By the Book


May 2016

The Last Post

This post finishes off my blogs for Medical Librarianship (LS 534). I have learned a lot through the research and exploration put into these posts, and even more through Dr. MacCall’s lectures and resources. I hope the blog has been a useful reference (or at least starting point) for my future medical librarian colleagues’ studies.

Have a great summer!


A Few More Digital Projects

After playing with Turning the Pages, I also looked at a few of the other digital projects NLM offers. Some, such as Historical Anatomies on the Web and Medicine in the Americas, 1610-1920, offer digital scans of pages from medical books published decades or centuries ago. Each record includes relevant publication data and keywords that help the user understand the subject and purpose of the book. All records are available to download, as well as to view on the web.

There is also a section for videos (which, confusingly, also contains a lot of books. I didn’t understand that organizational decision). Like with the books, I could choose to download or watch the video on the Internet. A very valuable feature for the videos is that they all come with searchable transcripts – a useful tool for the researcher.

There are also a set of exhibitions about different topics in health care history, including a set of nursing themed postcards and a collection of photographs and information about citizen actions in health care reform.

It is a very useful and well presented collection of medical historical documents, especially helpful for historical medical researchers.

Turning the Pages

I was poking around on NLM’s website, and wandered into the history section. As one of their historical endeavors, NLM is creating digital files that are freely available worldwide. These include books, articles, and videos of health care history. One of the most interesting (I thought) exhibits that I found was something called “Turning the Pages,” which allows the user to virtually flip through the text of classical medical texts. There are 13 books available to look through, including titles such as the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus (the world’s oldest surviving surgical text), Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, and al-Qazwini’s Wonders of Creation. I flipped through Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal. 

The graphics did a really good job of mimicking a real book, with pages turning at the click of a button. Boxes of information would pop up when I moved my mouse over the images, and if I wanted to see something closer, all I had to do was hit the zoom to examine the section more closely.

I love that technology has advanced to the point that ancient works can be made available to so many people in such a  high quality format.

NLM Podcast

I just discovered that NLM offers a weekly podcast with health updates called “To Your Health.” Naturally, I had to give it a try. Broadcasts from the last month or so are available on the page – the options I saw included pieces on the Zika virus, the impact of income on longevity, and harmful drinking. I chose a podcast about vision screening for seniors.

The overall message was about 5 minutes long, and was read by a staff member of the NLM. It offered a brief overall view of the topic (a new study on the subject), reactions to it,  and gave a list of places to go for free information on the topic. It ended with the usual disclaimer that no medical action should be attempted on this advice without consulting a doctor first.

Overall, I was impressed. The narrator was interesting to listen to, the message short and to the point, and the reference information at the end very useful. I look forward to listening to more of these in the future.

A Bit More About Ethics

I was also interested to see how the ethical statement for the MLA differs from the ALA’s statement. Both have similarities, of course – the two statements stress access to information and protection of privacy for patrons. ALA, however, sees its primary duty as ensuring “intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information.” Its statements uphold that goal, stressing ethical interactions between patrons and librarians which uphold freedom of thought and knowledge.

MLA’s statement also mandates the best possible service to clients and institutions, but a spends a little more time discussing librarians’ duty to the profession itself. I am not sure why this is. I think it might partly have to do with the fact that medical librarians deal with a slightly narrower segment of society in a slightly narrower range of possible positions. That means that the profession itself is a little easier to define in a single place. But I could be mistaken.


A Bit About Ethics

I have been writing my ethics paper for the class, and so spent some time analyzing the code of ethics set out by the MLA.

It was interesting to see the division of ethical responsibility. Although the medical librarian primarily works with patients, students, and physicians, he/she is still considered responsible for helping to expand health literacy in society at large. This is mainly done through “creating conditions” in which health literacy can flourish – and probably also through educating the patrons which come into the library. This ties in well to the point about serving clients, as they will undoubtedly learn information literacy best in an environment where they are readily helped and feel safe.

I was surprised at first at the amount of time spent on what a librarian ethically owes to the profession of medical librarianship. It does make sense, however – if the profession is not upheld, there will be no organization to uphold standards, and the quality of all medical librarianship will decline, leaving society and clients without proper resources.

It would seem that in the end, all the ethical duties of a medical librarian feed into each other. MLA’s statement does a good job of demonstrating this.

Researching Web of Science

After writing so much about my trawl through Web of Science, I was curious to learn a little more about it.

Web of Science Core Collection covers over 12,000 journals worldwide across more than 250 disciplines. Coverage is current and retrospective, sometimes dating back all the way to 1900. Journals covered are both open-access and for-profit. The database also contains more than 160,000 conference proceedings. It is owned and run by Thomson Reuters, who (as they are quick to point out) do not themselves publish content. That would explain why they are willing to include open access content (which I thought was strange in an earlier post).

The database is composed of a series of separate citation indices. These include Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Index Chemicus, Current Chemical Reactions, Book Citation Index, and Conference Proceedings Index.

All of these combine to make a very wide ranging and valuable interdisciplinary citation index.


Searching Web of Science (3/3)

I decided to look at the second link, “Computation modeling of acute myocardial infarction.” Clicking on it, I was taken to a page containing the basic article information, abstract, and other publishing information. Another useful and unexpected feature included was the citation information which took up the right side of the page. Here the database lists how many times the article has been cited, where it is cited, and what/how many citations it makes. The article I was looking at is due to be published in July 2016, so it unsurprisingly has not been cited anywhere. In older articles, however, this  would be an extremely useful tool. Citation analysis is good for judging the value and importance of an article. It is also very valuable for finding newer articles on similar topics.

Clearly, Web of Science has many very useful qualities for health care searching. But of course there are downsides. It is a collection of citations only, so not all of the articles listed can be readily obtained (mine, for example, hasn’t even been published yet). Additionally, the database doesn’t index for full text searching, so searches can overlook small details hidden in the text. The fact that it is so widely interdisciplinary also means that it lacks the thoroughness of health care article coverage which more specialized databases such as PubMed or CINAHL have. Overall, however, Web of Science is an excellent resource for performing health care research.

Searching Web of Science (2/3)

I ran a simple search with “myocardial infarction” as the topic, limited to 2015 and 2016. 17,277 hits were returned. The database listed possible filters for the search along the left hand side, including Web of Science categories (including such things as Cardiac Cardiovascular Systems, Hematology, and Medicine General Internal). This feature reminded me of a discussion which arose during one of our classes which covered some of the reference and point of care tools. It was pointed out how important it is that the health care provider be able to look at a problem (in this case, a heart attack) from different angles. So, although it is certainly the heart that is at the center of the problem, a physician should also look at how liver functions contribute/are affected by the condition. Making it possible to limit the search results in this fashion greatly aids the health care research process.

Other filters included the various types of authors and sponsoring organizations and, interestingly, a choice between open access or proprietary journal articles, which seemed like a strange choice for a subscription database. Entries for the search results presented all of the basic information used in citations, along with a button to view the abstract and a specialized link.

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