Sunday, 27 June 2010

I like Google but honestly....

After a good start I ended last week feeling a bit like the Katherine Hepburn character from 'Desk Set'. You know, the 1960s film about the reference desk of a large corporation managed by the luminous Hepburn being taken over by a machine called EMMERAC who can apparently answer all the questions thrown at it, rendering the reference desk redundant? (and if you are a librarian and haven't seen this film go out now and find it - it's hilarious and every self-respecting information professional should see it!).

My manager had a telephone conversation last thing on Friday with one of our external funders (who I shall not name as the following is not common knowledge yet) who told him they won't be able to give us the same level of funding this year and may cut us off altogether. Essentially they don't see the value of information skills training - the person in charge of education and development in this organisation claimed she could hire somebody one day a week "to show staff Athens resources" as she put it. Well I would like to see her try squeezing my job into one day a week - I trained nearly 30 people from this organisation in the last 3 months, meaning this person would have to run three training sessions in their one day a week plus all the advertising, planning and follow-up, Athens administration, random queries, people popping by ad hoc, literature search requests...they would be dead after one day on such a job. She also claims that somebody on the board there saw 'information skills training' on the budget and queried it, asking "what do we need this for, we've got Google haven't we?"

Obviously this made me feel really valued and appreciated and it's nice to see those in charge with such a progressive, enlightened view of information literacy! I was (and still am) pretty hurt and angry actually which didn't make for a very nice Friday evening but then I decided no - I am not going to let these people get to me. They are representative of all the work that still needs to be done regarding information literacy. I am the one out there on the ground meeting people every day who need help finding information and I know how much my training is valued. It is just depressing that these people (who unfortunately happen to hold the purse strings) do not and are completely out of touch with what their staff need. Instead of letting their attitudes discourage me I am going to take them in hand and challenge them through the work I do. I am an information professional - cross me at your peril!

Other than that the week went well and I had a very good training session with a lovely midwife on Thursday on staying up-to-date. She was very on the ball and wanted to find out more about RSS feeds and discussion lists. I do tend to cram quite a lot into my staying up-to-date course, but there is a lot out there!

I also had a good chat on the telephone with my colleague at the other hospital in our Trust and we have decided to organise a joint critical appraisal session covering both quantitative and qualitative research for anyone in the whole Trust. We were also talking of maybe trying to run training sessions first thing in the morning - "Early Bird Specials" if you will - with coffee and donuts!

I am also planning on sending out an evaluation form to all my one-to-one trainees from last year til now to find out if they are using the training they undertook and found it useful. Fingers crossed I get lots of positive responses!

Monday, 21 June 2010

"A medical degree is not required for this job...but it wouldn't hurt!"

I had a very interesting clinical query last week which took me completely out of my comfort zone and made me think afterwards "I must blog about this!" We had a call from a registrar on the wards on Tuesday asking if we could track down the lowest ever recorded sodium level (in a human) in the literature. He had a patient with a sodium level of 100 and he wanted to see if there had been any recorded lower. "Well that shouldn't be too difficult" thought I, but having sat myself down in front of Medline it took me ages to think how to approach the question in a standard database query sort of way. I started out very basically entering "low sodium", "lowest sodium" or "sodium requirements" as a title search but just got loads of articles about dietary sodium levels and things to do with animals. I then branched out to a thesaurus search for SODIUM and HUMANS and "low*" but again, too broad. I had to take a break then to do a one-to-one session with an OT but I asked the library assistant and senior library assistant to have a think as well.

An hour or so later I was back on the case. The library assistant had found a wonderful site on medical world records but unfortunately sodium levels were not exactly exciting enough to merit an entry. The senior library assistant suggested I consult some books on fluids and electrolytes which proved to be an excellent move because from these books ("Fluids and Electrolytes Made Incredibly Easy" and "Fluids and Electrolytes: A 2-in-1 Reference for Nurses") I discovered that a low sodium (or serum sodium) level was known medically as hyponatremia and it is measured in terms of MeQ/L. A serum sodium level of 100 is dangerously low (low is considered to be between 120 and 135) which made me hope our registrar was treating this patient and not sitting around waiting for my answer!

I returned to my Medline search and search hyponatremia in the title and the thesaurus, combined these searches with OR then searched "100 MEQ/L" OR "less than 100 MEQ/L" and added these searches to the hyponatremia search. I got 6 results, which were not bad but still not quite what I was after. I started working down from 100 MEQ/L to 90, then 80, 70 and 60 but that didn't work very well so I then tried combining the hyponatremia searches with "severe" and "serum sodium level" which, while not giving me the answer, helped me to gain a better knowledge about what I was looking for. In the end I found the combination of hyponatremia (title and thesaurus) AND "serum sodium.ti,ab" AND "MEQ/L" AND "severe.ti.ab" gave me a good range of low sodium levels, both case studies and research on groups of patients and I could be reasonably sure that the lowest serum sodium level ever recorded in the literature is 99 MEQ/L.

It was a very interesting search, not least of which the way it illustrated the different ways humans and computers "think". Funnily enough, the library assistant told her friend about the search a few days later and he promptly put in "lowest sodium level recorded" into Google and came up with a relevant article mentioning 99 MEQ/L as the lowest ever but without having done the search myself on a database I couldn't have been certain that this was the right answer. I certainly now know more about sodium levels than I ever wanted to know!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Information Literacy

Well I've only been back at work for two days as I was on holiday in lovely Wales for most of the week but I thought I would still blog about them as the first day back especially was quite interesting. It was our bi-monthly CLIST (Clinical Library and Information Skills Trainers) group meeting on Thursday and there were quite a few lively discussions which got going over information literacy skills in healthcare professionals today. Two points which I thought would be useful to mention was the fact that nurses are now being expected to do Masters levels qualifications in order to progress in their careers but many are not getting the support they need to carry out this level of education. One of the librarians at the meeting (who has been in the job for a long time) was saying that some of the nurses she has been seeing recently barely have basic literacy skills, much less information literacy. They are brilliant nurses but just don't have the academic background and processing skills necessary to carry out Masters level work. The universities offer very little support and they are having to manage their very stressful day-to-day nursing work on top of the education - it is unfair on them and must be so demoralising. And we health librarians have to pick up the pieces!

Another point was about information literacy in general among staff and a CLIST member made an interesting point that the style of internet searching has changed in recent years. People using the internet in a personal capacity at home do not tend to 'surf' or explore the internet like they did when the World Wide Web first became popular. She was saying that people now tend to concentrate on two or three sites (Facebook, Google, Yahoo email account etc) to find what they need rather than roving through lots of different sites and as a result have become much less certain about the internet 'terrain'. This then translates over to the work situation where people prefer to have one site to find everything they need. But in health and medicine this is just not possible.

Our afternoon session quite coincidentally was on information literacy as well and we had the ever-enthusiastic Susie Andretta of the FILE course leading the session. There were three presentations - one from Richard Thorne of NHS Nottingham City who is leading on public health intelligence course for public health professionals in the East Midlands area, another from Sue Jennings of Lancashire Care Trust who has a very exciting approach to blogging and current awareness bulletins and the last presentation came from Susie herself which asked about whether evaluation of training sessions should focus on the trainer, the user or the organisation. I found the session from Sue the most interesting - she has been using a blog in conjunction with a monthly one page current awareness bulletin with very successful results. The blog (which uses Wordpress) is very impressive - almost like a website on it's own. The most exciting thing is the complexity of the statistics available on Wordpress - you can literally see who is reading what on nearly every part of the blog and the stats are truly amazing. I was inspired but unsure how well it would work in an acute trust - Lancashire Care Trust is a mental health trust so most of the material is concentrated on mental health. I do think it might be an idea to switch our work blog over to Wordpress though (no offense Blogger....)

Today I have been back in the office catching up with my emails and getting back up to speed again. Have a busy week training-wise next week with quite a few one-to-ones. On Monday I am going into town to find out more about the Ovid link resolver and whether it will be the answer to all our link resolving problems. Hmmm, chance would be a fine thing....!

And most exciting of all - I have a new template for my blog! Thanks Blogger - now just get some analytics built in and I'll be well chuffed.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

One year in post!

Well it is a momentous day - this day last year was my first day at my current job which means I have survived a whole year as a librarian! Praise be. As I sit here celebrating (rather modestly) with a limoncello and tonic and some Welsh cakes I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect back on some of the things I've learned so far....

1. The only constant is change - so be flexible and adaptable
2. Be passionate about your work, but not precious
3. Use any opportunity to market services
4. Make the most of any contact with users and follow up potential leads
5. Don't rely solely on email
6. Always check the To: field when replying to an email, and delete any content below your message
7. Make training sessions relevant to users
8. Keep training presentations as short and engaging as possible
9. Be prepared for disappointment but hope for the best
10. Never assume anything!

Yes it has been a very interesting year and I have learned so much. I have been really blessed to be working with a great team and manager which makes all the difference and really hope the next year will be as good as the last. There are definitely challenging times ahead....

Had two sessions booked in today - one a critical appraisal: qualitative research and the other a session for specialist cardiac nurses, neither of which turned out quite as I planned! First of all nobody turned up for the critical appraisal session - I had 5 potentially booked and not a one arrived. A very apologetic doctor turned up an hour and a half later; he had been in a minor car accident and sorting out all the paperwork had taken longer than expected. I had an email from another potential trainee later on as well - she had got confused about the date. So I'll let them off but no idea what happened to the others!

The cardiac nurses session was a bit strange as well, although at least 4 turned up! I had been told to expect quite high-level nurses, familiar with libraries and database searching but none of my trainees matched this description. They were all lovely but I don't think any of them had ever seen a database in their life, which meant I had to adapt the session slightly. However at least we got them all registered and they know the library is here when they need it.

Well I am off on holiday to North Wales tomorrow so I won't be blogging again for a little while. As I am feeling a little de-mob happy I thought I would post this wonderful video a friend sent me on Facebook today: