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National Library of Medicine Update (MLA13 Boston)

Photo of a slide showing user expectations, ILL librarian expectations, and an ideal future.

Slide from presentation showing What users want out of ILL. What ILL librarians think are issues with ILL currently. What a perfect world future of ILL would look like.

This year I got to go to the annual presentation by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at MLA.  NLM is an important medical library resource, as it provides many free, trustworthy health, medicine, and science research resources to the public.  The NLM Update provides information on any important changes by NLM in the last year, as well as just any information/resources they would like to highlight.

  • clinicaltrials.gov
    • have data available of national origin of studies
    • you can build your own specialized view if you’d like to
    • a unique source of summary results for many trials
    • NN/LMx training for librarians coming soon
  • standardization makes information more usable
  • SNOMED Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT)
  • Genetic Testing Registry
    • 3,005 tests registered by 290 labs in 37 countries
    • useful inks for EHRs (Electronic Health Records)
    • international standard for location of genetic variations
  • PubMed Health
    • more digitized guidelines
    • specifically focused on flu site
    • working on global microbial identifier for food-borne pathogens
  • FY 2013 budget
    • lost 5.5% annum ($19.2 million less)
    • people are the most important NLM resource.  Call them “brain-ware.”
  • Index Cat
    • XML data available for 3.7million citations
    • index journals we trust cover-to-cover to keep up
  • NLM exhibits
    • Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness” is current exhibit.
    • There is an app of the interviews portion of the exhibit available on iTunes
    • The NLM traveling exhibition program has been booked by 457 institution in 48 states.
    • The Harry Potter exhibit grew out of last-minute attempt to make science interesting to middle schoolers.
    • Traveling exhibits consist of 6 banners that can be rolled into mailing tubes for quick shipment.
    • You must do local programming to borrow an exhibit
  • NLM Associate Fellowship Program
  • MedPrint
    • a program to get libraries to commit to keep print runs of journals
    • check page to see what’s been saved already
  • Environmental Health and Toxicology
  • Disaster Information Management Research Center
  • Inter-Library Loan (ILL)
    • requests down almost 50% in last 10 years in Docline
    • investigating this
    • conference call with focus groups representing:
      • hospitals
      • large academic libraries
      • special libraries
    • not planning to take Docline away
    • national survey in March 2013
      • 60% hospitals
      • agreed journals are electronic now
      • disagreement on if licenses are easy to understand
  • MedlinePlus
    • 15 years old in English, 10 years old in Spanish
    • multiple language link –> follows US medical practices, also available in English translation
    • US is 37% of users
    • very active twitter account
    • mobile site
      • going through usability study
      • More Spanish speaking males use than females.  More English speaking females use than males.
      • most of us want the full site not the mobile site
  • MedlinePlus Connect
    • allows EHR to send a code and get back patient-specific health information
  • 5 day posting of jobs is a requirement of the government to speed up hirings.  It is not a sign that they already know who to hire.

After the NLM Update, I attended the poster sessions.  This is not something one tends to take notes at, so I don’t have very much to say about them, except that I am proud of my medical librarian friend who had a poster in the session. Go Katie!

Up next, the final plenary session! Phew!

My Tentative Journey With eBooks

August 26, 2010 8 comments

A while back, I told you guys that I’m continuing my tentative steps into eBooks, but it hadn’t been very successful yet.  I admit this is partly because I’m a broke-ass graduate student, and so I don’t exactly have the cash to shell out for what I see as an extravagance.  Why get an eReader when I can get used books for under $5 a pop?  (For why I don’t have time to use the local library, see this post).  I’ve tried downloading eBooks that are available as pdf’s onto my computer, but I always made it only about as far through as a blog’s archives before losing focus.  Or I’d have to leave it and come back the next day and be incapable of finding where I left off.  I just can’t read a book on a computer.  Nuh-uh.  A computer is for article-length pieces.  I just can’t get past the part where I’m looking at a computer to get lost in the story.

When I got my iTouch, I decided to venture in yet again.  But I repeat that I’m a cheapskate, so I downloaded a couple of the various apps available for 99 cents that provide huge selections of out of copyright classics to read.  Although I was able to focus on the screen, it reminded me a lot of my speed-reading classes in middle school, because the screen automatically fades at a certain point (I’m not sure how long), so I’d either have to keep tapping the screen to keep it from doing that or read insanely fast.  The speed might not have been an issue if I wasn’t attempting to read classics, but I always read classics kind of slowly.  I get wrapped up in the language and the world-building.  Classics are about slow reading versus the fast reading of genre fiction for me.  I got about 3 chapters into two different classics before giving up and stopping.

