Friday, December 29, 2006


Library 2.0 has an interesting posting about using students as "greeters" for academic libraries in order to make patrons not only feel more comfortable in entering the library, but also to field and direct inquiries as a front-line staff. What a marvellous idea, and very much part of the Library 2.0 mantra, which is about innovation and user-centred creativity. What greeters can do is simply build on this, starting from the floor up.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Health Librarianship Internationale

Drawing from their combined experience in international activities and the published information available from selected library associations and related organizations, Bruce Madge and T. Scott Plutchak’s “The increasing globalization of health librarianship: a brief survey of international trends and activities” offers fascinating insights into the current developments in international health librarianship and describe some current themes. It’s worth a read. Here are the major points.

(1) Co-operation and partnership

Co-operation and partnerships have been key to libraries for a number of years. As budgets shrink, cooperative collection development has been more readily accepted as a policy.

(2) Open access

Radical changes in scholarly communication comprises a major area affecting all library services and not just those in the health sector. Much of the discussion in recent years has dealt with open access. The importance of this theme is emphasized by the fact that the British Government has even been included in the debate.

(3) Technology

The rapid growth and uptake of technology has had a massive impact on libraries over the last 20 years. The Internet has changed the way libraries access information, and the move to electronic publishing has caused major concerns for libraries as to whether to continue to take print journals or to move to electronic materials.

(4) Keeping ahead of the curve

The idea of horizon scanning has only recently appeared in the health-library sector in the UK as a recommendation of the ‘Future Proofing the Profession’ report. It is essential that health librarians and information professionals keep up to date with developments in key areas such as information technology.

But this is in a British context; has North American health librarianship caught up yet? I guess we'll find out.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dent in the Web

Just when Web 2.0 was about to take off, a minor roadblock has been erected by Google when it announced recently that it has taken off its Google Search API off the market. Before, you could simply integrate the free coding with other content (and API's) to form a mashup in what is now popularly referred to the new Web 2.0, better searching, faster integration, larger social networks.

But with Google taking out this essential piece of software, as well as modifying its Google Maps API terms of use, is Google taking the horrendous mis-step of preventing the progress of the new web? Let's hope not. Without API's, we won't be able to use such applications such as this. And seeing that it's so near Christmas, it would be a shame, too. Ho ho ho.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Farewell to the Google Scholar

It is only proper that I make this posting on December 8th, which is the last day of the Google Scholar's blog before it goes on hiatus for a much deserved sabbatical. It has been my pleasure to have been the recipient of the Google Scholar's mentorship. Without any idea of what I was doing or where I was going, the Google Scholar showed me what it takes to be a librarian. Here is what I learned:

(10) Teaching - As he says so often, the profession has changed immensely over the last twenty years. Emphasis on teaching has never been as great as it is now, and that is one of the reasons why librarians must also be great teachers, which the Google Scholar is.

(9) Empathy - He treats his students and employees as he would a top-level administrator. He sees the profession not as a hierarchical ladder, but as a community where information flows as freely as emotions and thoughts. He stands up for his employees and colleagues, and puts his neck on the line for them. When he sees students in need, he doesn't think twice about phoning them and asking how they're doing during their late evening shifts.

(8) Networks - He believes in social networks, not for personal gain, but for collaboration and learning. The Scholar's reach in the library, academic, and medical community is far and wide. He reaches out, and connects people not only to information, but also to other people.

(7) Cooperation - He believes in librarians helping each other. He believes that equal opportunities exist for all, and hence, his support for such things as open-access, PubMed, and Google Scholar.

(6) Knowledge - The Google Scholar is one of the premiere information retrieval experts in the profession. More admirably, he believes in sharing his knowledge, which he does through his tireless writings on his blog and discussions with colleagues and students.

(5) Believing in oneself - As he tells all his students, self-confidence is the key to success. Although he offers opinions, when it really matters, he steps back and allows his mentees to think for themselves, for he knows they are ultimately the ones who control their own destinies. He creates pathways, and allows us to find our own destinations.

(4) Humour - The Google Scholar is also a performer and comedian. He can light up any audience with his lighthearted quips and creative improvisation, often at the most appropriate of times.

(3) Technology - If there is one thing that I learned from the Google Scholar, it is to keep up with technology. In the library profession, technology is important as ever, and is a key goal in helping maximize information resources for the users and patrons. Google, blogging, mashups, blikis, etc. They keep on coming, and the Google Scholar keeps on absorbing. Nothing gets by this man.

(2) Hard work - Paying your dues. That's what the Google Scholar's career is all about. As he so often tells us, he started out with no clear indication of where he was going. All he knew was that he wanted to be a health librarian in order to make a difference in people's lives. Through sheer determination and hard work, he has done just that. And much more.

(1) Passion - If there's one thing that defines the Google Scholar, it is passion, a pure love of librarianship. Regardless of how one performs and how knowledgeable one is, nothing can compensate for passion. He breathes and bleeds librarianship. His passion is contagious. He is not only a mentor and teacher, but also a true friend.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What's Wrong?

