MHSLA Conference 2007 – More Photos

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Photos courtesy Sandy Howe


New OCLC Report: Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in our Networked World

OCLC issued an environmental scan report this week, relating the general public’s use of the Internet and other information technologies (specifically, cell phones) in 2007. In addition to surveying members of the general public from the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Japan and the U.K., the study also garnered information from U.S. library directors.

Sharing, privacy and trust in our networked world (pdf) explores four primary areas:

  1. User practices and preferences on their favorite social spaces
  2. User attitudes about sharing and receiving information on social spaces, commercial sites and library sites
  3. Information privacy; what matters and what doesn’t
  4. Librarian social networking practices and preferences; their views on privacy, policy and the potential of social networks for libraries

Interesting findings: Use of the Internet is up, but use of library websites is down. Within the past year, nearly 97% of respondents used email, 90% used search engines, but only 20% used library web pages (compared with 30% in 2005). Almost 90% have used the Internet for 4 or more years, and 30% of respondents over the age of 50 have been online for more than 10 years. Including both print and online materials, respondents are spending more time reading, and those who use social websites tend to read more than those who do not.

You will find much more information in the 280-page report, much of it in easy-to-read charts and graphics.

October is Health Literacy Month

The editor of Research Activities reports in the October 2007 issue that October is Health Literacy Month. Information about the agency’s efforts to promote health literacy can be found at Research Activities is available free online at

The newsletter reports the availability of two newly published articles:

1. Andrulis DP, Brach C. Integrating literacy, culture, and language to improve health care quality for diverse populations. Am J Health Behav 2007; 31 (Suppl 1): S122-S133.

“The authors present a vision for an integrated approach to health literacy and cultural and linguistic competence that illustrates the important roles that both clinicians and health care organizations play,” reports AHRQ. Reprints of this article are available from AHRQ. [PMID: 17931131]

2. Guerra CE; Shea JA. Health Literacy and perceived health status in Latinos and African Americans. Ethn Dis 2007 Spring; 17: 305-312. [PMID: 17682363]

This study examines the relationships between health literacy and minorities’ perceptions of their physical and mental health status.

Why your web search results and mine are not the same

I recently asked, on the MHSLA listserv, for some help with finding a web-based resource about which I had very little information. I turned up a few possibilities; my colleagues, also running web searches, directed me to other sites that I had not found. While it’s likely that some of the difference in what we found lies in the varying approaches each searcher may take to answering a question, Marydee Ojala’s presentation “Searching, Finding and the Information Professional” (Computers in Libraries 2007 Powerpoint presentation) suggests five reasons that, even when we do key in on the same search terms, we may see very different results.

  1. Different search engines work from different databases. While 64% of all web searches are done in Google, searchers who use Ask (4%) or MSN (8%) or Yahoo (22%) will see results that don’t show up at the top of the Google results list, if they show up at all. (Statistics from Hitwise. I found them in Google.)
  2. Web search engines track us, and learn about us as we use them. They know where we are, and try to find materials that match our search history. Consider this: when I go to at home, the first screen recommends anime and science fiction titles. At work, it recommends health and hospital titles. Even when I’m not logged in! Web search engines also skew the results based on past use at a particular location. Imagine what this does to the searches at the library’s public-access workstations.
  3. “Squishy Boolean.” This concept, described by Mary Ellen Bates in 2005, includes the use of “preferred but not required” terms in addition to the standard AND/OR/NOT logic. Bates also describes some search engines that allow weighting of terms to indicate how important a particular term might be. I don’t see an obvious way to use “squishy Boolean” in any of the “big 4” search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask) right now, but Bates wrote that she’d seen it in beta. (Bates ME. Squishy Boolean. Online 2005 Mar-Apr; 29(2): 64. Michigan readers, use this link to find the article in Gale.)
  4. Algorithms taking over. Sometimes, the search engines just ignore our carefully structured advanced-technique Boolean, and run the search against their default algorithms instead. I have seen this myself on a recent Ask search; a term I had specified should not be present turned up in the first five hits.
  5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Content providers use a number of techniques to increase the likelihood that their sites will show up when someone searches a related topic. Some web information services even “game the system” to have their results show up first. Ojala suggests a way to minimize the effect of SEO on how we see our results: use the “preferences” settings in the search engines we use to set the “number of results per page” as high as possible; it’s faster to scan 100 results on one page than to keep turning the page for the next ten … next ten … next ten …

What are you reading?

We are all challenged to keep up with the latest information in the library & information science field.  I’m currently listening my way through the many hours of presentations from Computers in Library 2007, since I bought the 2-CD set to catch the ones I couldn’t attend in April and to refresh my memory of the sessions I did attend.  I’ll fill you in on some of the sessions over the next few weeks, since I’m hearing a lot of great information.

One of the reasons for maintaining a blog is to offer the readers an opportunity to share and interact.   So here’s an opportunity: please use the “Comments” feature on this posting to share with the group what library, technology or medical professional literature you are reading (or listening to) that you think your fellow medical librarians will find interesting.  If it’s something on the web, please include a URL; if in print, a citation would be helpful. Tell us what it’s about; why would we want to read it?

Is there some other topic you’d like to discuss? Drop me a line.  I’d be happy to start the discussion.

MHSLA Conference 2007 @ the Planetarium

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Photos courtesy MHSLA Archives

MHSLA Conference 2007 Members in Attendance

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Photos courtesy MHSLA Archives