Well then people started talking about the iBook app, and since I love everything Mac, I decided to download it, but upon trying I found out that my iTouch is too old to support it, at which point I started browsing the eReader section of the app store and saw the Kindle app.  For some reason, it had previously escaped my attention that the Kindle even had an app for Mac products.  I vaguely remembered some book blogs mentioning that you can get some books for free in the Kindle store, and the app was free, and….do I really need to repeat what a cheapskate I am?  Lol.

So I figured where am I most likely to read on my iTouch?  That’s easy.  On the bus when I can’t sit, need to hold on with one hand, and getting a book out of my bag is difficult.  What would I like to read on the bus but am embarrassed to?  Romance novels.  So I found a free romance novel and downloaded it.  The nice thing about the Kindle app, the main thing that made me start to relax into reading with it, is that the backlighting never fades.  I’m not so caught up in beating the fading light that I’m incapable of getting lost in the story.  So that was going fairly well, although I was still choosing to read my print book over the eBook whenever it was possible.

Then a certain book was released.  A book in a trilogy that is honestly a guilty pleasure for me.  (I’ll leave the reasonings for that for when I review the book next week).  I had decided I wasn’t going to buy the book; I’d just read spoilers and be happy with that.  But then the day of the release, I was getting frustrated at the complete lack of spoilers on the internet and while watching tv browsed to the Amazon store on my iTouch, and before I knew it, I’d bought the book.  I didn’t feel bad about the price, because it was less than the price of a movie ticket, and I view guilty pleasure reads a lot like going to the movies.  It’s brief entertainment, and I don’t need to hold onto it.  Let it entertain me for a bit, and in most cases, I won’t ever come back to it (my dvd collection is very, very small).

I was still skeptical about my desire to read on the small electronic screen of my iTouch, but I figured worst case scenario I’d skim for the spoilers and read it in print when the hoopla settles down.  I started reading it when standing on the bus in the morning, got a seat, and found myself wanting to keep reading on my iTouch over my print book.  And then on lunch break I decided I’d rather see what happened in that story than in the one I’m reading in print and discovered how much easier it is to eat and read when you can just set the book down and the pages don’t close on you.  Whoa.  Then I found myself sitting on my couch reading the iTouch.  Then last night in bed I suddenly realized I could turn out all the lights and still see to read because my book was lighting itself up. Whoa.

You guys….I have to admit….I like it.  Now that’s not to say I don’t have my issues with it.  For instance, nice as it is to read in the dark, sunny locations fade the screen so much that it’s sometimes nearly impossible to read.  I also don’t like the thought of the battery maybe running out.  (I may have obsessively recharged my iTouch yesterday.  *looks askance*)  I also don’t like how very small the iTouch screen is.  I also would never ever want an electronic device just for reading.  Part of the convenience on transit is having my music, videogames, and book all in one item.  Having something like a Kindle or a Nook seems rather pointless to me.  It’s one more device to carry.  So what has a larger screen but does all that?  The iPad.  I think the iPad still has issues.  Like I personally think it’s too big and too thick, (that’s what she said) but I think the next generation is going to solve those problems.  So…yeah, I see myself doing some electronic reading in the future.  But never on a device meant just for reading.  I also only see the value in it for guilty pleasure reads.  It works for me because of the way I read guilty pleasures.  I read quickly, sometimes skimming, because the story is all about the excitement or the hilarity.  It’s not about the deep thought.  I can’t see me reading a book that changes my life on an electronic device.  That just rings false to me.  But reading a story that’s about consuming it once kind of like buying movie popcorn for the pure pleasure of chowing down the greasy, salty deliciousness?  That makes sense to me.  So that’s the role I see eBooks taking in my life.  The reading equivalent of movie popcorn, and who doesn’t like movie popcorn every once in a while?

Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

A woman dressed in white posing for a portrait.Summary:
Originally serialized in 1859 to 1860 then published in book form in 1860 this epistolary novel is considered one of the first mystery novels. Walter Hartright is an artist who gets hired to be a drawing master for two half-sisters Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe. He and Laura soon fall in love, but they cannot be together due to class differences and Laura’s prior promise to her now deceased father to marry Lord Percival Glyde. A mysterious woman dressed all in white warns Laura against her marriage, calling Lord Glyde evil. However, Laura is reluctant to renege on her final promise to her father and proceeds with her marriage, sending herself, Marian, and Walter into a spiral of intrigue and danger.