LibraryCrunch has just reported that the term "Library 2.0" is being considered for deletion in Wikipedia. It's caused a ruckus. Understandably, there is discomfort with the term. What is it? What does it mean? I've discussed in a previous post my attitudes towards Web 2.0, I have similar thoughts for Library 2.0. Although it's disconcerting to see the overreaction, it's also exciting to see that controversy is forcing us to reexamine our profession and what it constitutes. Let's see where Wikipedia takes us in the next while.

Library 2.0

Michael Habib's Master's degree thesis is released. With great anticipation comes great expectations. All are met. It's definitely worth a read. What do I think of Library 2.0? It's a nice catchy term, definitely part of the "2.0" wave. However, stripped down to its essence, the principles of Library 2.0 need to be adapted into the library setting. It's the natural progression of where the profession and its resources are heading. So why should we resist? Let's use the ideas which best serves the user.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mashups for Librarians

I recently gave a presentation on mashups. People were interested, and most of all, they realized that there's a lot one can do with mashups. I believe that librarians and information professionals need to know what mashups are, particularly since they are an essential element of Web 2.0. A mashup thus does exactly what Web 2.0 technology is supposed to: they allow greater interactivity, more user control of information, user personalization, the development of online communities, and greater democratic management of information.

Why are mashups relevant for information professionals and librarians? Matthew Dames lists two reasons: First, social software tools such as mashups are the perfect opportunity to extend its reach beyond the library building, particularly in a time when there is real fear that patrons are no longer use reference services as vehemently as they once did. Second: job security. Social software tools such as mashups allow librarians to “reclaim” areas of influence and expertise in the organization that have been ceded to the IT department.

I'd add one more, and it's pretty obvious: the main goal of the health librarian (and all librarians, for that matter) is to serve his or her user. Mashups help achieve that goal, and then some.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Open Access = End of Publishing

Library 2.0 has just written an intriguing entry titled, The Coming End of Completed Publications. Indeed, Library 2.0's entry has an exclaimer which warns us it's too early to judge whether the end of publishing as we know it will occur. But Library 2.0 does pose some interesting scenarios in regards to how open access is slowly bringing in complexities to the game of printed publishing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Marketing Open Access

Today, UBC librarian Hilde Colenbrander gave a fascinating presentation on open access. She pointed out that the "impact factor" plays a large hand in the OA movement. The reason why is that scholars have an incentive to publish in established and prestigious journals. For young scholars who want tenureship, they must get published in such journals, not in open access publications, freely available to all.

Heleen Gierveld's recent article, Considering a Marketing and Communications Approach for an Institutional Repository proposes an "8P's" as a strategy for promoting institutional repositories. This article complements a previous entry that I had made, and supports the idea that creativity is essential for the OA movement.

One thing Colenbrander said which stood out in my mind: research and development. With a hectic work schedule, most academic librarians simply do not have time for study and reflection on gigantic issues such as open access. Without support from their institutions, librarians simply cannot devote the proper attention necessary. But librarians are supposed to be at the forefront of this moment; they need more support than they are currently given.

Friday, November 03, 2006

NHL on Google

The wait is over. The National Hockey League (NHL) has paved the road for professional sports' entrance into open-access. Understandably, there will be skeptics who cringe at the thought of a corporate entertainment giant taking a plunge into the online environment, and making a profit at the same time. But the NHL has just made an agreement with Google Videos which allows entire broadcasts to be online. Hence, classics such as the Vancouver Canucks-New York Rangers' Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals can be seen in its entirety, or games that you missed from yesterday can be replayed at a click of a mouse.

But the NHL is making a bold move. By putting its games online, it has unwittingly joined the realm of open-access, which includes among other things, "open collaboration, open authoring, open platforming, and open searching for everyone." Whether this hurts its NHL Network cable broadcasts remains to be seen. (They are live events, compared to Google Video's 4 hour tape-delay). As a sports fan, this is an unbelievable day. As a proponent of Web 2.0, I am ecstatic. The champagne is flowing endlessly. Let the games begin!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Web 3.0? How about 4.0?

Not surprisingly, some people are disturbed with Web 2.0. What is it? What makes it so different from Web 1.0? What is Web 1.0? It is understandable that there is anxiety, coupled with a certain element of skepticism.

With that said, I introduce to you Web 3.0. What is it? Phil Wainewright, a technology expert, believes that Web 2.0 is but a "transitional" period proto-Web 3.0 stage, where the best is yet to come. What do I think? Be careful what you wish for. Sooner or later, Web XP will be the latest version of the web that you and I will be using...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Oh, So This Is A Systematic Review

Yesterday's session on systematic review searching was an eye-opener. It turns out that I've been doing systematic review searching the whole time, but never knew it! It's no wonder why researchers have kept on insisting that I keep a list of my search terms and databases in my literature searches. As an uninformed searcher, I had wondered why do they need it? They've got the articles, they're useful, why do they need to be so careful about such seemingly "unimportant" data?

