Researchers at NC State University are predicting an above average hurricane season, so our thoughts as librarians should be turning to our disaster plans. NC hospital librarians began this process through an award from the NN/LM Southeastern/Atlantic (SE/A) Region, which funded an emergency preparedness program entitled, “It’s the Big One, Elizabeth!” Helping NC Hospitals Plan for Information Access Following a Disaster. For the libraries that are NC AHEC Digital Library members, many of the disaster plans seemed to rely (or fall back upon) the ADL, so we (meaning ADL staff) are working on our disaster plan. Here are some interesting issues or questions that are arising as we work our way through our plan.
So our initial thought was of course, well we’ll just work from home. We’re virtual after all and can pretty much always work at home anyway. Here’s the problem with that theory – after most Hurricane’s especially inland one of our biggest challenges is power (as in electricity). We then thought well we’ll need to have an email list to send emails with pertinent information. Here’s my problem with that, no electricity, no cable, no internet access at home. Obvious solution, its time to get a smart phone. It was amazing, however, how much of our initial thinking about disaster planning sort of had an underlying assumption about electricity.
This revelation led to a whole host of complicated questions about back-up servers, off site locations, fail over software, and many other technical issues that were ever so slightly above my head.
As our disaster planning thinking is crystallizing we are focusing our planning around 2 main areas. As a sort of hub for member libraries throughout the state we need a plan for how to support our member libraries if they are hit by some disaster, but we are still up & running. Then the other big area is if we are hit by a disaster (and then there are many gradients of scenario 2).
At this point the most important issue that is arising is the need for a good communications plan. Key contacts, contact mechnanisms both phone & electronic, and a message to communicate. We also need to develop mechanisms to hook our member libraries up to electronic resources if our proxy/authentication portal is down due to whatever reason. This is but a snapshot of the types of communication needs/issues that are arising as disaster planning begins.
When I first heard about library disaster planning, I thought it wouldn’t really impact me because I work in an entirely virtual/digital library. How naive was that!!
Here’s a vaguely related non-sequitor…. the first NC Disaster planning workshop was the day after a series of tornadoes hit NC. Never have I heard the word irony misused so often. fyi it is not ironic to have a disaster planning workshop the day after some disasters… it is merely an unfortunate coincidence ….
I feel like I should apologize for the bad grammar in the subject line, so I’ll just get that out of the way…
Ever since the multitasking posting, I have been thinking lately about how I spend my time at work. Ever since we launched our new site, I have been spending time updating our “marketing” materials. In addition to creating a handout about the new site, I have been updating our resource lists. I haven’t been brave enough yet to try our bookmarks or pamphlets. This is taking me far more time than I would have anticipated and is certainly something I didn’t learn about in library school. Although most librarians create handouts of all manner; I don’t recall learning much about design work in school. I guess there is an assumption that because there are program (like Microsoft Publisher) that anyone can plug & play their content. This doesn’t, however, prove at all true (at least in my case).
In a similar vein, a several times every few years I need to design a poster. Take all of the difficulties in designing hand outs and multiply them by (I don’t know) a magnitude of 100. Admittedly I have less aptitude in this area than the average bear, but I wonder if others don’t find themselves in the same boat.
I recently read Richard Bernier’s blog, “Do This, Do That, Do the Other Thing: The Many Hats of a Multitasking, Small College Librarian.” In this introductory posting he describes some of the multitasking issues that have arisen for him. One telling statement is when we writes about writing about multitasking saying, “I had to switch gears while writing a sentence on multitasking. How is that for irony?” Classic.
At any rate, after yesterday’s posting I really started thinking about what I do as a librarian. Today was a classic multitasking day and even more telling it was an example of not multitasking well. As an illustration and just for fun I’ll attempt to outline today’s frenetic multitasking attempts.
We launched our upgraded site on Monday, and there have been a few minor tweaks that have arisen. (I say that to set the stage for the way the day unfolded).
