I am a medical librarian who enjoys writing about medical librarianship, information retrieval, and user education. My thoughts and writings tend to have more a techie slant to them because I really enjoy using and seeing how all types of technology can help us find, judge and process medical information better.
I had the unique pleasure to be the moderator for the McGovern Lecture at this year’s Medical Library Association Meeting. You must login w/ your paid meeting registration to watch. If you didn’t go to the meeting you can get a virtual registration to watch (scroll down to econference rates)
The McGovern Lecture traditionally is one person who give a lecture on a topic of importance to health sciences librarianship. This year the lecture featured 4 speakers (an Academic Hospitalist, a Professor of Physical Therapy, a Family Medicine doctor, and a Director of Nursing Research) all speaking about how they find information to stay up to date in their areas of specialty.
Each one of them used the library. Each one of them loved their librarians. Each one of them professed that they get the most up to date information in their specialty from Twitter. This was mind blowing to almost every librarian in the audience. These professionals use Twitter to connect across the globe with others (mentors, friends, experts in the field). They have a very curated list of people they follow on Twitter, so that they receive tweets specifically targeted on topics of interest in their field. If somebody they follow tweets about a good article, they get it. Its a bit like the old commercial when EF Hutton talks they listen.
We have all known that caregivers consult each other when faced with questions or staying up to date. In the past these people were usually in the same place of employment or geographical area. Now, with Twitter there are no boundaries for professional networking and consulting.
What also shouldn’t come as a surprise is these people mentioned that they get the articles in the easiest way possible. Sometimes that is the library, sometimes that is not. One person said if they can’t find it easily at the library, “there are other methods to get the article” implying less kosher methods. As I mentioned this should come as a no surprise, we (librarians and publishers) suck at getting people hooked up to their entitled articles and professionals don’t have the time nor patience to deal with our sucky methods. RA21 is not the answer either. RA21’s proposed method is still more complicated and more clicks than getting something from SciHub or ICanHazPDF.
If you are a librarian or somebody who works for a publisher or information provider, I highly recommend watching this lecture. It really illuminates what our patrons do in real life to get information, and it isn’t what we think they do. I also think people at NIH and NLM need to really watch this to see that front line caregivers never mentioned MedlinePlus as a resource to give their patients information until librarians in the audience asked. The speakers listed every CHI resource BUT MedlinePlus. Perhaps NLM may need to re-focus on hospitals and providers as the people who provide CHI information in addition to NLM’s efforts to connect to public libraries.
When RA21 was brought to my attention I was concerned because it was coming from a lot of publishers and vendors familiar with their world and the world of large academia but completely unfamiliar with the medical and hospital world.
In my post Medlibs Needs RA21 on Their RADAR, I briefly described RA21 and some of the concerns I had with moving towards this method of authentication and I was extremely concerned that the people talking about it hadn’t the faintest clue about library resources, usage, and IT in the hospital and academic medical world.
While I still have a lot of concerns about RA21 I am pleased to announce the creation of the RA21 Hospital/Clinical Access Working Group. Their objectives are to “survey, identify and define the use cases/problems for accessing licensed resources from within a hospital/healthcare system that are involved with RA21 adoption and are related to RA21’s authentication use cases.”
In an effort to understand hospital and medical library authentication issues and needs they have created a survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RA21_Survey of 20 questions that they would like any librarian serving in a hospital or health care institution or academic health care institution to take. (If you participate you can also enter into a raffle for an Amazon gift card.) *The survey closes March 1, 2019!!
I encourage every qualifying librarian to take this survey so that the working group has a clearer picture of the issues and needs regarding access to information.
The working group was started in July 2018 and the website says it will complete its work by the end of February 2019. Hmm…. I hope they plan to continue their work. If they continue, I hope they will include some non-vendor people on the working group from medical libraries familiar with IT issues. The co-chairs are from the vendor community and while I am sure they are lovely people, they are not in the library dealing with IT and hospital policies and restrictions. The RA21 team does have some people from large academic institutions, but is still very vendor heavy and has no representation from the medical or hospital community.
The second MLA InSight Summit was held in Chicago in September. I am on the Insight committee, the group that is working to put on a good program and produce deliverables to both librarians and publishers. I also was the moderator for the September summit. (Gabe Rios moderated the first one and Jerry Perry is going to moderate the third summit.)