I'll ask the question again: Why do we need systematic review searching? The reason, as Mimi Doyle of the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation reveals, is so that researchers can keep a tab of how much time they had spent on a project (for things like accounting audits). Not only that, as part of the scientific method, the experiment should have reproductibility, which means that everything from searching to the actual experimentation and apparatuses needs to be as documented as carefully as possible. This is a fascinating revelation: searching in the health sciences is every bit as scientific as the labs that go on each day. It's all part of the bigger picture
in healing.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Tale of Two Professions

I recently went to a luncheon hosted by the Vancouver Association of Law Librarians (VALL) with whom the talented Eugene Barsky gave a talk on Wiki's. The similarities between medical librarianship and law librarianship caught my attention. After freshly returning from a conference in Seattle from the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association where I spoke to medical librarians about the salient issues of the day, I was intrigued to hear similar discussion echoed among law librarians (and technicians).

Conclusion? Things aren't so different between these two supposedly very different areas of librarianship. Social software, Web 2.0, recruitment, employment forecasts all came up during discussion. (In fact, Christina Tribe of Harper Grey tells me that 50% of her time is spent on medical databases and CISTI). One person who participated at the luncheon has a blog entry which has striking relevance to medical librarianship and echoes a similar problem. I'd like to share with you an excerpt:

So who must pay attention to this? Well first of all - VALL. We (I speak as a member of the Executive) have to prepare our membership. Mentoring and training are goingnto be more important than ever. Next up, UBC SLAIS. The legal bibliography course needs to be offered regularly, and we need to support it (be it Teresa Gleave or another local Librarian who takes on this huge task).

Replace the legal terms/people with medical terms/people and you'd find the above arguments to be highly relevant and interchangeable in both areas. In my opinion, because both professions - law and medicine - are so specialized, they require talented and creative individuals to fill its posts, especially one which requires information retrieval. Answer? Librarians of the future.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Frontiers

At the PNC/MLA Conference in Seattle, Terry Henner, Associate Professor and Head of Information & Education Services of the Savitt Medical Library at theUniversity of Nevada School of Medicine, gave a fascinating presentation on a collaboration project between the Savitt Medical Library and a consortia of local public health organizations to build information sharing capacity into a regional obesityreuction initiative. His presentation highlighted how information technologies can support and enhance the activities of care providers, educators, and advocates who have entered into a regional coalition aiming at reducing obesity rates.

Two things particularly stood out for me. First was Henner's introduction of social software into the library environment. In using RSS to Javascript, a program that seamlessly integrates RSS feeds directly to the webpage, Henner's project removed the previous inhibitions of users about creating their own aggregators and feedreaders by doing the work for them, thus making the homepage more accessible and user-friendly.

Second, Henner left an indelible mark for me about the acceptance of new experimental technologies. In his conclusion, he makes clear the point that not everyone will accept what you think is integral: "Utility is in the eye of the beholder." What an excellent point. Simple, yet so often overlooked. We often want results right away -- but in doing so, we forget that it takes time and patience for others to follow. (However, "Resistance can be overcome" as he argues). Henner leaves us with what I thought was the best quote to take home with me: "Some success is better than none." A marvellous anecdote: if we create something out of nothing, then perhaps that itself is an achievement worthy of celebration.

Changing the Face of Searching?

Well, as you may have heard by now, Ms. Dewey is a brand new search engine that is taking a run at Google. Reviews are all over the blogosphere now. However, it's so unique that I'm going to hop onto the Blogosphere Express and offer my two cents:

(1) Interface - Well, what more can I say. It's definitely a diversion from Google's simplicity. There's more to look at, that's for sure. But I like it. It's fresh, dynamic, and interactive. The only drawback is that the search results are a bit cumbersome to navigate.

(2) Web 2.0-compatible - To date, there's still no search engine that makes witty comments, shows signs of moodiness, and has an interest in your searches. True, it's artificial, but it's still not a bad attempt at user interaction. When one types in a search term or phrase, Janina offers a commentary. If the question is bizarre enough, Janina might even perform a short skit.

(3) Effectiveness - In the end, the question is, can it do what it's supposed to do? I've done quite a few searches. It's definitely no Google. A little trick that I use to determine an engine's effectiveness is to try finding a journal article by simply by typing in the full (or partial) article title. Ms. Dewey unfortunately comes up short (but so does Yahoo! and MSN Live). Google still rules at the end of the day.

(4) A new type of search engine - The "traditional" search engine days of Google and Yahoo! are increasingly challenged by up and comers. The clustering search engines such as Clusty and Vivisimo are great tools; and the visual search engines like Kartoo are also great as well. And now we have the "interactive" search engine. What does this all mean? There's still a ways to go before Ms. Dewey can offer us searchers something substantial. Perhaps Janina can offer a witty remark to that.