informatics section is currently empty, so if there are any librarians, physicians, medical information systems people who specialize in Biomedical Informatics, you might want to drop them an email and help contribute.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Tagging Medical Images

Hardin Medical Library has recently begun applying tags to images from UIHC (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics) -example images from the Dermatology Department and the College of Dentistry.

Sometimes I feel like I have been accidently recruited into a large team building scavenger hunt exercise when I am asked to look for a good medical image online. I have previously mentioned how I think tagging medical images online would be one way to possibly help organize and retrieve good medical pictures. However, I have seen little development in this area, which is a little surprising to me. The only reason I can think is that many medical images are located in pay databases such as images.MD which wouldn't take too kindly to having there images tagged, displayed, and freely. But what also is a little surprising is that images.MD doesn't allow people to tag images. You can save images to your account but you can't tag them with your own words or notes. I personally think that would be a helpful feature.

Why should we stop at tagging only our personal and fun photos on sites like flickr? Tagging could make finding medical images much easier. What would be cool is if there was a site similar to flickr only dedicated to medical images.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Web 2.0 in Clinical Practice

Judy Burnham gave a presenation to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama on Web 2.0 tools in Clinical Practice.

Her handout and PowerPoint presentation are available. She mentioned that during the meeting her library hosted a CyberCafe where attendees could check their e-mail and/or confer with librarians on accessing knowledge based information. The web site developed for the CyberCafe is at

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Friday, March 30, 2007

AskDrWiki in the News

This article, "A Wikipedia-style site for medical information?" appeared in yesterday's (March 29, 2007) Cleveland Plain Dealer. I have been busy with a couple of projects so I am just now getting to blog about it.

David Rothman, was interviewed as a librarian opposed to AskDrWiki and that actually shocked me a little. Even though David has criticized the wiki on his blog in the past, he has also discussed the positives of AskDrWiki as well as other wikis. It wasn't until I read David's blog this morning did I get the full picture. In his post, Cleveland Plain Dealer on Medical Wikis he revealed his frustration of being quoted out of context and his decision to publish his interview with the reporter.

I am very familiar with AskDrWiki and I have been watching it with great interest as one the better examples as to how wikis could work in the medical field. It offers a lot of promise as a learning site that can be used in conjunction with other medical information resources. While I share David's concerns about authority control and errors with medical wikis I am not as jittery as many would think.

Perhaps it is just in my mind but I kind of think of wikis, specifically specialty wikis like AskDrWiki, as a virtual discussion room for individuals. As librarians we look at various resources that our patrons use for information. However one resource we often forget about because we often don't see it, is doctor to doctor personal communication. Doctors (as well as other professionals) often consult each other formally or informally. At the basic level what is the difference between the sharing of information face to face vs. online through a wiki? Both methods are a means of exchanging information. Aah.. but there is a chance that the information posted on AskDrWiki is wrong. Yes. But isn't there also a chance the individual you are consulting in person is wrong? People are infallible, including doctors.

Now that AskDrWiki has instituted a credential review policy, it ensures that at least medical professionals are posting and sharing information which does help with some quality control. However, it does not totally eliminate the chance of errors and I don't know of anything that eliminates that chance completely. Textbooks have been recalled for errors, journal articles have been amended or retracted, and treatments medical society once thought to be the gold standard have been replaced. I tend to think of wikis like other information resources (articles, textbooks, personal discussions, etc.) where the onus is still on the user to verify the information. We do it all the time with print resources or through subtleties in conversation.

The medium is not what should be questioned, it is the information within. Learning is all about asking questions. Wikis offer that opportunity to learn.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Third Party Hosting Services

Many hospital librarians complain about the inability to create and implement certain technology projects because of their hospital IT departments policies. Some libraries just want an web page while others would like to do some more involved things such as hosting a few instructional multimedia files. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest areas where hospital librarians see big difference between their work environment and the work environment of academic medical librarians. We see a lot of the cool technology and we can envision how it would work in our hospital if only we got approval from our IT department.

As many of you know I have been working on using Athens for providing off site authentication for my users. I love it. However it has led to a new problem. Now that I have all these products available off campus to my users, how are they going to be aware of these products to actually use them? Most public libraries and academic libraries have web pages on the Internet so that patrons can browse through resources and use them. However, all of my library web pages are hidden to the outside world because they are on the Intranet. My users can't see the hospital's Intranet when they are off campus. So I need an Internet web page.

It took me a while to find the right person to contact for this specific request, but color me surprised that he was open to the idea. We had a great conversation as to how we could do it in the easiest, most logical way. Whoa. I had to double check the phone number to make sure I was indeed calling the IT department.

I was so prepared for failure that I had begun to look at other solutions. Like many other hospital libraries we do not have the budget or time to buy and maintain our own server. So that wasn't an option. One option I was looking at was getting a third party hosting service. There are a lot of companies out there that offer hosting services. You need to do your homework to determine necessary account features like disk storage size, bandwidth, support, programming, etc. You also want to see what kind of technology platform they provide i.e. Windows, Unix/Linux servers, or both, because that can impact what type of applications you can run.

Two hosting services that come to mind are and DreamHost. LISHost started by Blake Carver is librarian focused and already hosts several small public libraries. Cost is a major concern for many small hospital libraries and these services can be actually quite reasonable. For example, DreamHost has multiple package levels ranging from $10/month to $80/month depending on your needs

You also need to start talking to the appropriate people in your hospital. Start first with IT. They may have some ideas and solutions that might work without the need to go to an outside company. If they don't they might be able to give you an idea on technical requirements that you might need. You also want to make sure they are kosher with the library getting services from an outside hosting company. Some IT people I have talked to were fine with it because it is one less thing they had to worry about. You will also probably need to talk to somebody in administration and quite possibly legal. After all, you are putting up a web site with the hospital name on it. They will want to make sure you are not including medical advice or slandering the hospital in any way. You need to stress that you are not going to be dealing with patient information and dispensing medical advice in any way. Try to get them to see it as something similar as university's medical library on the web. They don't provide patient or medical information.

