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.
This year I am participating in the Library Day in the Life Project.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.