Category Archives: and general update

[For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for my next post, as an FYI, I turned all Luddite and canceled my home internet access.  That means I only have my phone for home web access, meaning I won’t be typing lengthy posts very much anymore.  Since I’ve been feeling like I have very little to say anyway–writing burnout, I think–I dare say you aren’t missing much.]

So, is now.  I think I will never be able to type it accurately again.  Typing is so second nature to me that any time I start a word with de, it automatically starts coming out as  But in any case, the new…

Anyone who knows me and my fiendish obsession with knows I am not entirely a fan of the new design, probably as it should be.  The new design is decidedly NOT for power users, and they’ve been very upfront about that.  But, still, it is a tad frustrating, especially since it is a step backwards in productivity for me.  But anyway, my personal reaction is less important than how I see this impacting my professional life.

I may not be reading the right blogs, or perhaps I am just having to delete more RSS feeds than I’d like due to the frankly overwhelming amount of work I’ve got going on (I still feel like I’m in recovery from MLA and those other pesky vacations I’ve had in the interim), but I haven’t seen a whole lot of coverage of how this new version of has impacted libraries.

I was poking around in the new forum and found this comment from the Vancouver Public Library (hey, if anyone can figure out how to link to a single comment in that forum, let me know!):

We’re very disappointed that delicious failed to provide any warning that the original API was going to be discontinued in favour of a completely altered version. The lack of notice of this significant change meant that every one of our 5,000+ external web links broke without warning, with faulty HTML rendering also breaking the navigation and layout of all pages that contained external links. Because the new API was introduced at the end of the week, our website functionality remained seriously impaired for several days until we were able to implement a patch.

It would be very much appreciated if in the future, delicious either provided account holders with advance notice of changes to their API, or continued to provide access to the earlier version of the API to give users a chance to migrate to the new platform.

This is a major issue.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have long been advocating for libraries to use not only for personal productivity, but for organizing and maintaining links in subject guides and etc.  I’ve always seen it as a low cost way to keep subject guides a little more up to date, flexible, and easier to maintain and update.  Of course, when you are depending upon free services for the content of your library web site, you are just asking for trouble, I suppose.

At the moment, I have been working on two projects that depend upon pulling in information from, one for my place of employ and one for an organization with whom I have been known to work.  These projects were started largely because I pushed for them and for the use of in them.  Now, I am starting to think that my optimism about the constancy and usefulness of has been grossly misplaced.  Do I continue forth with these projects, or do I rethink the use of free online tools for maintaining library content?

I’d be curious to know what other people in library land think, especially those who have been using to roll content on their library web sites.  I know there are at least a couple of medical libraries out there doing this, and hopefully there are more after MLA 2008…

I’d also be curious to know if these libraries have decided to roll their links using the API (and if so, which one) or via RSS feeds or via the Javascript that provides.

Talk to me!


comments and medical libraries

I found out from a couple of readers that Akismet was eating comments. I just pulled one of them out today, so my apologies if you’ve tried to comment and not seen it show up. Out of respect for Patricia Anderson, whose comment I just pulled from the deluge of frankly hilarious spam Akismet had queued for me, take a look at her comment and the rest from my recent post on tagging in the medical library. She identifies a whole bunch of medical librarians on, including some I didn’t know about! I’m also going to start tracking some more on as I stumble across them. I’ve also got a ton of links on libraries/librarians in general using

tagging in the medical library

David Rothman asked me to write my perspective on the following question that he got from a medical librarian friend:

I’ve been wondering what the point to tagging is in the clinical field, when we have (as I see it) a really useful controlled vocab… maybe consumer health or somesuch? Just don’t get it. (rhetorical question)

I’ve got a bit to say about this topic. 🙂 I am going to start by responding to what David already covered/suggested.

First, one could use MeSH terms for social bookmarking tags if one chose to. If an individual medical library wishes to index various Web resources using MeSH, I can think of no more convenient way to do it than with or a similar social bookmarking tool.

There are a few number of people who are using MeSH, other controlled vocabularies, and standard metadata for their tagging in and other tools. It is of course not actually “tagging” at that point, but certainly David is absolutely correct in saying that using social bookmarking tools to index web resources is incredibly convenient, whether with MeSH or another controlled vocabulary, or with actual tagging. This is particularly easy to do in Connotea, where you can import subject headings directly into your tags. Here are a couple of examples: San MateoPublic Library using Dewey, OCLC Top 1000 books using LC for language designations (I think), and PeteJ using Dublin Core for authors.

