Archive for the ‘Evidence-Based Librarianship’ Category


Business support, on the job training and creative learning – HLG round up

In CILIP,Evidence-Based Librarianship,HLG 2010,How to work better,Information industry,Knowledge Management on July 25, 2010 by Hanna Tagged: , , , , ,

The 2010 HLG conference earlier this week offered an opportunity for health librarians and information professionals to share knowledge and experience in the positively sunny Salford Quays location. Alan F and I presented on this very blog and I also presented about work I do on clinical guidelines. This meant that with lots of parallel sessions I may have missed some great presentations and look forward to catching up on those I couldn’t see in person when they’re posted on the HLG website. I tried tweeting from the conference as well but couldn’t get a signal on my phone and the organisers did seem to miss a trick when they announced the hashtag (they switched from #HLGconf to #hlg2010 or maybe this was not organised, haven’t checked) but in the next breath said please turn off your phones…

So what did I take away from the conference? One inspiring session came from librarians supporting the information needs of managers in Leicester where Louise Hull talked about building on experience of a successful clinical librarian service and Debra Thornton in Blackpool had recruited Trevor Morris to provide a dedicated management librarian service. Trevor was so successsful he has now moved into a care pathway coordination role so the library is providing integral support to improving quality for patients. Stephen Ayre spoke about how his service in Nuneaton started offering literature support for clinical audits being carried out at his hospital and how picking up the phone and having a chat to people about their needs could increase new business for the library. He ended up collecting useful information for the clinical audit team about who was registering audits (nurses don’t have to do this for their statutory professional development so slip under the radar) and even becoming a first check of audits before they are registered proved that library services can be tailored to the information need for non-clinicians. I felt their case studies were inspiring as a way of raising your profile in an organisation even if other people might think ‘why is a librarian interested in audit or quality improvement’; in the right culture and with drive and determination you can push the boundaries of traditional library services. Even in my work place, a more corporate/research setting, we don’t specifically address the needs of managers who are our budget holders and paymasters. Perhaps it pays to think that managers have information needs that stretch the imagination in terms of not needing Medline searches but need to know what other organisations are doing , what the latest management technique du jour is and what is on the horizon in their domain of interest be it commissioning or implementation or planning…

Emily Hopkins set up a ‘library’ service in NHS North West and discovered that there was no need for a physical collection but that there were plenty of projects that could use a bit of information or records or knowledge management. Which linked quite nicely to a talk about strategic planning (or looking beyond things like PEST and SWOT analyses which are part of my vocabulary) as most of us don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch but work with a history which means our services need to be revised and developed as we reflect on where we are going. Sheila Corrall talking briefly about a range of other tools such as information ecology whereby you think about the different environments in which you work, strategic information alignment where we explicitly map our goals with that of our organisation and my favourite way the issues priorities matrix where you are trying to think about what to tackle first.

The plenary session featuring a professional development model based on training by doing (yay!) or on the job checklists of specific skills was brilliant for having an overview of how this was developed from Sara Clarke and a reflection on how this felt to progress through by my fellow grad trainee Zoe Thomas. Of course it couldn’t be called common sense or just recognising my argument that I learnt a limited amount about library work at library school and library schools are often a bit too academic and will inherantly always be so they plumped for ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’ model which is just brilliant.

Tony Warne, Professor of Nursing at Salford University, offered us a talk on creative learning and and insight into the blog I’d like to write only I should be approached by the estate of James Joyce for breach of copyright. He actually titled his talk around Vannevar Bush’s 1945 paper ‘As we may think’ and meandered around library services being beyond bounds of physical space and the joys of open access (yes indeed I thought) and then spoiled this by talking about the interface between knowing and not knowing and perhaps his interest in psychanalysis took over…but going back to Bush who was thinking about the limits of organising knowledge in a logical way (albeit Andrew Booth had argued earlier in the conference that us info pros are happier when information is ordered in this way) he said humans think in terms of associations and how about we have a machine called a memex that captures this in some way, storing and organising information in a mechanized fashion, allowing more than one person to look at something at once. How far the internet and contemporary knowledge systems have achieved this is up for debate. I definitely agree with creative learning approaches which builds on Warne’s exposition that creativity and rational approaches to knowledge organisation are not mutually exclusive, almost by being open to different ways of thinking will encourage a broader landscape of a topic, building on the collective knowledge of something (and now I’m falling into the academic that turns me off but his talk was definitely intellectually stimulating!).

