Wednesday, April 29, 2009

91 years: Reflections on Influenza & Information

Seattle Times, Dan Eskenazi

These post-Edwardian ladies (look carefully, also the two cats!) are wearing face masks by order of the Seattle mayor when the Spanish flu hit here in October 1918.

Our 6-year-old son came home from school today and informed me that his first grade classmate (the same one he got in trouble for kissing earlier this year) told him there's a very sad problem where people in Mexico have swine flu and some of them have even died. He confirmed that his teacher hasn't talked about the flu with the class and we've been trying to keep the panicky news headlines away from him.

I thought of the masked ladies (and cats) and wondered what my great-grandparents told my grandparents during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 since they were about the same age as our son is now. No family stories of that time have been passed down through the years.

What, then, can I tell him about now when we're one level away from a pandemic according to the World Health Organization? The same thing I always have since he was old enough to walk and talk: Wash your hands and keep them out of your eyes, nose & mouth!

That, and Mama's trying to help share accurate health information on a wiki, tweeting about it, and some people in Germany quickly noticed. Major kudos to EBSCO for DynaMed free swine flu resources.

Can you imagine what impact instant global health news and information sharing might have had in 1918?

What lies ahead for even better information sharing in the future that will make our current technology tools laughingly obsolete?

Edit: Within an hour after writing & posting this, the announcement that probable H1N1 is in Seattle was made!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Foolery #31: Take a trip on a rocket ship

Listen to MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS

Listen to the SHOULDN'TS,

Listen to the NEVER HAVES,
Then listen close to me

Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be. -Shel Silverstein

Learn more about the NIH Rocket Boys.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Call for articles: May Medlib's Round on PubMed

I am thrilled to host the upcoming Medlib's Round blog carnival in May, a collection of posts about a central theme reviewed and arranged with narrative by a host site on a rotating monthly basis.

The theme is simple: We'll discuss PubMed and third-party PubMed application tools.

The rule is also simple:

no whining, by frotzed2

I don't put up with it from our 6 year old son, I certainly won't from adults. Constructive criticism, feedback and reflection are highly encouraged though.. I do a lot of that around here!

How do you submit an article? Click here and fill out the form by May 3rd.

Previous Medlibs Rounds from 3, 2, and 1 are here, and the RSS feed for the blog carnival is

You don't have a blog but would still like to participate? No problem! Please contact me at eagledawgblog at gmail dot com as I am happy to post your thoughts credited to you on my blog.

Questions or comments? Please let me know!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Foolery #30: The Library Manatee

Largo Library Art, originally uploaded by lunawhimsy.

If it were not for networking with fellow librarian colleagues on Twitter, I would have no idea that the Library Manatee actually exists in the city of Largo, FL... and she even has a pirate tattoo!

I shall call her Barbara and if I'm ever in Largo I will (quietly, as not to cause a ruckus) serenade her with...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Cup of Tea... for Thanks

Tea party, by emkeller

I cannot write about today's 'tea bagging' and protest 'tea parties' with a straight face (I prefer my tea brewed loose leaf and parties with bite sized pastries & sandwiches with gossip about friends of friends) but in the spirit of the day I will drink some tea on this tax day with immense gratitude.

Why? If it were not for my own and millions of other Americans' tax dollars, I would not have received my full time graduate education. I am one of 3,220 master's students funded by the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program since 2003, one of the largest programs of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). I do not see this merely as slanted political hype on my resume but an investment in my potential that I aim to have a very high return on.

The story continues with my first library job at one of the eight federally contract-funded regional offices of the National Network of Libraries of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM). I work with amazing colleagues in my own office, all other seven offices, and at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) itself. While I appreciated my previous career of a decade, I am truly inspired by the intelligence and dedication of my Network colleagues from coast to coast. They have welcomed me in despite my blatant newbieness and they know how to have some serious fun. I can't imagine having my social network completely overrun by colleagues from my previous career and enjoying it nearly as much as I do now.

Live outside of the United States? Great, but thank an American taxpayer today if you use information from PubMed, MedlinePlus, Healthfinder, one of the 27 NIH agencies (National Institutes of Health) or the other 10 HHS agencies (Department of Health & Human Services, here are some on Twitter). Those aren't your electronic database subscription fees paying towards their development and maintenance, nor are these information resources and the people behind them remotely close to "free."