Review:
I love slow-moving, epistolary novels, particularly gothic ones read on a long, hot summer day.  One of my finest reading memories is of enjoying Dracula while working on a summer internship at a national park on a peninsula with four beaches.  So I came to this gothic, mysterious, epistolary novel with high expectations.  At first they were met, but as the plot proceeded I came more and more to want to smack Collins upside the head.

Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that the slowly building tension indicates a truly serious infraction on Lord Percival Glyde’s part that turns out to be not particularly shocking at all.  At least to my American mind.  Suffice it to say, it revolves around title holding, something which I find baffling and laughable.  Why should anyone care if Laura is Mrs. Glyde or Lady Glyde?  Her life seems more boring than the servants’ anyway.  I thought I would be reading a novel that was more about revealing the treachery and debauchery of the upper class.  Instead I got a book about bourgeois problems, which, I’ve indicated elsewhere on this blog, I simply cannot relate to and find completely annoying.  I get it that some people enjoy that, but the desire to maintain a tense, mysterious illusion around the book led me to believe it’s something it wasn’t.  That is frustrating, to say the least.

Beyond the disappointing mystery there’s of course the typical problems found in early 1800s literature.  The sexism comes from Marian’s own mouth, which is surprising given that she is a depicted as a strong woman.  She often will lament the short-comings of “her sex.”  Actually, the entire situation between Walter, Marian, and Laura is baffling.  Laura is a weak, foolish girl who Walter falls and stays head over heels in love with.  I cannot fathom why that would be when he spends an equal amount of time with Marian, who is a strong, thoughtful, intelligent woman.  Laura is described as beautiful, whereas Marian is described as possessing a beautiful body but an unfortunately masculine face.  This leads me to believe Walter is rather shallow, as I see no reason beyond Laura’s beauty for his devotion to her.  I know sexism is to be expected in older novels, but I would at least hope for a hero who loves the heroine for something beyond her beauty.

That said, the novel certainly gives modern women a new appreciation for our current situation.  The women in The Woman in White are constantly downtrodden by the men around them who believe it is entirely within their right to dictate to them everything about how they should behave, speak, dress, etc…  It appears that the only thing the women have control over is when to leave the men to their wine after dinner.  In fact the couple presented as the happiest and most well-functioning is that of Count Fosco and his wife, and they only function well due to the fact that she obeys his every command.  Mrs. Fosco is described as a woman who prior to meeting the Count was loud, obnoxious, and always yammering on about women’s rights.  Count Fosco, apparently, “fixed all that,” and she is now such a pleasant woman to deal with.  The only woman who does not base her entire existence around a man is Marian, and that is due to her bizarre, near worshipful devotion to Laura.  It makes me shudder to think if those had been my options as a woman–existing purely for the whims of a man, downtrodden and outcast, or pure devotion to a sister.  Yeesh.

I did enjoy listening to the book.  It felt a bit like listening to an old-time radio program, which I’m sure is due to its origin as a serial novel.  Those who enjoy the slower pace of older novels and can relate to the bourgeoisie will probably enjoy it.  If either of those elements turns you off, however, you should look elsewhere.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Librivox recording via the Audiobooks app for the iTouch and iPhone

Buy It

The Masterpieces App

November 13, 2009 2 comments

I recently acquired an iPod Touch, which led to me downloading some apps.  This means that the Oregon Trail app is competing with my current read for attention on my commute.  One day though while browsing the app store, I found one called “Masterpieces.”  It was around 20 books for 99cents.

I have no idea why I bought this.  I have a distinct aversion to eBooks.  I don’t care if that makes me an old fogey at the ripe age of 23; I much prefer holding the paper book firmly in my hand.  Not to mention that I hate staring at screens for fun when I stare at them at work all day.

Today though my bus was abnormally full, which led me to standing and holding the pole with one hand leaving one hand free.  Usually that’s enough to hold a book, but my current one has a broken binding and pages that have to be held in.  I also couldn’t play the Oregon Trail with only one hand.  All of a sudden, I found myself opening the Masterpieces app.  Just as I had chosen a classic to start reading, a seat next to me freed up.  Relieved, I sat down and pulled out my paper book.

I realized later though that although I was relieved to be able to read my paper book, I also was relieved when I was standing up that I had an option besides music to get me through the commute.

Maybe there’s a place in my life for eBooks after all.