Lastly I caught two posters from SCIE the Social Care Institute for Excellence which looked at scoping searches and the fact there is no defined way of rapidly gathering evidence about a topic and how far to go as well as how to choose databases for searching in social care. This latter problem was approached in a systematic way whereby a range of databases were searched and unique references identified to map where overlap in coverage was found. Presumably a few more cases might need to be tested to see if there were any general trends. This is certainly a question we have when searching for medical literature and whether we should search every database we have access to or whether it is a peculiar fear of librarians that we’ll end up in a meeting where we missed a paper and all hell will break lose…


Priorities and using technology in medicine

In Evidence-Based Librarianship on March 5, 2010 by Hanna Tagged:

Interesting debate on LIS-LINK this week about whether retrospective cataloguing and projects such as COPAC are a reinvention of unionised catalogue wheel long worn out. At work we have had a clear out which is long overdue. Which brings me to priorities in information services: if in tightened times we cut back and prioritise, why shouldn’t we be thinking about this all the time? So what are the hard outcomes of retrospective cataloguing? And I have a friend who does this so am now in for some flack albeit I’m just asking the question…if users are priorities then will they benefit from access to hidden treasures and if so how much more than say other services from which they might benefit such as document delivery or doing literature searches for them or any number of things. Is this a case of needing user research to back up strategy instead of making assumptions and ploughing on because it was what you were taught in library school?

Techcrunch had an interesting story on how a text to speech service helped a man get his voice back so he was him and not a computer generated character called Alex.


NHS Evidence: 3 months on

In Evidence-Based Librarianship on July 22, 2009 by Hanna Tagged: , , ,

Went to update workshop held by London Links (no not the bespoke jewellers ahem) and had update on NHS Evidence:

  • See librarians as advocates of the service
  • NHS Evidence is still at an early stage so it is about managing expectations and it will take time for people to use and trust it
  • Aim is to be akin to NHS Search, a single source of information for the NHS
  • Working on integration into 3rd party systems such as hand held devices
  • Highlighted new areas: drugs and horizon scanning, commissioning, public health and e-learning modules
  • More resources that feed into the FAST search (front page) are being ‘ingested’
  • First determinations of accreditation scheme will be published soon
  • Eyes on Evidence bulletin you may have noticed uses the Specialist Collections to promote new evidence
  • They are reviewing many areas of the service including journal provision and the Specialist Collections
  • User testing is continuing and they said they would be happy for librarians to volunteer for this
  • Release 2 will be in October where they hope to roll out personalisation and improved search functionality (user ranking)
  • Release 3 will possibly include the ability of third parties to upload content and/or local information, this is where the look and feel of the site may change more significantly than merely building on NLH
  • Aim is not to duplicate the work of NHS Information Centre or DoH but wants to group all relevant resources in one place. [In answer to a question about attracting commissioners]

There was an interesting report from a test between NHS Evidence, TRIP and Pubmed using a series of clinical questions which (albeit using the surrogate outcome of number of systematic reviews for quality as opposed to relevance of results) found that NHS Evidence is not doing badly. Reinhard Wentz, the ex-medical librarian who carried out the tests said us info pros could learn something from clinicians about single line searching. I’d like to see a more thorough test of this (and my colleagues are talking about testing the utility of Emtree headings so hey which is more positively riveting).

In my modest opinion: I tend to use the primary sources although that’s because of local protocol in the main. However if they could 1. make it more explicit what resources they are ‘ingesting’ (their words) and 2. refine the results to take into account of both currency and relevancy then it may be useful. Look forward to seeing how it is promoted (they are planning to liaise with medical schools to get it on curricula amongst I assume other things).


Has our wish come true?

In Evidence-Based Librarianship on April 16, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , ,

OvidSP has just sent out an email to its valued customers describing a couple of updates that it will roll out today between 14:00 and 15:00 GMT (or sometime in the morning, for you Canucks and Yankees).

One change in particular has me almost breathless:

“During this deployment, we are also expanding the size of the Search query box and the Search History box (where applicable), by removing the OvidSP Tips box, thereby providing more interface space for searching.”

Could it really be true?  Will we actually now have the full breadth of the browser window to play with when conducting searches on OvidSP databases such as Medline and Embase?  When I use the zoom functionality in Firefox to boost the font size will I be able to read more than 4 words on each line?

It is my belief that Ovid has finally given in to the various pressures (e.g. here and here) to get rid of the Ovid Tips box as it has proved not only useless but cumbersome.  Not to mention a roadblock to accessibility for end users with poor eyesight.  I am surprised that Ovid neither tried to make the Tips useful, nor got rid of it when the results of last year’s survey came in. The removal of the Tips box was about the only thing survey respondents could agree upon, as I recall.

With bated breath I wait for more screen real estate.

Update: Yes! I just logged on.  It is really true–bye bye OvidSP Tips box.



In Evidence-Based Librarianship on March 24, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , ,

Those of you on the bleeding edge of reference management technology will know all about Connotea.  It lives on your Firefox bookmarks toolbar, ready to spring into action whenever you come across a reference or website on the interweb you would like to save for later. You could think of it as a somewhat geeky social networking tool–you upload citations of interest and tag them, others do the same.  You show them yours, and they show you theirs!  Unless you mark yours as private, that is.

