Day in the Life wrap up and other interests

It is a few days past the end of the Day in the Life Project for this year, but I thought I would write a bit of a wrap up. If you have read any of the other blogs and twitters from last week, you will see that librarians do many, many things. The main thing is, we want to help people by providing them with the information that will give them the knowledge they need to live a better life (and sometimes that means doing an assignment for class). We want to fill information gaps (see Brenda Dervin’s research if you didn’t cover that in library school). I love the fact that my job includes helping friends with medical information needs, finding agriculture extension service pamphlets on pasturage for other friends, giving advice to colleagues and teaching students and faculty to find what they need, reviewing books, and more. In many ways, it is a golden age in librarianship – you can really work to create the job you want, there are so many directions right now.
That said, I have other interest outside of librarianship and when I was talking with a co-worker I mentioned embroidery and she was interested, so here is my embroidery blog link – just in case you are into needlework.

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Thursday – Library Day in the Life Project

I was back in the Library building today. I always start out slow if I can, making a pot of coffee and reading emails and my Google Reader and maybe even Twitter or now Google +, to see what people are reading or posting. So I was able to start the day my usual way, but at 9:30 I had to change to my IT liaison/database manager for a medical school department hat for a meeting. In that position, I look after the data storage for all the images and research data created in the department. Today we were working out a move from the university IT to the School of Medicine IT as managers for our server and storage space. This will allow researchers to have their research data server access automatically come up when they log into a computer on the SOM system. Up until now they have had a second log in. I’m hoping this will make things easier for everyone. It was a successful meeting but we’ll see how well it goes when we transition all the privileges in late August.
Then back to the Library where I discovered my computer had died. Totally gone. So I had to call our Library Information Systems department and somebody came and took the laptop part of my computer away – leaving me with two useless monitors. Luckily there was an open computer at the student helper desk so I could finish up the handout I had to update. Actually, after consulting with the library director I redesigned it. But I hope now it is easier to use.
To finish off my day, I sat with some other staff members in our distance ed room to view an Academic Impressions webinar on copyright and digital reserves, I’m never going to be an expert on copyright, but it is always useful to know what is going on in case a faculty member asks me.
The one good thing to come from my computer giving out, was that I finished the day by organizing my desk. I had a good-sized pile of papers and notes that needed to be filed, so I took care of that before heading out. Luckily I’m not in the library until next Tuesday, so hopefully I will have a working computer by then.

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Wednesday – Day in the Life Project

I’m out of the library again today – providing taxi and groom service to my younger daughter who has a horse show today. But as I mentioned Monday, I am able to do many things from home thanks to computers and the Internet.
Today I’m updating a handout to go into the packets of information for first year medical students. There have been several changes to the information since last year, so I’m updating the appropriate sections. We have so many new digital resources, these handouts need to change focus from the physical collection to the digital collection, but we still need to stress the help we can provide. This is actually helpful for me, because as I check each entry to be sure the information is correct, I update my knowledge of the libraries here. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our specific duties we forget to keep abreast of the whole picture.
And if I have time, I’m going to review the first week of Get Mobilized! An introduction to mobile resources and tools in health sciences libraries. The South Central Chapter of MLA has set this course up and it looks like it is going to be very interesting. While I have played around with lots of apps on my iTouch, including some medical ones (and of course Angry Birds), I haven’t systematically worked with any one thing to the point of being able to teach it well. I’m hoping the structure of a course, with somebody pointing out the really useful things, will expand my knowledge and make it easier to help the students and health care providers.