The summits are intended to be a space where librarians and key figures in the publishing and vendor world work together to try understand users (researchers, clinicians, students, nurses, etc.). It is not a place to talk about pricing, sales, or budget blaming. It is a place to discuss the issues of our users impacting all of us and how we can take steps to improve things. Because let’s face it, if our users stop using us (either of us) we are out of business. The librarians who attend are a diverse group of librarians who represent different perspectives and health sciences libraries. The publishers who attend represent small and big STEM publishers and vendors.
I wanted to wait until Elizabeth Ketterman (Library Director of the William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library at East Carolina University) and Sean Pidgeon (Publishing Director for Science and Medicine and Oxford University Press)published their summary of the of second session. Guest Post: MLA InSight – How to Buy Whisky is a very good post that describes some of the issues we discussed.
Ketterman and Pidgeon list the most prevalent concerns and challenges we (librarians and publishers) are facing and that were discussed and explored.
Patrons do not understand the value of the services provided by the library. (and I would say by natural extension publishers)
We (librarians and publishers) have a poor understanding of how our users find content and interact with one another online.
We seem to be helpless targets for pirates.
Predatory publishers are taking advantage of a shifting Open Access Landscape.
It is challenging to conduct rigorous and reproducible research in the biomedical sciences.
No surprise, I have several thoughts on those 5 issues and I plan to write about those things at future date. The main thing I want to convey with today’s post is that both librarians and publishers came together to work their way through some of these problems. Did we solve them all on that day back in September? No, but we all certainly learned a lot more about those things than before the summit.
For example, after hearing from several different users (researchers, doctors, physical therapists, etc.) we learned that many of them just don’t give a damn about all of the special unique customization features that publishers (and some libraries) provide to people who create accounts and login to their sites. I was sitting at a table with a person from a major publisher who actually said to everyone at the table, “We have spent all this time, effort, and man power on customized and personalized features that we just rolled out. Now I am thinking we wasted a lot of time and should have been looking at ways to better direct people to the content without logging in.”
That kind of information along with the collaborative effort to work together on things impacting both of us made the summit worth attending. This was just the second summit, there are more good things to come that we can learn from.
At the annual meeting I will be helping to moderate, the Innovation & Research Practice Immersion Session 4, “Disorienting Dilemmas: Transforming the Librarian’s Understanding of How Today’s Health Professionals Discover and Use Information Resources Outside the Library Setting,” by Jeff Williams and Martin Wood. Monday May 5, 2019 from 4:30-5:55pm. Jeff’s presentation at the second summit was so revealing that I highly encourage librarians and vendors at MLA to attend his and Martin’s presentation on Monday.
I am also looking forward to the 3rd Insight Summit. I hope that we can take the knowledge and information from Summits 1 and 2 and continue to build upon them other and create change together. That is why I feel it is important that we get as much representation from librarians AND publishers for the next summit.
Publishers who have sent somebody please talk to Dan Doody to get an understanding of what is involved. Publishers who sent somebody but didn’t feel it was worth attending again, ask yourself this question, “Did I send the right person?” Most likely you didn’t. Those publishers who are forward thinking and sent the right people (those high enough up in the company who are leaders in change) seem to have gotten the most value out of the summit. Those who sent the local sales rep really missed out, and didn’t see the value because the information and message didn’t to the change agent.
Librarians who would like to attend talk to previous attendees or Gabe, Jerry and myself. We can tell you what it was like. We aren’t looking for any specific librarian position (director, collection development, systems, etc.). We are looking for a diverse group that are engaged, making changes, and willing to take that information and disperse to the library community.
We have only just begun. I think of the Summit 1 as a small little snowball rolling down the mountain. My hope is that with each summit the snow ball grows producing an avalanche of change.
*Here are more articles about the previous InSight summits:
Wow time flies when you are having fun, or staring at the screen of your cell phone. Did you know it has been over 10 years since the first iPhone was released?