It is nice that it is free, but not so nice that you have to add each reference separately, you cannot, say, go to a bibliography page of a study (in a pearl growing attempt) and add them all in one batch.  It is also great that it talks to Reference manager, Endnote, Word (it sends an .xml file that can be made into a bibliography), etc.  This little gadget could make grey literature searching a whiz–or at least take the cut-and-paste drudgery out of it.

Oh, and no abstracts are included, if they are available. Another big caveat, but it should be easily solved by adding that functionality (hint, hint).

Of course, I am not the first to check out Connotea and it has been blogged on here , here and here.


What I don’t not like: health search engines

In Evidence-Based Librarianship on March 10, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , , , ,

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I am picky. Given the plethora of websites, resources, search engines and ‘time-saving’ tools out there, why not be?  Since I have been politely asked by the folks at AltSearchEngines to give a list of favoured search engines, I am happy to do so below.  I’ve aimed to be realistic as to what my needs are as an information professional–any resource needs to be fairly intuitive to use, reliable, fast, and relevant to the areas of healthcare/social care/ medicine.

Having said all that, and having given it some thought, this is my list of useful search engines/ resources:

Health Search Engines

1. Trip Database

While working on a project to answer doctors’ clinical questions in 15 minutes or less, this was my first point of call, nearly all the time.  It is simple–type in a condition, say, and it pops up a list of result giving you the title, source and year. You can limit into meaningful categories: clinical queries, guidelines (by country), systematic reviews, and e-text books. It has improved over the years by becoming open source and now has more filtering options.

I’ve previously blogged on Trip Answers, a compendium of clinical questions and answers that is searchable.

2. OvidSP Medline

Not a very original or cutting-edge choice. However, it is reliable if you consider the alternatives (Ebsco Cinahl, anyone?).  And fairly user-friendly-you can go behind the scenes and edit your search and last year they introduced a number of changes to allow you to OR or AND by checking boxes, as well as remove search lines right on the live search screen (previously you had to go to another screen to do this). A change that didn’t sit well with me was the decision to put the search history below the text box where you’d enter your search. Perhaps due to several people making a stink about this, it was changed so you can now have the search history either below or above the text box. Options such as saving references, rerunning searches, and creating auto-alerts are generally good. Greater flexibility is needed–I like a big font on my browser and this is poorly accommodated by many websites, including OvidSP (the display area for citations is narrowed by having an Ovid tip box on the right).

3. Intute

Pre-vetted resources by subject-specialists in areas of health, science, tech, social sciences, and arts/ humanities. I like Intute’s brilliant search options: browse by MeSH or by keywords. It is like a happy and fun version of the internet–someone else has already gone ahead and removed the rubbish so you don’t have to wade through it.

4. Cochrane Library

I like nothing better than to have a wallow through a systematic review or two to find inspiration for planning a systematic search.  Thank you, Cochrane, for usually posting the actual search strategies and not just a random spew of keywords in your reviews.  I quite like that the search provides a one-stop shop to: Cochrane reviews, other reviews, clinical trials, health technology assessments, economic evaluations and methods studies. There is an ok but slightly time-consuming-to-use browse by topic functionality.

5. NLH Specialist Libraries

I wouldn’t recommend doing a grey literature search without checking here. It has a good browse functionality (if you have read this far, you may have picked up on the fact I quite appreciate good browse functionality). For instance, you can browse the Cancer Specialist Library by body site of the cancer (lung, breast, upper gastrointestinal, etc.). I would hate to see all this hard work bulldozed by the impending arrival of NHS Evidence, as NLH is not a passing trend.

General Search Engines

1. StumbleUpon

This is very handy for finding blogs or just good websites on a topic–especially if you have an open mind about what it is you might want.  Serendipity is an important element to searching.  I like to stumble by putting in a basic search such as ‘autism blog’ and seeing what I get. I like the quality control option whereby you can say if a link is broken or inappropriate. You can stumble upon WordPress blogs.

2. Kallout

Kallout is a recent addition for me. What I do like is that it integrates with MS Office products. It allows you to do a Google search by simply highlighting a word or words. Other options let you look something up in Wikipedia, YouTube or many other options. I do not love that it runs in the background (taking up valuable memory), but it is the most recent search to excite me, so I’d recommend checking it out.

3.  Cuil

I have been checking this one out lately too, no doubt well after the first yes-men and nay-sayers have sounded off. I like the beauty of the results (the layout is a bit like an encyclopaedia and it brought me back to the hours I used to spend browsing these as a child) and the categories it suggests for each topic. I will have to test this a little more to see how best it can be used. If you search for a specific condition, Cuil brings up researchers on the topic–this could be a great commissioning, fundraising, or research tool.

