Medical Information Matters 2.8! (formerly Medlibs Round)

vintage medical advertisement

Hello and welcome to the new (though surely not improved) Medical Information Matters, version 2.8. This is what was formerly known as Medlibs Round, but recently there was something of a name change, mostly to have a name that is a little more meaningful, and reflect the more inclusive nature of our blogging network that extends well beyond medical libraries.

As I acknowledged in my call for posts, this is a busy time of year for everyone with the academic year starting off with a bang, and as such, I thought a topic calling for discussions around programs in libraries or medical education would be received well, and also help to start some critical thinking about what it is we do, and some reflection on what it means to be teaching, researching and learning in this field.

To that end, I got a number of submissions that fit the bill — and just for fun, I’m going to include a few links to posts that weren’t “officially” submitted, but fit the theme so well, I thought they deserved a mention anyway 🙂

I think we can start with a tale of a year or so ago, when Rachel Walden wrote to NLM to request that Doula be added to the MeSH vocabulary. Thanks to her work and some other intrepid pestering librarians, she submitted a post that proudly reports that the New 2011 MeSH terms includes “Doulas”! So it worked and I think Rachel and anyone else who helped to speed that process along deserves our congratulations.

Speaking of using MeSH, Jacqueline from Laika’s MedlibLog described the findings of a recent article that sought to validate a search filter that supposedly does a better job of finding animal experimentation studies than does the “Animals” limit in PubMed (A Filter for Finding “All Studies on Animal Experimentation in PubMed”). The paper reports that on average, their animal filter retrieves 7% more records than the PubMed limit. Laika correctly points out that, strangely, what they don’t say is whether those 7% are relevant to the search. She concludes:

The authors have not determined the specificity or precision of the filter, not even for the 2 topics where they have applied the filter. A quick look at the results shows that the MeSH-terms other than the PubMed limit “animals” contributed little to the enhanced sensitivity… Perhaps I’m somewhat too critical, but the cheering and triumphant tone of the paper in combination with a too simple design and without proper testing of the filter asked for a critical response.

As we all know, teaching (or even merely explaining) these sorts of quirky things about PubMed and any biomedical searching is difficult and time consuming. But in spite of the hiccups, you can’t escape PubMed and new users need a way to get the basics down effectively. One way that UBC librarian Dean Giustini has handled an introduction to PubMed for his residents has been to make a brochure that folds up and can be tucked in your coat. He’s calling it “PubMed in your Pocket.” I’ve seen these fly off the rack in his library, so even if they end up at the bottom of a pocket of a lab coat, he’s doing something right.

Another attempt to get users to “take the library with them” is being tried out this year by PF Anderson and the University of Michigan Health Sciences Library (iGoogle Gadgets Beyond Google!: Plain Language Medical Dictionary). Did you know that you can embed Google Gadgets in normal webpages, not just in your iGoogle homepage? You’re not alone! So they’ve devised is a Plain Language Medical Dictionary that began its life as a Google gadget, and this tutorial explains how to take the code and have the dictionary be embedded in other webpages. I’m not sure if any other sites around their university have taken them up on the offer, but hopefully she will post examples soon!

@amcunningham, even though she didn’t formally submit this post, caught my eye this month with her write-up of her considerations around using social networking with medical students (My experience using social bookmarking with medical students: #fail?). I really liked her reporting on two years worth of attempting to get her students to buy into social bookmarking, and to start using tools like Delicious and Diigo to collaborate, share and tag resources. Those efforts saw mixed success, but the humility with which she reports the experience demonstrates how much we can all learn from one another’s teaching efforts, whether or not they go as planned.

I need to be clear about why I am introducing social bookmarking to students. This is not (yet) part of a programme in digital literacy. I started using Delicious in the course simply because it was an easy way for me to share information with students. My expectations then started increasing which was why I chose to use Diigo in a much more complex way the next year. I don’t think that I can say that the use of Diigo was a success. I don’t actually use it myself very much despite these rich features so it is hard to recommend to others… I didn’t set out with the deliberate aim of teaching students about social bookmarking… But, I would like students to understand what social bookmarking is about–and to see that it might be useful to them.

I’m going to include as my last link another post of Laika’s in which she describes a difficult (e)teaching experience that may prove useful for others, or, at the very least, as an experience that may be relatable (An Educator by Chance). I am going to bait you into clicking that link to her whole post by offering up might be a controversial quote. Buckle up:

  1. Medical students don’t give a da do not care much about searching and information literacy.
  2. Medical students don’t choose that study for nothing. They want to become doctors, not librarians.
  3. At the time we give the courses, the students not really need it. Unlike the interns, they do not need to present a CAT, shortly.
  4. Most of our work is undone by the influence of peers or tutors that learn the students all kind of “tricks” that aren’t.
  5. It is hard to make good exams. If the reasoning isn’t watertight, students will find it. And protest against it.
  6. …. Because even more important than becoming a doctor is their desire to pass the exams
  7. If the e-learning isn’t compulsory, it won’t be done…

So there you have it. A great month, a great start to the year and the new Medical Information Matters. Thanks for your submissions, and I hope that everyone ! All bloggers welcome! Thanks for staying tuned.


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