By the Book

Article Summary #2

This short article contains a helpful discussion with Laura Dawson about the ISNI (International Standard Name Identifiers, pronounced to rhyme with Disney). ISNIs identify people the way that ISBNs identify books. Assigning unique numbers to writers, artists, and other public figures makes it easier to distinguish between different people with similar names. This can also be very helpful in collecting all the different spellings of a non-English author’s translated name under one number to make it clear that these refer to the same person. ISNIs are overseen by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), which also oversees ISBNs, ISSNs, and DOIs. Under ISO’s governance, the ISNI International Agency sets ISNI policies. Using these policies, the ISNI Assignment Agency (which is currently the OCLC, interestingly enough) assigns the actual numbers to names. Registration agencies act as go-betweens for the OCLC and those wanting ISNI numbers.

Dawson’s answers gave me a good basic knowledge of the purpose and structure of ISNIs. Knowing more about how these are determined and governed seems likely to help me use ISNIs more effectively in creating metadata records in the future (both in identifying when they are used and possibly putting in my own metadata records).


Article Summary #1

Marissa Clifford’s article is really a collection of brief discussions contributed by different metadata specialists working at the Getty Institute. Each section briefly explores some of the more challenging or significant elements presented by the author’s job. This gives the reader an interesting range of viewpoints and issues that emerge from working with metadata.

Although the writers concentrate on a pretty broad range of functions, one task that did come up repeatedly was the effort of making sure that different metadata records mapped well to Getty’s records. Getty works with many other institutions, so making sure that their metadata records sync with Getty’s set up is a crucial and ongoing operation. Some other interesting tasks mentioned included using historical metadata to create visualizations and reveal patterns in ownership, using OCR (optical character recognition) to preserve historical art sales documents, preserving software,and developing algorithms to automatically update copyright standards for pieces.

The short pieces did a good job of introducing and emphasizing several facets of metadata work that I hadn’t considered before. Metadata is still evolving continuously, and needs a lot human input and oversight to work well. The many different metadata schema have to be continuously tweaked so they can work together successfully. More than anything, flexibility – the willingness to make changes and corrections – is key.

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.


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