It is second nature for librarians to look outside of the institution to provide articles, books and "library stuff." However, many of us have been so locked into the tunnel vision of what we can't do because of IT policies, that we me have forgotten to look outside of the institution for technology solutions. Perhaps outsourcing and using a third party hosting service offers us a way to provide better electronic services to our patrons.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cataloging Changes and Web 2.0 Functionality

All of you catalogers out there might want to take a look at this article (free online) "Catalog/Cataloging Changes and Web 2.0 Funtionality: New Directions for Serials," by Rebecca Kemp.

This article presents an overview of some of the important recent developments in cataloging theory and practice and online catalog design. Changes in cataloging theory and practice include the incorporation of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records principles into catalogs, the new Resource Description and Access cataloging manual, and the new CONSER Standard Record. Web 2.0 functionalities and advances in search technology and results displays are influencing online catalog design. The paper ends with hypothetical scenarios in which a catalog, enhanced by the developments described, fulfills the task of find serials articles and titles.

Kemp mentions that many features of modern day catalogs are still based off of the old card catalog. She says the OPAC is now at a critical juncture in time where there are major conceptual and technological developments occurring. This article will give you an idea of the directions catalogs are heading and their continual evolution.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Web 2.0 in Health Information Management

John Sharp reports A Limited Showing for Web 2.0 at the HIMSS (Healthcare Information Management Systems Society) annual conference this year. It appears that healthcare organizations and companies are taking the slow road to adopting these social networking technologies.

In his post Web 2.0 in Health Care - Where's the Value, John mentions that the healthcare industry strives to minimize risk (patients health, legal, etc.) and maximize authority control (clinical trials, peer review, records management, etc.) by ensuring reliable, authoritive, trustworthy information. This mindset seems to be at odds with the principles of open social networking where everyone owns, contributes, and is responsible for information. Essentially the wisdom of a select few vs. the wisdom of the masses. However, all is not lost, according to John social networking in healthcare will eventually come to fruition. "Web 2.0 concepts have been present in healthcare for a long time but at the same time the technology is perceived as a threat. A contradiction? No, just a social trend which will take time to sort out."

I find these two posts particularly interesting because it give medical librarians a small glimpse into the world of healthcare information managers (the IT department) and social networking. Some librarians report their IT departments are fairly flexible and allow them to do some Web 2.0 things such as IM for reference questions. While other librarians report their IT departments are resistant to anything and everything and they can't even create their own library home pages on the hospital's intranet site.

I find it ironic that the very people responsible for technology in the hospital workplace finds social technology a threat. Why? Do they fear it because it is new? Or do they fear the loss of control?


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nine Easy Web-Based Collaboration Tools

Are you looking for some ways to collaborate with colleagues and help users that goes beyond the typical way of emailing documents back and forth? If so you might want to check out the's article, "Nine Easy Web-Based Collaboration Tools." Most of the tools are free or low cost. The article is a little Google heavy, five out of nine tools mention are from Google. But it is an interesting article and might help jumpstart your creative juices.

In addition to the nine Forbes listed (Google Apps For Your Domain, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Apps Premier Edition, Google Notebook, Zoho, Bluetie, Basecamp, and Wikis) there are some other that you might consider.

RefWorks -More costly than the freebie (or near free) software in the article, but if your institution already uses RefMan or EndNote you might be pleasantly surprised at how RefWorks can help your researchers share research, citations, and import and organize RSS feeds. If you think of RefWorks as a traditional reference manager program then you are missing out on some its best features that set it apart from other traditional products.

Meebo -Free web messenger that allows you to access IM from anywhere and supports msn, yahoo, aol, google, icq, and jabber. Meebo and the Meebo Me widget can make chat ref a possiblity to some smaller or cash strapped libraries. Some drawbacks are that some institutions block Meebo. However, if you are interested in providing chat ref to your users, why not present your case to your IT department as to why Meebo should be unblocked.

aNobii - Allows you to create, share and explore booklists. Similar to LibraryThing you can catalog, rate, tag and comment on items. Unlike LibraryThing, aNobiii allows you to track your by progress by adding the book into one five categories (Not Started, Finished, Reading, Unfinished, Reference) and has a circulation feature. The circulation feature allow you to keep track of what books you have loaned and to whom but it also allows you to automatically send out reminders for late books. While aNobii might be directed towards avid readers for personal use, it also might work well for very small libraries. Who knows. and - Are two social bookmarking sites. is primarily used by medical researchers and clinicians to track references and academics use to share, store and organize academic papers. Both free, Connotea (created by Nature Publishing Group) and CiteULike are very similar. With the click of a button users can add online papers or websites to their personal library.

What collaboration tools do you like or are using and why?


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Five Weeks to a Social Library

The 5 Weeks to a Social Library course is a completely free and completely online course devoted to teaching librarians about social software and its use in libraries. Eventhough the course is limited to 40 participants (already chosen), everybody may access the course content.

The course will cover Blogs, RSS, Wikis, Social Networking Software and SecondLife, Flickr, Social Bookmarking, and Selling Social Software at your Library.

Week 1: Blogs and Week 2: RSS and Social Bookmarking are available already. In David Rothman's blog he mentions Melissa L. Rethlefsen's screencast to demonstrating some of the cool things that can be done with RSS on a Library’s Web site. *small note* You might have to watch the screencast from home if your institution blocks

For anybody who is interested in how these technologies can be used in libraries, I would recommend checking out 5 Weeks to a Social Library to get some ideas.

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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: