Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Collection Development

I had a patron come by today and suggest that Woodward purchase Primary Care: Balancing Health Needs, Services, and Technology by Barbara Starfield. The patron said she is a heavily published author and seemed disappointed that we had only two copies of her book.

I was tempted to quiz her and find out what her academic background was and why she was recommending it, but as I don’t have any say in the purchasing decision it seemed rather presumptuous. I did pass on the information to the librarian who is responsible for primary care. I looked up Starfield’s books we do have and one was published by Oxford University Press, the other by Johns Hopkins, so she would appear to be a reliable author.

This raised the question of how much the health science librarians rely on suggestions from patrons for collection development. Dean and Greg, how many books would you say you purchase a year based on patron recommendation?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cluster B Diagnosis

While on the reference desk the other day, I had a phone call from someone who identified himself as a professor in the psychiatry department. He was looking for information on a patient with Cluster B diagnosis, something he had never heard of. He recommended I look in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as, DSM-IV-TR. I took his phone number (he didn’t have an e-mail address) and told him I would call him when I found the information. I found the book, but had to Google “cluster B” to find out that it referred to anti-social personality disorder. I was able to find the information he wanted, but was unable to contact him from the reference desk because it was long distance.

Fortunately the library was not busy and I was able to catch a “real” librarian who was able to call him long distance from her office phone. He wanted her to dictate the 4 pages of the diagnosis over the phone. She declined, and in the process discovered he was not affiliated with UBC. The solution to his problem turned out to be having him contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia Library, which will mail out reference information to physician members.

It was a good introduction to DSM-IV-TR (I realize we mentioned it briefly in class a few weeks ago) and reminder of the reference services offered to members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Boy are you ever dumb!

I had one of those moments where I say to myself “boy are you ever dumb” (referring to myself, not a patron) today. Saturday I was working on the reference desk and got a phone call from a student who was having trouble accessing the full text on EBM Reviews. He was clicking on the UBC E-link button and not getting anything. I tried it and encountered the same difficulty, but came up with what I thought was a brilliant workaround – go through Google Scholar (the influence of my mentor, no doubt!).

I mentioned this to a classmate, Bill, who said, “Don’t you just click on the EBM Topic Review link?”

The only mystery is how I accessed EBM Reviews for our expert searching assignment . . .

Friday, October 20, 2006

The information gathering practices of librarians

In LIBR 534 we often consider the information gathering practices of various groups of medical professionals. However, I’d like to reflect on the information gathering practices of librarians. This is a theme I’ve considered before, but it was brought to mind again this week by a posting on a listserve to which I subscribe asking for information on lighting recommendations for a library under renovation. I was online at the time and in about 30 seconds found a site that gave recommended lux/footcandle levels for various tasks. In less time than it took this librarian to compose the listserve posting I had an answer, leading me to question why this person didn’t just Google the question.

Last summer when I was working at SFU, I had a call from a librarian at another Vancouver area institution asking if we had a certain book in our collection. As I was looking up the information, I was thinking, “In less time than it took her to call me, she could have had the answer by doing exactly what I’m doing.”

I also had a library tech student come to the reference desk and ask a question (which is perfectly legitimate). The striking thing about this was while I was searching for the information, he paid absolutely no attention to what I was doing as I searched. He stared off into the distance showing no interest, leaving me to wonder if he knew how to search, why ask me; whereas, if he didn't he might consider paying attention and learning something.

Of course, I’m not completely innocent in this regard. Earlier this term Charlotte sent out an e-mail to the life sciences list telling us about a 3rd year Human Kinetic assignment involving database searching for literature on body composition in various disease conditions. My first response was to e-mail Charlotte to ask which databases she recommended. She was very gracious and recommended PubMed and SportDiscus – something I would have known had I taken a couple of minutes to think about it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Web of Science Citations Index

I had a researcher come to the desk on Saturday asking about the accuracy of the indexes which record the number of articles an author has written. He was thinking about himself, of course. He has 14 publications that show up when you do an author search on PubMed (and apparently this is accurate). However, when we went into Web of Science and did an author search, only 12 of them showed up. He was curious about how articles are indexed and why only 12 show up.

I didn’t have any answer and am wondering if anyone else does?

He’s going to come back next Saturday to discuss it again and we’ll look to see which 2 articles aren’t being indexed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

UBC Library OPAC Idiosyncrasies

This term I’ve had what seems to be a larger than usual number of complaints about the changes to the library OPAC. Perhaps it’s because it’s still near the beginning of the year and people are still figuring it out, or perhaps it’s because I’m working weekends and evenings when the reference desk takes the place of IT support.

A new layer has been added to the catalogue that, regardless of what you type in, produces a page that gives hope it is available in both print and online. Even if you misspell a word, it gives you results – to a point. The reason, according to Systems is, it’s “a ‘feature’ of our switch to Serials Solutions, unfortunately -- at least for a little while. When we're confident that SS has an accurate record of our print holdings, we'll likely remove the intermediate page with the parallel links to print and electronic, in which case the user would see immediately that we don't have this journal -- but for now we'll have to just note that the links just say to ‘check’ for print/electronic (that is, no record has yet been found).”

A recent incident illustrates the difficulties the OPAC presents and how unforgiving the search function is. I had a faculty member come in and looking for the journal Acta oto-laryngolica. I typed it in and the catalogue said we don’t have it.

I checked the spelling using Google and got what appeared to be a significant number of hits from reliable sources showing a journal with the same spelling as the one the faculty member gave me.

I next moved to CISTI and couldn’t find it there either. However, CISTI lists other journals with similar spelling and shows you where your journal would have been – a handy way of checking if you’ve spelled it wrong. I went to the journal spelled similarly to the one I was looking for (spelled Acta oto-laryngoloica) copied that and pasted it into the UBC catalogue journal search box.

Bingo! It popped up. We had it all along (at least the Biomedical Branch does), so she didn’t need to order it from CISTI, it was a simple (and cheaper) document delivery.

No wonder faculty and students get frustrated with the library OPAC. All that work just to get the correct spelling of a journal.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Raise a Reading Gymnast

On a non-medical theme, it was "Raise a Reader" week a couple of weeks ago. My son who loves reading and gymnastics has managed to combine the two.

Patrons and Library Organization II

Continuing on the theme of library organization, I had a person stop by and ask me, “The dentistry section is on the second floor, right?”

I had to stop him and ask for more information because I wasn’t sure what floor the dentistry books are on and even if I did know, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t find what he wanted by browsing.

He said he was looking for books on “tooth eruption”, specifically the “mechanics of tooth eruption”. I tried a keyword search in the catalogue (suspecting that it wasn’t a MeSH term), but came up with only a conference proceedings from 1976.

He said he could find online information himself, so there was no need to look up journal articles. However, to find which section of the library has books with information on “tooth eruption” I did a search in PubMed and limited it to English and humans. It turned out the subject heading I needed was “orthodontics”. I did a catalogue subject search on orthodontics and found the section he needed to be in to find information on tooth eruption.

Not a terribly complicated bit of searching, but a good reminder of how our users think the library is organized, and the importance of questioning patrons until we have enough information to know what they’re really asking.

I’m not criticizing browsing. At the institution where I worked previously, we had a small, but interesting English language collection. I never bothered with the catalogue, which was clunky, but would often browse the collection because I knew generally where everything was. However, periodically the staff would re-arrange everything and I had to re-program my mental map.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Patrons & Library organization I

One part of reference I find interesting is the perception of patrons about how we have (or should have) our library resources organized.

I had an elderly man come and start berating me one day because we’d moved a section of books he liked to browse to another part of the library and he couldn’t find them. I tried to discover what books he was looking for and explain how we organized the library, but he seemed more interested in complaining than in finding the books. He did, however, come back in a couple of hours much happier because he’d stumbled across the collection he was looking for.

Another common request is for a print out of all the journals/e-journals to which the library subscribes. This request seems to come from older patrons who seem to have fond memories of browsing through a binder filled with journal titles and then going to the journal that caught their eye and flipping through it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bibliographic sleight of hand

I had a student come to the ref desk looking for a 1969 article in a journal called Bio Med. Using Jake, we found several journals with what appeared to be the correct name, but couldn’t get the date to match up with the volume and issue numbers on any of them. I searched for it on PubMed and a reference to an article in a journal called Igaku to Seibutsugaku showed up (which interestingly is Medicine and Biology if you translate it literally from Japanese). The article title was in English, but it was followed by a note that the article was in Japanese.

After about 15 minutes of fruitless searching (it was a fairly slow day) we finally concluded that the authors of the article had translated the journal and article titles and put them in their bibliography, leading to a fruitless search. I still had a hard time convincing the student that the article didn’t exist in English and that her only hope of getting it was to write to the publisher in Japan. However, if she didn’t read Japanese, it wouldn’t do much good unless she was satisfied with an English abstract. I also suspect that the authors didn’t read Japanese either and simply used the English abstract to report the results.

All this trouble caused by an author who decided to be clever and translate rather than transliterate.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Milk of Health Information

Breast neoplasms

I had a college anatomy student come to the desk asking for information on breast cancer. I asked her if she could give me some more specific search terms that I could use to limit the search. She struggled a bit, so I asked her if she was interested in review articles that would give her an overview of the research in an area of breast cancer, but no she wanted specific studies.

This should be easy, I thought. So I went to Medline and typed in breast cancer, the correct MeSH heading of which is “breast neoplasm”, and got 143,000 hits. I typed in etiology and epidemiology, which were two more terms she thought of. This narrowed the results to 12, of which the first couple seemed to have nothing to do with breast cancer, just epidemiology. The other results were fairly old.

So I backed up and tried again. This time I put the limits etiology and epidemiology into the subheadings of breast neoplasms. After I limited it to humans and English language, I had 11, 618 results. I couldn’t think of any other way to reduce the number of results, and so ended up browsing through the results until we found one she felt would be suitable.

Any suggestions about how I could have constructed a better search using the terms she gave me?