What if one wants to categorize Web resources based on the roles or positions in the hospital to which they might be of most use? Once could create a series of tags like staff_development, ED_docs, ED_nurses or RNs. Each of these tags can output its own RSS feed, so this would be an incredibly quick and efficient way to recommend particular Web resources to particular segments of the library’s clinical patrons.

This is not as common, but I think David makes a good point–tags don’t have to be for the SUBJECT of a post. That is the beauty of tags. They can be personal; task-oriented; describing the author, subject, content type, date or time period, or audience; or practically anything else. There have been whole research papers written about how people are using tags in interesting ways that we can’t begin to do with subject headings and controlled vocabularies.

One of the biggest types of tag that can’t possibly be represented by controlled vocabulary are the subjective ones–those tags that express how someone feels about the content. How many times have you remembered something that was funny, cool, or scary? Probably more times than you remember something that evoked no emotion at all. Now maybe you think that libraries have no place in assigning subjective, feeling-based tags–and maybe they don’t. To be frank, I avoid them like the plague because I pretty much just have a bias against using too many adjectival tags. I have “amusement” as my one concession, but it is of course a noun. I often regret not having tags for insane, or awesome, or cool, or perfect, etc, simply because that is how I often remember things–more than the actual content, just the feeling I got from something.

So, after all that, why do I think that having “feeling”-based tags could be useful for a medical library? For one, book recommendations. I have to do a lot of book recommendations in my library, both for finding course-oriented books and for lighter reading. For the medical education books and medical humanities books and media, I have set up a BlinkList account, where I can not only tag the books in ways that make sense, but where I can also rate them to give faculty a better idea of what the books really worth their time might be.

But the audience-based tags and other “task” tags are the most commonly used by medical librarians. One of the rock stars of the medical library world is Patricia Anderson at the University of Michigan. She set up an account for the University of Michigan Dentistry Library (which hasn’t been updated since February, sadly) that exemplifies exactly what tags can do to target particular audiences. She has tags like 4clinicians, 4alumni, and 4patients. Just think what having those kinds of tags in the library catalog could do! If I was going to do something similar, I might do this on a class basis–2ndyearobgyn, 1styearmicroanatomy, etc. You could even add tags like outline, studentslove, studentshate, obgynwannabeslove, etc (I was having fun coming up with weird ones). Many teachers, school librarians, and library school faculty are already doing this. For example, Steven MacCall’s account is all broken down by course and assignment.

I frequently use to mark items for later follow-up, using tags like blog_this, try_this , or read_later. When I stumble across something that would be useful in reference to something I’m writing, I’ll even use tags likeMLANews_article

I’ve recently started using the toblog tag myself, but I know that this is particularly useful in a number of cases. Let’s say your 1st year medical students have to do a history of medicine project–you could create a tag particular to that assignment. Many students and others already use this kind of task tagging–to create their own bibliographies through just one tag.

You see this quite a bit in Connotea, too, ever since Ben Lund et al recommended it in their D-LIB article on Connotea. Having these bibliography-specific tags enables a couple of things. For one, the author can keep track of their bibliography as they are writing. Secondly, others can access that bibliography and its links more easily after it’s published. Third, the authors can keep adding to that bibliography as they see more resources that fit. And, fourth, and perhaps most importantly, other people can use the same tag to add resources they think are important to be joined to that paper as they see them, whether it is a paper that builds on the findings of the original or is otherwise relevant. This Connotea method has been used in a couple places in the medical library world, too–or at least in one Journal of Hospital Librarianship article I’ve seen recently. I’m not a big CiteULike user, but I suspect it is done there quite a bit as well.

I at one point in my life was in the middle of writing an editorial to Nature suggesting that all articles in Nature have Connotea bibliographies. It would be great–people could track articles in a whole new way, beyond citation searching! So, Nature, if you are out there listening, here’s your chance. Start requiring Connotea bibliographies and start creating unique tags for every article published. Perhaps it would only be research articles or a featured article at first, but wouldn’t that be interesting?