America, these are your tax dollars at work. Thank you. I have said it before and I will say it again: I have not and never will write here on federal taxpayer time, ever. I take that very seriously. I do hit the 'publish' button in blog comment emails, strive to share & help with information on Twitter more than goof off, and poke around Facebook much less these days since I can't stand the new layout.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Go Dowse Yourself: Self-Help in Library Advocacy

I have learned a valuable lesson: it is impossible to simultaneously be a conference blogger and program chair, no matter how small the conference may be. I wouldn't call my coverage of the 2008 Washington Medical Librarians Association meeting great by any means but at least it was comprehensive.

For the 2009 meeting, I have The Notes (also on my Google Docs, I've been having problems with PDFs and am not certain The Notes retained all the hyperlinks) I took for a panel discussion entitled Finding Water in a Drought: A Panel Discussion on Creative Library Services, Advocacy and Strategy Ideas. If it wasn't for the WMLA president everything about the conference (we were given 'doing more with less') would have been suckily named without cool graphics. My strengths are in concepts, organizing and planning; but what little creativity I have wasn't kicking in!

The hospital library community needs to hear positive encouragement and advocacy ideas in these times when we're all running around with our budget tails chopped off and fearful of how much higher the knife will aim for the next cut.

One strategy from Andrea Ryce at Group Health Cooperative is to show what you're doing without burying it in yet another report no one will read, but an attractive visual that conveys an immediate message like this one (click to read text without squinting) to your stakeholders:

Stating the goal and codes at the top is particularly important so no one is wasting time decoding what you're saying.

Don't miss the audience reaction and discussion with the panel as there were many great ideas shared. I particularly enjoyed the last line from someone who shall remain nameless. I'm not young (I'm a thirtysomething but I have wrinkles and even some grey hair... I think a 6 year old boy is a contributing factor!) but am just under a year in my library career and feel like I have no clue what I'm doing yet on a daily basis.

Do not ever make the statement that you feel inexperienced; you have experience to bring to every situation. If people can't learn from younger people, it's time for them to leave.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Foolery #29: The European Rats' Underpants

First, a bad joke I heard in Fairbanks, Alaska:

Question: How is going to the bathroom an international experience?

Answer: You Russian to the American, then European!
(say it out loud & slow down the nationalities if you don't get it)

As a librarian, I was slightly miffed that our online staff newsletter that brought us this gem (If you're brave you can order this or the penguin poo T-shirt) did not give us the author's name, journal title, or even a date for the actual scientific research conducted by a urologist that involved real rats wearing real rat underpants. The squirrels are so behind. yeah, so why did you have to torture us with that lame joke?

Thanks to the ubiquity of 'rat underpants', I found the research citation and my beloved husband (who was present during the bad Alaskan joke) exploded with laughter for it is

Shafik, A. "Effect of different types of textiles on sexual activity. Experimental study." European Urology 1993;24(3):375-80. (PubMed ID) PMID 8262106 if you don't believe me.

The abstract begins:

The effect of wearing different types of textiles on sexual activity was studied in 75 rats which were divided into five equal groups: four test groups and one control. Each of the four test groups were dressed in one type of textile pants made of either 100% polyester, 50/50% polyester/cotton mix, 100% cotton or 100% wool. Sexual behaviour was assessed before and after 6 and 12 months of wearing the pants and 6 months after their removal.
Bottom line: Nobody performed well with polyester. Duh.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, you were listening to All Things Considered on National Public Radio just over a year ago on April 9, 2008.

It is a good thing with my current part-time schedule that I'm not on the reference desk because I would be hard pressed to keep a straight face if someone asked me for European Urology in the near future.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

EBM Librarian: See one, Do one, Teach many!

On October 15, 2006, I attended the continuing education course Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and the Medical Librarian taught by Connie Schardt and had my already-overwhelmed mind (first semester of health informatics library school) blown away by 8 hours of fantastic teaching. At that point in my studies, I thought people went to continuing education classes at conferences to brush up on knowledge and skills they had already learned and needed a refresher on. I thought I was the only person in the room who had no clue what EBM was, and was greatly relieved to learn that I wasn't!

Connie created the EBM Librarian wiki after our class as an opportunity to continue learning and sharing resources for medical librarians everywhere who are teaching about evidence based practice in their organizations. In the wiki you can find an overview on many topics including what evidence-based practice is, how to make sense of statistics in studies (this part terrified me, but Connie made it so understandable), teaching tools (beware of Jeopardy though, not all audiences enjoy it), and tutorials.

Are you creating or know of EBM teaching resources not already listed on the wiki? Apply to be a writer and join your colleagues! If the thought of adding yet another wetpaint wiki to your list makes you want to run screaming, please feel free to share with me and I'll add them with credit to you and your organization there. I'm not currently on the front lines teaching EBM but with evidence-based resources such as HEAL-WA now available to select practitioners in my state I'm trying to stay current.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Foolery #28: Don't mess with bunnies

There is a life lesson to be learned from a bunny who, when faced with loud machinery much larger than itself, charges the snowblowers then follows the people operating them.

The Easter bunny is a big pansy in comparison!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

IntenseDebate & PubMed: Do you see me?

I see you, some would say 'hear' even though much of online communication is visual. We all see each other across the blogs, the tweets, and so many other social media/networking venues.

We've developed social media information filters that help us to identify, learn from, share, and discuss the crucial from the chaff (sometimes mocking the chaff!) to varying degrees. This is amazingly sophisticated cognitive activity, but that is a post for another time. Questions of policies, procedures, and 'what to do' with this information in an unregulated and non-standardized world are a natural and expected response. We always seek order in the inevitable chaos.

What is the answer, the conclusive research pointing to the utmost in best practices for this? I don't know. If you stumble across it out there, let me know?

When it comes to the flow of information in channels we may not necessarily be familiar or comfortable with though, we have to try them out. This has been and always will be the case if the library and information sciences field will continue to not only survive but thrive. Sitting back and watching it fly by without interaction will not cut it in the 21st century, nor result in understanding your users and their information needs... and they can & will go elsewhere to have them met.

You don't have time to try things out? I encourage you to read this and reconsider.

A few examples of trying things out that I'm excited about from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)is the authentication of HHS Twitter accounts (although @healthfinder is legitimate and new as of yesterday) and the use of IntenseDebate on Newmedia is where various parties across HHS are collaborating on ways to incorporate social media in their institutions. A comment and invitation follow:

This is an experiment in social media, in using the tools of social media to inform, shape and educate about social media. As such, it really ought to involve everyone. . The site was conceived by and run by folks across HHS. But we've opened it to the word. We do so for both altruistic and selfish reasons. Altruistic because it costs nothing and benefits all if we share what we learn. Selfish because the bigger the crowd, the greater the wisdom. We're interested in what you think, not who you are or where you work

I see you. I see your frustration, feeling that your feedback about the changes in PubMed are not being heard. For context; PubMed is one of many services of the National Library of Medicine, which is one of 27 organizations within the National Institutes of Health, which is one of 11 agencies under HHS.

About a month ago I was told about, asked for my own feedback, and posted this with bold emphasis mine here & not in the original comment:

Thank you for this venue! From my perspective (NIH /NLM /NN/LM) there is a need to gather all the news & information-sharing resources within each agency to one central (and easy to find) location on the agency website with RSS feeds available for each resource. On my own time I've researched & blogged some of the frustration encountered trying to locate news about NCBI's (part of NLM) Discovery Initiative and how it affects PubMed at and

Would also LOVE to see IntenseDebate as a feedback forum for PubMed!

Do you see me? If so please consider joining IntenseDebate, visiting my link, and clicking the thumbs-up icon. Share your own focused, specific, helpful ideas not just about PubMed but all that HHS encompasses.

This is not The Way, not by a longshot. I'm still reflecting on the feedback about crowdsourcing from President Obama's recent usage of Open For Questions as a communication channel. This is trying something out in a very transparent channel.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You Can't Eat An RSS Feed

I am bursting with parental pride in announcing that, due to his 3rd grade reading level and social networking finesse, our 6-year-old son has been hired on as an exception to the 10-year-old rule for the Social Networking Explanation Service.

We anticipate that by developing his stellar customer service skills in an after-school job career beginning in 1st grade, he'll be able to make a persuasive case for admission to one of our state universities if any of them are still left intact after these hard economic times.

Our thanks go to Marie for alerting us to the job announcement!