Today I planned to send Welcome Letters to new pharmacy preceptors, reminder letter to ongoing preceptors who haven’t accessed our site, and announements about the upgraded site to users who haven’t logged in since we started the announements about the new site. I was going to work on that throughout the day (its kinda boring so I work on that in short bursts) and alternate that with work on an article about the history of our project, updating our resource lists to reflect changes for 2010, and deal with typical daily email. Instead this is how the day unfolded…
- Sent 5 pharmacy preceptor Welcome Letters
- Oops incoming emails about questions about the new site … deal with those
- Deal with a request from a potential individual member for an updated resource list (don’t have time to redo the whole 2010 list so quickly find and edit the 2009 template list)
- Talk with a colleague about our library’s (HSL) proposal for a 2nd year NLM fellow
- Troubleshoot a plan for integrating the list of paid resources into our Guest profile (so they can see what would be available not so they can access the actual resources
- Implement the above plan
- Phone call with ANCHASL president about potential goals for next year
- Write a list of necessary enhancements for the Guest profile of the ADL
- Discover that the marketing material for the newly launched site needs to go out sooner rather than later …. create a flyer (which takes forever since graphic design is so NOT my thing) … update our email distribution list … send out announcement about new site … Whew!!
- Track undeliverable emails from preceptor letters sent earlier today
I don’t know what this says about my skill set as a librarian or even about my ability to multitask but it definately speaks to the need to be flexible. I look at today as a very typical and fairly successful day. Everything I did needed to get done and nothing got left undone that was vital.
Before I pick-up on the core competencies thread, I just want to ponder for a moment if the full moon was playing havoc on all things technical today. We were just filled with all sorts of gremlin types of oddities. Nothing horrible, more like a nuisance. I thought once I left work I could put my tech. woes behind me, but Word Press is even slow tonight. Gotta be the full moon….
So yesterday I was taking the position that the ALA Core Competencies are NOT merely supporting the traditional status quo, but are instead possibly flexible enough to ground the profession in our solid roots but allow for full and beautiful blooming (to keep up with my nature analogy). Overly romanticized notion; I know. Its also surprising because I often find myself taking a role in opposition to our professional association mandates and/or initiatves. My musings are mostly just a way of stimulating thought. Sort of like a debate where all sides need to be aired. I’m trying to just raise some questions about the 8 generic core competency topics.
Yesterday I covered my views on Foundations of the Profession and Information Resources.
– Organization of Recorded Knowledge & Information.
To tell you the truth I’m not sure what this means exactly. I’m assuming it means what we once referred to as organization of information. As we all know; I’m not a big fan of the whole information deal, but am a big fan of always moving towards knowledge so I can go with this. I find the use of the word “recorded” to be quite interesting. Given the growth in the areas of digitization and institutional respositories, I can’t help but think that this is one area that is quite forward thinking. As librarians we are nothing if not the experts in organization “information” so that it is easier to find and process. This organization could take the form ( I would imagine) of the metadata we add to improve search successes. It’s also the categories and labels we put on our web sites. (can I tell you how often we ponder whether the word databases is a good label for those things).
This category takes on even more important meanings in a world where we are trying to digitize our institutional paper trails. There are actually (from my casual observations of the jobs lists) jobs to be had in the arena of archives and digitization. Call it what you will, there is definatly a future in our organizational abilities. I probably spend the biggest chunk of my work life literally organization information.
– Technology Knowledge and Skills.
This certainly speaks for itself. I’m also quite pleased to see the word knowledge used. Adapting and becomine facile with technologies isn’t so much learning new programs as it is a mindset about the role of technology in our world. To me this is the epitome of Technology Knowledge.
– Reference and User Services
Ok, so this is a traditional category, but only if you lack vision. I can’t conceive of any circumstances under which librarians won’t be called upon to play a reference role. I also think the increasing important activity of user education could fall under this category. As the world moves at increasing rates of speed, the role of librarians in teaching about technology, evaluating resources, searching, etc…. This to me is the heart of being a library. This is the service component of what we do. Whether reference is provided in a traditional manner and/or provided through an emerging technology; its still a service that I think will be vital as we move forward as a profession.
Sigh… I’m just not up to pontificate about the whole research role. This category will get a whole posting devoted to it at a later time. Let me just say that this isn’t some left over relic from times gone by. There are so many areas ripe for good research.
–Continuing Education & Lifelong Learning
This pretty much speaks for itself as well. The important aspect of this isn’t the topics per se, but the mindset that this is something important for librarians to do. It seems like a no brainer to me — like so obvious I can’t believe they felt the need to declare this a core competency.
– Administration & Management
ok, I don’t get how anyone could possibly think this is an out of date idea. Even if we accept the premise that our future is equal to emerging technologies, there is still a need to manage people places and things. So I don’t see enough here to even discuss.