On your library’s intranet site, do you organize links to internet sites of clinical interest to your patrons by MeSH? Most that I have seen don’t. However, you can adapt social bookmarking tags to suit whatever organizational schemes your intranet uses, and have them populate to the page as soon as you tag them in

David has a very good point here. Why is tagging getting such a bad rap for organization when in fact I would bet very, very few libraries use MeSH to organize their web links? I bet that keywords, course names, audiences, etc. are ALREADY what medical libraries are using on their web sites. And why is that? Because keywords are useful. And tags are even more useful, because they can be manipulated in ways static web pages could never be.

But these are just a few ideas- how else can social bookmarking be used in a medical library? Which social bookmarking tools are best suited for clinical purposes? I’ve played with Connotea and CiteULike, but not enough to have useful thoughts about them.

Well, I think all of David’s thoughts are useful. What applies for applies to Connotea and CiteULike, except that Connotea and CiteULike are much, much better for handling citations and organizing scholarly references. Here is some more about what I think.

I’ve already talked about at length, so to finish up, here are links to some medical libraries and medical librarians I know about that are using


Connotea was slow to be picked up by medical librarians and librarians in general, but I think it is starting to become more prevalent. The Duke University Libraries are encouraging people to use it, and in fact have their own Connotea group for librarians. Interestingly, they are using your basic tagging for their lists (and they are rolling the links on their blog), but what I liked the most was their tag that indicates a primary source. How often do students in particular have to find a primary source? Well, if they take historiography like me, just a few. 🙂 Finding a primary source is not exactly intuitive in the library catalog. Sure, if you are a librarian, you could look for archival materials or possibly autobiographies, but even with those types of term, you could be very limited.

Connotea is a good way for scientists to connect with one another, too. There is also a script to include Connotea links for PubMed, meaning it can be very useful in the medical library world. It captures full citation information from dozens of resources, including PubMed and of course Nature, plus many blogs. As I mentioned before, it also can import subject headings (yay, MeSH) from MEDLINE, Scopus, etc. I am not going to go into the nitty gritty of what Connotea is or how it works, but here are some links to where you can read all about it.

Here are some examples of medical libraries or others using Connotea:

Tagging in the OPAC

A lot of the same principles apply to putting tagging in the OPAC. Now whether a folksonomy will be generated in the OPAC, that’s pretty unlikely in the short term. Nevertheless, tagging can help users and librarians put together resource lists, designate materials for certain audiences, and put in even more specialized terms or terms for consumers. – no longer posting here…

So, my daily blog post was annoying me by making it way too obvious how infrequently I am posting.  I took it down for now, but reserve the right to put it up again.  🙂 posting update

I’ve decided to keep the links in for now, based on 2 factors: in-bound links and out-bound links. I’m getting a number of both. I will keep this under consideration, but for now, my sincere apologies to those of you getting my bookmarks from multiple sources!

bugs and comraderie

Since I just spent the last day doing electrical work around my house (I now have not one, not two, but eight new grounded outlets, plus a light in my closet and living room), I am a bit peaked and have little of interest to spout on about.  So, I am going to show just how geeky I am (pretty darn, yet surprisingly unskilled) and talk about the bugs I have encountered using free online tools for work.

It seems like eons ago that I first noticed’ problems with capital letters.  All of a sudden one day, I stopped getting stuff in my network–and since I was getting regularly told about all the great stuff sig. other or b.f. at work were sending me, that was a bit of a problem.  I figured out what was going on fairly quickly, because the change happened right after implemented some upgrades to the networking capabilities.  Whenever someone posts something, the people they watch or have ever sent something to appear as for: tags in the posting screen.  So, theoretically, clicking on this tag will send the person that link.  Well, all of those tags are in lowercase letters, even if, like me, you have a capital letter in your username.  And, guess what?  If you have a capital letter in your username and someone tries to send you a link without editing the for:tag, you will never get the link.  I naturally contacted about this, but it appears to be a bug they can’t or haven’t resolved.  The capital/lowercase makes a difference in regular tags, too–Libraries is not the same as libraries, and Google not the same as google.  That’s actually a really good feature, if you are the type of person who wants to make a distinction in terms by using capital letters.

I’ve also noticed that has some problems with intersections.  Very, very rarely, you might run across a link where a combination of terms, say social+networking+libraries, doesn’t pull up every link you tagged with that combination of terms.  For the most part, it works perfectly, though, so I continue to use it and trust that I don’t miss anything.

At work, I have been working on a project to put resources on a web site for faculty.  The dean who wanted me to help develop this web site was looking for a static list of books and articles on various topics, like professionalism and leadership.  Being the rebel that I am, I just couldn’t stomach the idea of putting up a web site that was so 1995.  I decided to go for syndicating RSS feeds on the site: one for books and one for articles.  The articles would be PubMed RSS feeds (so not chosen by hand), but the books would be the library’s new holdings.

I tested out a number of tools for this project.  For the PubMed feeds, I looked at just about every RSS to HTML/javascript tool I could find.  (David Rothman, rock star that he is, pointed me to couple more and even built a page demoing all these tools after I asked him for his advice.  So now, everyone can have it a little easier.)  I found that Feed2JS worked well, except for it cut off part of the word “articles” in Related Articles for each PubMed citation–but just in IE (even in our install of this, fixing it seemed more complicated than finding a better solution, so I pressed on).  Grazr was great, but since it is in its own little widget thing, I was fairly sure that wasn’t going to pass muster for a web page at my institution.  Feedsplitter was the one I ended up deciding on, after an awesome work colleague of mine found it and installed it on a test server for me.  It runs a little slow (i.e., is not getting the feed updated so fast as it should), but works well in IE and Firefox, and is simple to use with easily customizable CSS, so it blends into the web page.

But then I realized that the feeds weren’t caching–in any tool I tried.  Every single time the feed updated, the old stuff would disappear.  If there was one article in that update, only one article would show.  So, I hit up my RSS expert pals again, who in turn hit up their RSS expert pals (I really love the biblioblogosphere, let me tell you).  I tried FeedJumbler (supposed to have a built in caching tool)–didn’t work.  FeedCatch (a FeedShake product that may not exist anymore)–also didn’t work.  That one wouldn’t even recognize that my PubMed feeds existed, due in large part to the fact that they don’t pass an RSS validation.  I ran it through FeedBurner–no dice.  Using Feedsplitter and Feed2JS’s native caching also didn’t work.  I am still working on this problem, which is primarily a problem because I am really not a systems person and have no clue whatsoever about any of this stuff.  Which is why I rely so heavily on the advice, good will, and kindness of others.  I am pretty sure the best solution will be to stick the RSS feed into a blog and then yank the feed from the blog.  I know that the PubMed to blog thing works, as I have seen it in action several times now.  I just have to butter up the people who help me with this at work a little more.  Perhaps a nice cheesecake or something…  I also plan to try this out with Yahoo! Pipes, especially since I haven’t gotten a chance to test it yet myself.

Then, there are my trials and tribulations with the book side of things.  I was going to use LibraryThing (costs a very minimal sum for non-profits, but even said small sum probably wasn’t going to be approved by the library, since it wasn’t even a library project).  Then, I decided BlinkList would be even better.  And, it would have been–if it worked.  BlinkList states that their badges (widgets, javascript includes, whatever) are designed specifically to highlight books, movies, etc.  They should be able to grab all Amazon images and display them.  So, I thought, great!  I am a big believer in the book jacket phenomenon, as I have mentioned before.  Well, the first few books I added to my account worked fine, but after a while, absolutely none of the “blinks” picked up the images.  So, that was shot.  I suppose I could have lived with that, but then I realized that the ratings in the badge were either not being listed or were wrong.  I have tried Listal as well, and that seems to work, but I am more worried that one will disappear.  Maybe I should be really persuasive about LibraryThing at work.

But, whining about this to my library technology expert pals brought me yet another amazing act of kindness.  A friend built me a WordPress blog that accomplishes everything that BlinkList had–book jackets, ratings, tags, description fields (for the call number), and more.  I haven’t quite decided to go with that solution yet, because of the need to install an enterprise version of WordPress here first, but it is simply unbelieveable to have people be so willing to help me out from across the country.  (Thank you!)

And, now, I’ll wrap up today’s installment by again thanking everyone who helps me so generously every day–starting with the H.D. boyz (C., A., P., and the other C.), and ending with my three most constant technology saviors and co-enthusiasts (D., B., and J.).  Thanks. link posting?

To those of you who read this blog, do you have an opinion on whether I should have my daily link posting get published here? I’m trying to decide if I should get rid of it. Any comments would be welcome.