According to an article in Computerworld “Nine of 10 healthcare systems plan significant investments in smartphones and secure unified communications over the next 12-18 months.” (April 4, 2018) More and more hospitals systems are providing cell phones to their care givers and integrating their usage into their workflow (access the EHR, lab results, pharmacy orders, etc.) The cell phone is the individual’s portable computer. An older (2013) report stated 74% of their surveyed physicians used a smartphone for professional purposes which included using diagnostic tools, drug information, and reading articles. Back in 2013 they stated the most often used app on a tablet was an app for medical journals/newspapers/magazines followed by diagnostic apps. In 2017 the Physicians Practice 2017 Tech Report, shows that reading journals on a mobile device is still very popular. In this survey it was the second most reported activity physicians did when using their smartphone at work. Looking up drug information was first, reading articles was second and looking up diagnosis and treatment information was third. Of the responding physicians, 64% reported using mobile technologies for reading journals online (slide 12). The need to read articles on a mobile device has remained important to physicians over the years.
Our patrons rely upon full text information being available. They want to access the full text of an article quickly and easily. Why do you think Sci-Hub got so popular? Science reported “many users can access the same papers through their libraries but turn to Sci-Hub instead – for convenience rather than necessity.” Given this information, it is important that access to the library’s full text article be easy to access when searching the literature databases, regardless of the device used. So it surprised me the other day when I was struggling to help a physician access the full text of an article when they were using PubMed on their cell phone. We tried everything, but it always resolved out to the publisher (not always the way we own the article). It did not use not our Outside Tool that we set up. I even tried finding a way tap the link that says go to full website. No dice. We could not access the library’s subscribed journal article in PubMed on the cell phone. Surely I was missing something obvious. Surely NLM has figured out away in 2019 to connect physicians to their library’s full text collection while searching PubMed on their cell phone.
Well I was wrong. I reached out to NLM and a person from the MEDLARS Management Section responded they “don’t currently offer a way to populate library links (via Outside Tool or LinkOut for Libraries) on the mobile PubMed site. If the URL to the publisher happens to activate IP authentication on the publisher end, your users will get access via your subscription.” Basically that means IF your user is ON your IP range AND you get the article from the publisher (not via consortia, full text database, or other means) THEN your user can get access. That is not good. Even on campus, a lot of articles are inaccessible. Off campus…well nothing is available.
So what are other librarians suggesting to their patrons? Our patrons use Browzine to keep current with their favorite journals and they love it. But what do you suggest for people who search for articles on a topic? Are you still encouraging them to use PubMed from the cell phone even though access to full text articles will be difficult and frustrating for them? Are you suggesting other sites or apps for searching MEDLINE? What about Ovid MEDLINE? Or is this question pointless because everyone searches Google, gets frustrated accessing the full text and runs to Sci-Hub?
I am very interested in hearing other librarians’ thoughts on what mobile apps or mobile friendly sites they use to search MEDLINE that preserves the library full text linking. Leave a comment.
Wow it has been a while since I have published. Hopefully, I won’t have that kind of blogging break again.
As librarians we all know there are many ways to get scientific articles, some are legit while other methods are illegal. SciHub is one of the illegal methods. For those of you who haven’t heard of SciHub, think of it as Napster for scientific articles. Alexandra Elbakyan, participated in research forums where scientists asked each other for research papers. Elbakyan created SciHub as an automated method to share those papers. The process made it easier for people without access to paywalled papers or difficult to find papers to download them. Sound familiar? Napster was founded by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker as a peer to peer sharing service “for music enthusiasts to download copies of songs that were otherwise difficult to obtain.”
As with Napster there seems to be an anti SciHub group (which obviously includes the publishers) and a pro SciHub group who want easier access to materials that are hard to obtain or they don’t want to pay for. As an individual it can be very easy not to care about the publishers who are profit driven making money on the backs of poor researchers and academic institutions struggling to deal with publisher price gouging rate increases. While it is easy to think that way, there are many layers to the problem that has led us to this SciHub situation. Publishers, libraries, users, changes in society, technology, politics, and money are all to blame for the evolution of SciHub.
Until recently Elbakyan has been basically untouchable by the U.S. and European courts. While there have been several lawsuits that have gone against her and SciHub, she lives in Russia and has said she plans to ignore the lawsuits. Blocking SciHub doesn’t work either, it switches domains and mirror sites. It is kind of like playing online Whack-a-Mole, you hit one site and another pops up elsewhere.
Well it seems as if things in Russia might be changing. According to an article in Chemistry World, SciHub is now blocked in Russia following a Russian court ruled against the site. Moscow City Court ruled the site should be blocked in Russia following complaints from Elsevier and Springer Nature over intellectual property infringement. As a result of the ruling, several Sci Hub and Library Genesis domains are now inaccessible by Russian internet service providers.
An article from TorrentFreak.com says “Sci Hub is no to blocking efforts” and probably has other domains “up its sleeve.” TorrentFreak says those other domains can be targeted by rights holders and Elbakyan is encouraging users to “use tools to circumvent Internet censorship – which you can search for in Google or by using the bot in Telegram.”
So it looks like Elbakyan and Sci Hub may be touchable in Russia after all. I don’t think Elbakyan is a hero nor a villain. My hope is that through all of this Sci Hub evolves like Napster did. Napster is now into the on-demand streaming business. Even if we aren’t using Napster directly as our streaming service, many are using the pieces of Napster and don’t realize it. The iHeartRadio All Access app is powered by none other than Napster. It took a Napster to bring about changes in online music. Hopefully Sci Hub can be the catalyst to bringing change to the scientific online paper world so that more papers are easily available and legally.
According to the article more than 175,000 scientific articles have been produced by the five largest “predatory open access publishers” and 5,000 scientists at British universities have published in predatory publications in the last 5 years. The article mentions that many of the researchers were “exploited by the publishers, who aggressively seek new business from academics who don’t know their reputation.”
Predatory publishing has been on the minds of librarians for quite some time, I often feel like it is old news. Unfortunately, I think is still new news to many researchers and STEM authors. I can point to examples of clinicians looking to publish a paper who didn’t even understand the difference between open access and traditional access. In their mind a journal like NEJM appears open access to them because they are able to access it freely using the library subscription.
So when you have this access perception problem it isn’t hard to see how some can be fooled by predatory publishers. Their game is more difficult to spot than the Nigerian Prince who just needs you to send him $1,000 for you to receive $10,000. The problem isn’t just with publications. There at predatory conference promoters. Back in May I posted about receiving an invitation to speak at a conference in China. Considering I have been asked to speak in Ireland and other places it isn’t all that far fetched to think somebody from China would be interested. After getting my hopes up momentarily, careful review led me to realize this was predatory conference spam mail.
I think as librarians we need to remember that there are still many authors who are unfamiliar with the concept of open access and as a result unfamiliar with appropriate open access article submission guidelines and expectations. Lists of predatory publishers will come and go, we need to work with people to be able to better identify the red flags. We need established publishers to step up their game and help with the education process. We need database providers to establish criteria for inclusion, rather than including any research article that was publicly funded.
Only by working as group can we have a hope at turning the tide.
We have heard of the donut hole for Medicare prescription drug coverage where people experience a coverage gap for their prescription drug coverage. I think there is a donut hole for medical information. There are doctors, nurses, researchers who are affiliated with an institution (but not officially part of the institution) or they are private practice who have privileges but are not employed by the hospital. These people often fall in the donut hole for access to medical information.
There are more and more of these people as universities buy hospitals but the university doesn’t/can’t provide library resources to the hospitals. Hospital systems are buying other hospital systems and wrongly assuming the library resources will be cheaper (bulk discount) or that they don’t have to pay for library resource because “aren’t we all just one system now that you bought us and we want what you have.”
Library resources are expensive and when met with the surprise cost (when a new system is acquired) administrators often do not understand the basics of library resource licensing and costs. Why would they? The amount of a library’s budget is not even on their radar when it comes to the budget of the entire hospital. Unfortunately, they want across the board cuts and the department manager must enforce those cuts. We have little data that says medical libraries save lives and save money in the long run. What little data we do have hasn’t made it to the minds of administrators.
IMHO the donut hole of information access is growing. I have people who call for access because they are doing research with somebody in my system. I can give the person in my system access but I can’t give the partner, who is outside of my system, access. This is met with confusion and dismay. This is one of the reasons ICanHazPDF and SciHub exist.
As hospital libraries are disappearing and budgets are shrinking, the donut hole will get bigger. The perception that all is available free on the Internet still exists among many people and when hit with the reality they are flabbergasted by the true access costs causing them to dig their heels in deeper and not pay for anything. I know of 2 hospitals that didn’t have libraries who were seeking to get library resources only to immediately scuttle the idea completely when faced with the costs. No concept of baby steps and ramp up to more resources. Nope, in their minds the costs are just too astronomical for resources they thought would be cheaper because they are tailgating onto another library. They totally bail and go back to the idea that everyone will just get by use PubMed and Google, or maybe one expensive (but not as expensive as a whole library) point of care tool.