So where do I go from here? It seems to me there are sort of three main concepts at work as we look towards the future…
–Understanding our broad set of competencies;
and as I look over the ALA list; I think its as good as anything. Broad yet vague —
–Developing Underlying Skill Sets to carry forth our mission and that support our core competencies.
These skills would/could vary from job to job. These are the types of things that we learned in library school and most likely promptly forgot. To be honest I think I only took 2 classes where I learned anything that I didn’t already know from working in a library for 8 years. Skills are easy to pick-up and since they change the most rapidly they are the ones that we should probably put the least focus in library school.
Here is a list of “skills” that I use most frequently in my job. I’ll attempt to annotate to reflect those which I learned in school and those which I learned on the job or in a class outside the library school sphere.
– Negotiating Electronic Licenses (bearing in mind that I have been out of school for over 10 years)
This wasn’t even mentioned as something that existed. Now I spend a good portion of each year (although less now that I’ve conquered the indemnification clause) working on licensing our electronic resources.
–Usability Testing (web pages or other digital portals)
Again not even mentioned as something that exists.
– HTML coding
Voila something I did learn in school. Although I learned in the pre-style sheet era; the basic skill set did however easily allow me to pick up CSS or even XML.
–Statistical Analysis and Interpetation
We did learn some basic statistics and research skills in school, but nothing there prepared me for the scope of data that we have to draw upon.
Other than cataloging and learning how to search other products, I didn’t have a good skill foundation for how I organize information now. The cataloging foundation has, however, served me in good stead as it taught me a way of thinking about the world.
Do I regret or wish I had learned these skills in school? No it hasn’t negatively impeded my work (gosh that does sound arrogant yikes). I do wish we had spent more time discussing philosophical and ethical issues. You know big picture stuff rather than the time we did spend on specific skills.
Ok earlier I had said there were 3 main themes, so I’d best conclude with a 3rd…
– The third “concept” as we look towards the future is an ability to predict the future. David Ferreio used to quote Wayne Gretzky and there seem to be 2 variations on this.
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. “
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. “
Classic quotes that exemplify what I think should be our world view. Note that they emphasize a notion of thinking forwardly (ick grammar issues)…. There isn’t a mention here of HOW to skate or what tools should be used to skate.
Myself, my motto quote comes from Patton…
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
In other words (mine) put the future in perspective, its there looming but don’t get so lost in the details or what ifs about the looming future that you forget that no matter what we live and work in the today.
As I have often mentioned, I work in an entirely virtual library. We are often confronted with issues about how to best gather user feedback. As I sit in meetings with other librarians discussing things like designing our websites or choosing a product from one vendor vs. another vendor based on the value of the interface alone (for example Embase through Ovid or Elsevier?), I am often struck by how often librarians pull their beliefs about user feedback from either their encounters with users at the service desk or from their own personal preferences. Even in libraries (academic in this case) with a physical presence, I believe that the encounters with users at a service desk are but a small percentage of our total user base. I wonder if those users who not only make their way to the library but who furthermore make their way to the service desk to request some sort of assistance, are really representative of our entire user universe.
I also have to wonder if our own searching, online experiences are a good measurement of what users would want. When Ovid released OvidSP, they offered a new Basic Search. This offering was based in large part on their testing with end users. Despite the fact that much of their research indicates that most users would prefer a most basic search, many librarians were still advocating for the default settings to be as close to old Ovid command line searching as possible. My own encounters with end users indicate that most users really are more comfortable with the notion of the basic search. Even when we have users who claim to prefer the advanced search, this is often the result of our own education and training sessions. I’m not saying that their aren’t good reasons for choosing design/default options that go against user preferences, but I am saying that we should at least known what those preferences are.
I think we need to strike a balance between making quick decisions and rapidly responding to new situations and gathering user feedback. I am really growing uncomfortable with saying anymore that we know what our users want based on our interactions with the users (especially on user interactions that take place in the library at a service desk). We definately can’t base design decisions on our own preferences and experiences.
We are planning on releasing a new version of our site in January. We started with a focus group of our member librarians, but during the month of October we will be travelling to several of our hospitals to conduct useability testing with end users. I hope that we’ll have the wisdom to listen and learn from our users rather than overiding their inputs with our own experiences.
After having to track down new links for many Joint Commission sites after a major domain name change, I had been thinking about doing a posting on the frustrations of keeping up with links to free resources (it is much easier with our licensed content). Then yesterday our link to the journal Radiology stopped working through our proxy server. They had also made a slight change to their URL construction that was just enough to not show-up in our proxy config. file.
In this context, I came across, a posting, “What’s the average lifespan of a Web page?“. It was nice to read a sort of scientific discussion of this nuisance. The posting pulls together some research about the average lifespan of a URL (and that is a key to the discussion). The ball park figure stemming from the Internet Archive seems to be in the 44 – 75 day range. What is notable is that much of the content might still be available, just the address changes.
Much of what I encounter deals with the changing URL phenomena. A site might change from Cold Fusion (.cfm) to PHP (.php) or Active Server Page (.asp) etc etc etc… Our consumer site, NC Health Info, can well attest to the changeable nature of web sites. They have discovered that automatic link checkers alone can’t address the problem. When I do link checking, it turns out to be a more extensive project than I always imagine because it can take some tedious searching to find new URLs.
I don’t have a good solution to this problem, except to put out a plea for web sites to think carefully before engaging in a redesign that results in change of address. It seems to me that the government sites are notably bad about changing their content addresses. A few years ago the CDC changed its site and it took me days (not full time) to track down all of the new locations for some of the pages.
The interesting point raised in the JISC – PoWR blog is that the web seems to be growing even more transient with the advent of 2.0 technologies. Any existing problem with the life span of web sites and the permanent addressing will only be magnified in the 2.0 world.
Its a good thing I’m a weather-geek or I might not have known about the Louisville Library Flood. Nicole Dettmar for covering it in her Eagle Dawg Blog (“Revisiting Emergency Preparedness – Louisville Flooding“). My boss also worked at that library once upon a time, so she was aware of the situation. What has struck me about this story is how much of a non-news story this has been. I don’t just mean specifically the library flooding but in general Louisville flooding in general. The floods hit Tuesday morning when heavy rains stalled over the city. This was an unusual flooding event because it was a flash flood. Many floods of this magnitude are the result of longer term heavy rains that cause river levels to rise and that then lead to downstream flooding events. By Wednesday morning word of the flooding had disappeared from the online news world. Our 24 hour news cycle changes so quickly that stories come and go at rates of speed that surprise even me. On CNN its difficult to browse to a link of the story. The US news page is cluttered with far more important stories, like a story from July 31 about a bear breaking into a house in Cleveland. A search of the CNN site on Lousville returns no stories about the flooding. Thank goodness I don’t rely on CNN for my news. Google News likewise doesn’t highlight the Louisville flooding, even in its U.S. section. The search does, however, result in many results.
Ok enough of my rant about the sorry state of affairs in the online news world. Interesting to note, my local paper didn’t have a story about the flooding in Louisville either. This was a big news story, not only was the public library flooded, the Kentucky Derby museum suffered sever economic damage as well. The Library Journal has also provided excellent coverage of the story. (“Louisville Libraries Hit by Flooding…“)
The Kentucky Government Site has a nice update about the story with images included. Anyone intersted in donating to library recovery efforts can send donations to:
The Library Foundation
301 York St.
Louisville, KY 40203
or call (502) 574-1709
This story may not be sweeping the national media (or even many local outlets outside of the midwest) but it doesn’t make the need any less.
I was in a meeting today where we were discussing the results of a survey of point of care products. Not surprisingly, Up to Date, ranked beyond high. One thing led to another and somehow we ended up discussing the use of Wikipedia by Medical Students and how some faculty believe that this is now the only (or at the very least) the primary source of their information. (well that and WebMD). Even if hyperbolic exagerration, it is a disconcering notion. What I found most disconcerting was how most of the librarians in this meeting didn’t seem disturbed by this fact. They felt that as long as the students were taught to evaluate the information then it would be ok. Don’t get me wrong, I think that learning how to evaluate the material is really important. But as a patient I’d like to believe that medical students are relying on something more than just Wikipedia for their medical research.
It was somewhat of a comfort to then come across the news release from NIH about the collaboration between NIH & Wikipedia. According to a posting on softpedia, “Wikipedia intends to limit the amount of health information submitted to the website by regular inexperienced users, and to reference, check and correct any health-related topics with the help of NIH specialists.” A recent article by Michael Laurent and Tom Vickers in the July/August 2009 issue of JAMIA, “Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter?” came to the conclusion that Wikipedia ranked among the first 10 results in 71-85% of search engines and keywords tested. Due to this research and other studies indicating the popularity of Wikipedia, this collaboration seems vitally important.
Although it is too soon to see the outcome of this collaboration, the fact that Wikipedia is used so frequently in health related searches will not change. Anything that can enhance the quality and validity of health related topics online can only be to the good. I’m still not convinced that Wikipedia is the best source for Medical Students to be visiting, but I am convinced that nothing can stop the health consumer from hitting the web for information; therefore any and all measures to both enhance the quality and validity of the highly ranked web sites is vital. At the same time, libraries have got to take a strong lead in educating all users in evaluation skills.
A Brief Correction… It Should be Electronic Health Record
Its odd how things run in parallel in my life. Yesterday on the Eagle Dawg Blog, in her postings about the Wood’s Hole Course,she wrote about the EL7. Despite the fact that I have been peripherally working on EMH (oops EHR) integration with library resources, I actually know very little about the specific technical details and standards like EL7. Today I was in a meeting discussing a project to integrate library resources into an EHR at a small community health center (well actually community health centers). We were sort of bemoaning the fact that the new criteria for CCHIT certification doesn’t discuss the inclusion of library or even evidence based resources. The ARRA definition or guidelines for certification include 4 components about the capacity or potential capabilities of certifiable systems. These include:
- the capacity to support clinical decision support
- the capacity to support physician order entry
- the capcity to query information relevant to quality health care
- the capacity to exchange electronic health information with and integrate with other sources (aka the EL7 standard)
There are glimmers of hints at where library resources could integrate but when you look at the examples, not so much. We had been hoping to use these guidelines as a lever to reassert the importance of library resources in the health care setting. Perhaps to regain some ground lost in recent (or not so recent) changes to the JCAHO (or the Joint Commission as it is now known) criteria that removed the explicit requirements for library types of resources. What role should MLA play in examining the role of library resources integration in the EHR. Who will advocate for this important integration between library resources and the medical/health/patient record. Now is the time to take action!
But First…. Today’s News
An interesting news story caught my eye about cancer patients challenging the patenting of genes. This can lead to far ranging questions about the relationship between science and commercial ventures. The ACLU has become involved in this case and they raise the point that what is really patented is knowledge. The question then becomes can knowledge be patented? If so, what are the limits on what knowledge can be patented? An even more interesting question might be the what is knowledge? Much of the argument is against the U.S. Patent office rather than against any specific company. Although this isn’t a direct library issue, it definately touches upon intellectual property issues (far & wide). For a copy of the story see the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/13/health/13patent.html?ref=health accessed 5/13/2009) or a discussion on the GenomeWeb Daily News http://www.genomeweb.com/dxpgx/aclu-files-suit-against-myriad-over-brca-patents accessed 5/13/2009)
Now Back to Today’s Topic… Irony
My previous posting discussed the Elsevier/Merck Publishing situation. I pointed to the Krafty Librarian’s and the Eagle Dawg Blog postings and added a few comments about the key point as I saw it at the time about physician’s not being able to discern between peer reviewed and marketing articles. I also pointed to the liblicense listserv which is still the most comprehensive coverage of this situation. Today after having a chance to better digest the many points of discussion, I’m focusing on the issue about Open Access. One of the contributers to the list raised the point that its ironic that,
“supporters of open access, have had to endure endless lectures on how OA models are intrinsically corruptible and that protection of the current models is the only way to ensure quality, probity and objectivity. So when it turns out that at the very time these claims were being repeated in Parliament the claimant’s organisation was indulging in practices that most would accept as falling below accepted standards I find myself thinking it rather ironic. ”
This was posted by Dr. David Prosser about the Elsevier’s top management testimony in Parliament (UK or Australian I’m not sure) about OA. Another highlight on the listserv about the relationship between the OA discussion and this situation states that,
“behaviour such as Merck’s and Elsevier’s as described in this thread taints the whole scientific communication process. There is nothing surprising here: when profit seeking is mixed with truth seeking, shenanigans multiply. This is sub-prime publishing at best, designed to satsify stock holders, not researchers. What is surprising is that some people seem surprised by it.”
(posted by Jean-Claude Guedon of University of Montreal). I love this comment and as I mentioned yesterday, I wholeheartedly agree that what continues to surprise me is that anyone has been surprised by this. I actually believe that practices such as ghostwriting articles and other practices of physician’s relationships with corporations have been going on for a long time and maybe its a good thing that the Elsevier/Merck situation has caught people’s attention. The IOM is working on addressing the issue for physicians that would include when they author articles or present research findings. Maybe it is time to look to OA models as a way to correct many issues with our current publishing models.