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Tuesday – Library Day in the Life Project

Well, today I got out of my pjs and into clothes so I could work in the Library.
The day started with a small class of three internal medicine residents. We have about one class a month, each with a different group as they rotate through their residency. They have an assignment that has a question for each different data base or tool they will need for their work. They get some PubMed training from the hospital education department, but we add to that and show them the resources the library has, from e-Books to FirstConsult. In order to facilitate the teaching, and make it easier on the residents, we have set up a Research Guide for the program. Most of the librarians take a turn at teaching this class, and it is interesting when you get to teach it more than once. Each group has their own dynamic and different questions or concerns. But all groups love seeing a bibliography created with the touch of a button in RefWorks.
After teaching, I was off to the computer lab in another building for a BLAST class. I always like to expand and reinforce my skills with the NCBI databases so this was a good class. It is taught by Dr. Medha Bhagwat at the NIH Library using video conferencing. I always enjoy her classes and she is very knowledgeable about everything.
Of course, when you have teenagers at home, you always have the chance of emergency messages, so while I walked over the the class and during the introduction, I was dealing with the dog throwing up on the door mat. My older daughter thought it should go in the washer, but it is a stiff mat and that won’t work, so I told her to hose it down, but she didn’t think that would be clean enough. I sent a text back asking how she though people cleaned things before washing machines. To which she replied, “The somewhat less sanitary way”. At that point I couldn’t argue any more, so I wrote back to throw the mat outside and I would take care of it. Can’t wait to get home!
After lunch I sat through a Mendeley webinar at my desk. I’ve been interested in learning more about Mendeley because I couldn’t figure out who had access to the pdfs stored in the cloud and indexed using Mendeley. Things are a little clearer now, although I still have some questions about copyright and storing pdfs in a cloud. I’d be happy if somebody can direct me to answers. I also wonder which researcher in a collaboration gets to choose the bibliographic software. The system does seem very good and I like programs that allow you to drag and drop things, so I will be testing Mendeley further. And I think an open citation tool to go with open access publishing is a good thing. So I’ll test and write more later.
I’ve also had a few email reference questions, nothing as dramatic as yesterday – still waiting for SFX to start working the Science Direct. So all in all, another interesting day.

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Monday – Library Day in the Life Project

This year I am participating in the Library Day in the Life Project.
I looked over the list of participants and thought my perspective as a biomedical librarian might be a nice addition to the other names.
I work part-time, so today was a day off for me, except for a bit of coverage of our e-reference service. I worked full time until 1999, when I left my job as Director of Libraries at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in NY to stay home and care for my daughters. I’ve been lucky since then that once my girls were in school, my skills were in demand and I could choose my own hours. I have been Reference & Education Librarian (part-time) at the Tompkins-McCaw Library for Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University since 2007.
Anyway, today’s big excitement was that our SFX system does not seem to be working with Elsevier’s Science Direct. This is a major problem for our Library since there are so many Elsevier titles used in the sciences. Luckily we have a mechanism in place to report problems with our journal list, which I did when the first problem came through. When the second email came through I was able to pass on that it was more than an isolated problem. At this point, I also sent out a message to the reference librarians list and the service desk list so people would know that the link in our catalog was still working.
I also answered a few other questions about print holdings and donations and a purchase request.
What is really wonderful about all this is that I did it at home in my pjs, with my first coffee in hand. I can’t help but think back to my first library positions in 1986 – sending MEDLINE searches to NLM with a dumb terminal and not knowing if my spelling was correct until I hit the return key. And I couldn’t do that searching until I had a 3 day training course at CISTI in Ottawa (in winter, but that is another story). Even when I started at the CSHL library in 1993, I was using gopher to find things and the IT director installing Netscape was the second highlight of 1994 (after the birth of my second daughter).
So the library profession is really a wonderful, flexible, expanding field. In fact, last Friday I was accepted into the Graduate Certificate in Biomedical Informatics program at Oregon Health Sciences University with full-tuition assistance – through an NIH grant. In the field of health sciences librarianship, this is really an exciting advance – our database and searching skills being used for more than bibliographic data.

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Quick Reviews: The Filter Bubble & The Googlization of Everything

I’ve just finished reading The Filter Bubble and The Googlization of Everything back to back. Both books are quite readable and very interesting (either author would make a good MLA’13 speaker).
There are some aspects of these books that are similar, e.g. filtering the content shown when we search and selling out mouse clicks, but even with the overlap, both books are worth reading.
From a medical librarian’s perspective I think we must re-educate any health care professional or student who thinks Google searching is enough (let’s not consider Google Scholar at this point). Google does not charge us to search because it makes its money off of our opinions as measured by mouse clicks. And it stores these opinions to learn about you and return better searches. The page rank algorithms that are also used, don’t decide what is best, but what sites have the most links and visits (I realize this is based on citation indexing but there are concerns about that too). Google also used cookies and URLs to provide location specific retrieval. All this means that a medical search is unlikely to pull up the most relevant or evidence-based materials. Filters are a problem as well because many people don’t realize their results are being filtered based on past choices and location, and we don’t really know what the algorithms are anyway.
Google Scholar can be useful for searching for obscure terms in full-text articles, but a search for common terms will yield an overabundance of results. It can also be useful for multidisciplinary searching or subject searching when an institution does not have a paid database covering the topic(s). But searchers have no idea how it ranks and sorts results, and the coverage from suppliers/publishers is uneven.
Politically, these books are fascinating. Pariser suggests that as we let filters decide what we will see, we let some algorithm act as a censor for the information we retrieve. Google filters on the basis of our past mouse clicks and purchases. Facebook filters on the basis of who and what we click on and provides personalized ads based on your ‘Likes’ and your friends’ ‘Likes”. So you aren’t seeing everything and you could potentially miss important events. These filters reduce the chance of serendipitous discovery, and Vaidhyanathan suggests this will also affect scholarship. Some materials could be filtered out if a student or researcher uses Google to find what they need.
There is so much more in these books about political activism, the Google Books scanning project, the effects on personal and collective memory, and more. It will take a while for me to digest it all, but from now on my teaching sessions will include a warning about using Google.
Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. Penguin Press; 2011.
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry). University of California Press; 2011.

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What, no Network?

When I arrived at work today, 15 minutes after the Library opening, I was greeted with the news that the network was out and we should all go home. I jokingly said “We still have books!”
It wasn’t until I sat down at my desk and thought about what I had planned for the day that I realized that everything I needed to do was wrapped up in having network and Internet access. I was going to conduct a preliminary search on PubMed for a consultation I have tomorrow. Even if I wanted to use the 3G network on my cell phone to do a PubMed search, the subject is in a work email I can’t access. I also have 3 new lectures to prepare. I will be combining various features of old lectures for these new ones so I can probably mix and match outlines I have on my hard drive and jump drive, but I won’t be able to test and update links. And since we recently moved from a Novell network to a Name Authority system, I finally had a personal drive set up and I’ve been using that for saving, so I don’t know if the outlines in my hard drive are the most recent anyway. Obviously, I can’t answer the questions that have come into our ‘Ask Us’ email account, so there is another task derailed. And I can’t respond to any questions in my own email. If I wanted to punish myself by reading blogs on my cell phone, I guess I could do that, but it seems a waste of my data minutes.
And now, after 45 minutes of no network, the University text alert system has just sent a message that we are down. I’m sure some people think they should use the emergency sirens and tell people to stay away from campus!
What to do? After all, we did manage before the Internet! In a time before WWW or even Gopher, we had one computer for a room full of librarians and we managed to work all day! (I’m not that old, there has always been a computer for at least word processing since I’ve been working in libraries.)
So even though I can’t do my original tasks, what can I do, aside from head over to the cafeteria and sit and chat with others who don’t know what to do?
I could read one of the many reports on e-science and data curation I’ve printed out. I could clean out my files. I could review my task lists and calendar – since I haven’t yet figured out the best programs for getting my Lotus Notes calendar onto the iTouch calendar, I’m still using a paper calendar to keep track of my life, so I’m not dependent on a computer. I could review my AHIP application and make sure I have copies of all the certificates and letters I’ve been collecting. I could even go out and get the latest issues of Science and JAMA and do some reading. So, when I think about it, there are many things I can do with no network. Now if I had no computer …
Update: Network access was sporadic all day, but it did work for most of my consult with one of the hospital residents. We’ve had word that the offending router has been replaced. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow

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Daniel Pink at MLA

I just attended a wonderful lecture by Danial Pink at MLA. I read his book “A Whole New Mind” last year when it was first announced that it would be the ‘group read’ for MLA this year. Of course I took it out of the library, but I loved it so much, I purchased a copy for myself and have reread bits throught the year.
I was great to hear him go over the ideas in his book and hear his enthusiasm for the subject. Here are a few points that I took from the lecture, remembering that I didn’t know his 6 key attibutes since I have them in the book.
– Give people something ghey don’t know they were missing (his example was the iPad) – this was likened to category creation rather than just adding to categories. We have to address new problems.
– putting things in context is very important – story helps to put facts in context and deliver them with empathy.
-companies are looking for people with depth and breadth. It is not enough to know everything about one subject, we have to be able to relate that to many areas we know something about
-Empathy is very important, especially in the medical profession
– we (librarians) have to think of what we can do that can’t be done by Google – including context, connections (?maybe translational med.) and translation – presenting specialized info to those who don’t understand the terms.
Daniel Pink ended with a discussion of Meaning and Gratitude:
what is your sentence? from Clare Booth Luce (Google ‘Clare Booth Luce Kennedy sentence’ to see lots on this)
Was I better today than yesterday?
What are we grateful for?
All in all, an excellent lecture!

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Deciding on Twitter and Other Social Media

Whenever something new comes up technology wise, I usually try it to see if it will be useful. I have tried Google Wave, LinkedIn, Ning, and of course I set up a Twitter account early on. It was quite helpful back when the new PubMed came out to find and read some of the first comments about the new system. But I haven’t done much with most of the accounts, mainly because I’m too busy to play and learn when I haven’t figured out the value. Eventually I might like these things, but for now I’m not decided.
A recent post over on Laika’s MedLibLog has made me even more wary of Twitter.
But following the MLA Annual twitter feed was great when I was out in the hospitality booth during the opening. And we tried a group twitter feed when I was at the Woods Hole Biomedical Informatics course, which was also fun. So I’m still uncertain.
On the other hand, the advertising for non-library products on LInkedIn MLA group doesn’t make me want to do much with that group. But a recent Virginia science librarians group on LinkedIn might change my mind.
I am a Facebook fan though. I like keeping up with family who all live quite some distance away. And it has been a wonderful way for my daughters to get to know various family members. I use the same account professionally as well, and it is always interesting to see the interesting notes and links that come through on my colleagues accounts.
So I’ll keep trying and reading about how to effectively use the new media. I do like keeping up with things, after all the Internet is an exciting place.

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Time for a New Challenge

Hi. My name is Margaret Henderson and I’m a part-time biomedical librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University. I also work part-time for one of the science departments at the School of Medicine setting up an image database. I am very interested in the rise of informatics as a potential future for librarians, eScience, teaching, research and collaboration. Actually, I’m interested in most anything in our field and I always have a hard time deciding on what to attend when I go to a meeting.
Speaking of meetings, I’ll be at MLA in DC giving 2 lightening posters. One on alternative PubMed search interfaces and another on a staff training program I have helped develop in my library. A week later, I’ll be going to the Bioinformatics course at Woods Hole – so I should have lots to blog about over the next couple of months.
Why a blog? Well, I have an embroidery blog that helps me share ideas, get feedback and help, clarify my ideas, and act as a notebook to remind me of techniques and previous trials. I realized that something similar to help pull together all the notes, on various media, on various library topics that I have been trying to figure out and organize might work as a blog where I can get feedback (hopefully) or at least get clarity in my mind from actually writing things out. And then I will have the blog searching and indexing to help me find my ideas later.
So, hopefully I will have something useful to say on a variety of topics and readers will have comments that will help me learn more about whatever I’ve been writing about. As always, the views I express in my blog are mine and in no way reflect the official policies of the institution (and equally, their views aren’t always mine). That said, I really do enjoy my work and I love all the things I do here.
Hope to hear from you.

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