If there are any search engines that you use and are feeling evangelical about, please let me know and give me reasons why you like them.


Misspellings in keywords

In Evidence-Based Librarianship on February 26, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , , ,

Just now I was hoping to find a resource to help me find out what medical words are frequently misspelled and what those misspellings look like.  I found a couple of websites of general words and their misspellings but both lacked medical words.  So I was left guessing.  Words I find genuinely bamboozling such as ‘arrhythmias’ and ‘hypercholesterolaemia’ I typed into Google and if misspelled, it directs me to the proper spelling.  I do like the way Google doesn’t give any US bias in spellings–i.e. ‘hypercholesterolaemia’ isn’t corrected to ‘hypercholesterolemia’.

However, I think there is an informationist-sized gap (or is that ‘informaticist-sized’?) for an intelligent tool that does the following:

1. Gives synonyms for medical words

2. Gives common misspellings of commonly misspelled medical words

3. Gives alternate endings (i.e. hypercholesterolaemic) associated with the word

4. Has an abbreviation lookup (yes I have seen these, but nothing masterful, authoritative and international, at least for the English-speaking world) AND gives colloquial abbreviations (e.g. ‘afib’, ‘a-fib’, and ‘af’ for atrial fibrillation)

I should mention that I am sorting out the keywords for the work website.  About three-quarters of the way through, I noticed that my predecessor had tagged each publication’s record with ‘GENERAL PRACTIONER’.  When they invent a simply ‘find and replace’ function for this sort of thing, would you let me know?

I just did a medical dictionary search and found something new and somewhat promising: mondofacto.  I say somewhat because it didn’t return anything for ‘hypercholesterolemia’ but gave me some useful stuff for ‘hypercholesterolaemia’.


Why are there not more clincial question answering services out there?

In Evidence-Based Librarianship,How to work better on January 27, 2009 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , ,

PLoS ONE have recently published an RCT that showed that ‘Just in time’ Information, provided by a librarian within 20mins of asking (via a blackberry) improved decision-making in primary care in an RCT of a trial service in Ontario, Canada. Apparently the service had a high approval rating by participants (primary care physicians) and 72% said they would continue to use the service if it were continued (a question of funding, as always). I know that Danielle is a big fan of such services, and it’s always nice to have an RCT or two to back you up.

I don’t really know why there aren’t more librarian resourced clinical answering services, as it’s not the first trial I’ve seen that suggest they are valid, valued and value for money; politics, perhaps? Answers on a postcard to…


Reflective writing – a friday afternoon experiment

In Evidence-Based Librarianship,How to work better on December 19, 2008 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , ,

Well this blog hasn’t been updated for a while, has it? Danielle is busy looking for work (or no doubt juggling all the job offers flying her way) while I’ve been sick, again(!). Virus after virus attached itself to me over the last few months like a series of dear old friends coming into town, all desperate to catch up and spend a bit of ‘quality time’ together. Sweet of them, but there are limits. Anyway, I should like to say that I’ve not forgotten about the blog. I plan to write some posts on the different types of search I/we use, and perhaps start thinking about naming them so that I have a vocabulary that will amaze and impress my colleagues, and I’ve also just flicked through a copy of HILJ where it talks about the importance of being a ‘critically reflective practitioner’ – part of which involves doing a bit of ‘reflective writing’. Maybe I should do a bit of that in this blog…

Hmm, what of significance happened today? Well I tried haika, a semantic search engine, and it wasn’t (rather surprisingly) totally useless. I still think that 99.9% of the time a really well structured Google search will get as good results as you’re likely to get. Am I missing something? Do we keep on using all these specialist search engines just to try and prove that we’re more ‘advanced’ than your average googler? Trying to prove our existence?

I’m meant to write, reflectively, for six minutes. Is that six minutes? I’m sure it feels like six minutes to you, dear reader (and you’ll never get the time back).


Preserving web resources – new advisory handbook from JISC

In Evidence-Based Librarianship,Information industry,Knowledge Management on December 12, 2008 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , ,

Been a bit of a busy week in office land. Just time though to give you a little pointer to what might be an interesting and up-to-date little handbook to some of you. It’s from the Joint Information Systems Committee, more commonly known as JISC, and it “offers a wealth of tips and information for web managers, data professionals and those making decisions concerning the long-term preservation of online resources“; so there you go. JISC assures me that It “provides solutions” and gives “illustrative case studies”.

JISC also do regular podcasts, including one entitled “Library spaces for the ‘Google Generation” – how hip are they at JISC?

In case you’re wondering who are these hip, active JISC people, it’s all rather British. They exist to “support education and research by promoting innovation in new technologies and by the central support of ICT services” and are funded by, amongst others, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Department for Employment and Learning, the Scottish Funding Council, and the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills.

Don’t say you never learn anything from me.