So, how do we stop the donut hole from growing? Pricing isn’t going down. (When does it for anything…cars, houses, etc.?) Our value is not on the minds of administrators. It will probably be a multi pronged approach requiring cooperation from both publishers and librarians. What are your thoughts?
I officially became the Director of my library in September of 2016, but I shadowed the old director until November. So to me I kind of count November as to when I really became the Director. The time has gone by quickly. I have learned a lot of things. I thought I would share them, just as I shared about what I learned as President of MLA.
So here are a few things I learned:
You Need Friends:
No matter if you are new to an institution or have been there for 20 years (as I have) there will be certain departments in your institution that will befuddle you and they will always befuddle you. At some institutions, you have a better chance discovering the meaning of the four messages on the Kryptos sculpture than knowing how parking is assigned and getting a good lot/garage/spot can be akin to winning the lottery. While at other institutions, sending a license agreement off for review to the legal department may often feel like you sent it to the Bermuda Triangle. Every institution has its own version of Catch 22 policies and departments and you need to find friends in those departments, preferably several. Those people will save you. They may not be able to fix the problem themselves, but they can often get you out of no man’s land and connect you with somebody who can fix things. (Unless it is parking…nobody can ever fix parking.)
This sounds like a no brainer. However, a simple thank you note or email, depending on the situation, is not only the nice and right thing to do, but it will help you win more friends. (Remember the paragraph above about friends) Based off my observations the art of sending a thank you is disappearing. Perhaps we are busier than we were in the past and don’t think about it. Maybe some of us didn’t have their mom standing over us when we were 7 yrs old writing thank you notes from our birthday party. Some say technology is to blame. Whatever…just send a quick thank you via email if somebody helped you out. If they really went above and beyond, send a thank you card.
Transitioning from co-worker to boss:
This can be sticky if you are a new boss to a new institution and even stickier if you are the new boss in an institution you’ve been in for a long time. There are lots of books on this topic. I get weekly emails from the site From Bud to Boss, while it is primarily set in the business world there are some helpful things. I recommend working on this transition either by reading some of these books or talking to another library director you know well. You are going to have times where you are going to have to have a difficult conversation with an employee. I have found the book Crucial Conversations helpful and practicing the conversation with either HR or a trusted library director can be beneficial. While it is fine to get your stuff together and practice, do not put off the conversation longer than you need to.
Going from an employee focused on your own job, to a manager or director who is focused on your own job plus everyone’s jobs means your time gets squeezed. There are certain things that you used to do that you just don’t have time for and should be delegated to somebody else. These things could be ordinary tasks like ordering supplies or doing the desk schedule. They could also be specialized. For example, you may no longer be the best person to do a systematic review.
In the past, I had ideas that I would be super awesome at doing systematic reviews, I would learn how to do research, I would manage the library’s systems (web design, link resolvers, etc.) and my spare time I would devote to finding the latest and greatest resources. Ha. I don’t have time for any of that now. Now is the time to find people who are interested in those things and encourage them and provide support for them to take on those roles for the library.
Find a mentor:
Find a library mentor (another director or manager) and find an institutional mentor. Both are equally important. The library mentor will help you with the library things that normals just don’t understand. An institutional mentor will help deal with the quirks within your institution. You don’t feel alone when you have a good mentor. Chances are they have been in the same situation.
Make time for you:
There is always going to be something that needs your attention. I encourage disconnecting when possible. But it isn’t possible all of the time. For example, I have to do payroll on Christmas Eve (they switched it earlier so we didn’t have to do it on Christmas day). Find your balance with technology in order to find your balance with your work and home. Some people will absolutely never answer emails when they are at home. I do. I find if I am able to answer them on a regular basis then they don’t pile up and I don’t have to spend more time at work catching up and answering them. If I’m not spending time at work catching up on my email then I am able to spend time at work doing the other things that need to get done. The important thing is find what works for you to maintain a healthy work and home life balance.
I learned a lot more but these are some of the biggies that apply to everyone. Here is to a new year, may 2018 bring us happiness, joy, and good challenges.