New jobs for librarians

Foto: Luxuz / Photocase

1. Librarians as information sleuths
According to US NEWS, the librarian is one of the most underrated careers[1]: No longer mousy bookworms, they imagine librarians to be high-tech information sleuths in the oceans of information available. After summarizing the things librarians were doing (or even “performing”), they conclude: “On top of it all, librarians’ work hours are reasonable.” In contrast, most of our clients seem to have overrated careers: the clinical psychologist, the medical scientist, and … yes … the physician[2]. Their appeal is enormous and very rewarding, and prestige and salary is high, … but … in reality fewer and fewer patients see their physicians as godlike. The newspaper lists other liabilities: the long lasting and expensive education and training; the 90-plus hours a week; the stress of managing the office, of caring for noncompliant patients, of giving bad news, and so on. To conclude: my mother was wrong! Being a librarian by herself, she strongly advised me not to get into this boring and dull job. But in the light of these career evaluations, maybe my decision was not that bad!
2. Librarians as copyright managers
Nowadays, exciting as well as demanding tasks for the librarian “spring up like mushrooms after rain” (as we say in Germany). According to Lesley Ellen Harris[3], educators, librarians, archivists and other information professionals are involved in daily activities which must be undertaken within the confines of copyright law. With the Internet, often all of these non-lawyers must understand international copyright treaties and foreign copyright laws as well as the copyright laws in their own countries – at least on a practical level. There are many librarians and content owners who continually are negotiating permissions and licenses to copyright-protected works and who have much more practical experience than any attorney. These are often our colleagues with whom we can gain much insight.
Because of the almost incomprehensibly legal jargon, facilitators are needed. Librarian could do the job. They work at the very interface between authors and readers, where the copyright law is enforced. With their common sense they could explain the law to lay persons and lobby for comprehensible contracts.
New kids on the blog!
Marcus’ World
Marcus Banks is a member of the International Cooperation Section (ICS) of the MLA, so I got to know him through his ICS activities. He’s also involved with the MLA’s Task Force on Global Initiatives as well as book donating programs. Only recently, however, I learnt that Marcus writes a smart Weblog too. Marcus’ World[4] reports from every hidden corner of medical librarianship from ethical issues of living in a modern world to the advantages of dating by Facebook rather than by phone or email. His recent Survey on Health Sciences Librarian Blog Readers[5] caught my attention: Although up till now there is only some raw data available, the results are still remarkable.[6]
• medical librarians read on average 4-6 professional blogs;
• 70% attempt to incorporate what they read about in librarian blogs in their work;
• 73% follow them by subscribing via RSS;
• 76% read to become aware about new technologies and tools;
• 89% subscribe to listservs as likely or less likely compared to one year ago;
• 95% read blogs as likely or more likely as compared to one year ago.
Be sure to follow Marcus’ blog for updates on that survey.
Bibliotecari Documentalisti Sanità
A Weblog called BDS – Bibliotecari Documentalisti Sanità SSN7 has been initiated by Yvonne Perathoner from Bolzano as a forum for medical librarians in Italy. The blog is Italian-only, so for me it’s quite a challenge to follow it. At the moment, five librarians work on this collaborative project. Anyone who wants to join may ask to be registered by Yvonne.
Shelved in the W’s
Shelved in the W’s: Working notes of a hospital librarian[7] is a blog by the hospital librarian Mark Rabnett. Mark works at St. Boniface General Hospital, Health Sciences Libraries, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. On Shelved in the W’s he records his professional “hits and misses” with lovely humour. He likes classical music and German authors too – well, he’s definitely my favourite blogger!
Premier League, Hare Krishna, and Cochrane Library
What is the relation between the Hare Krishna community in Kazakhstan, the Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg and the evidence-based database Cochrane Library? Right! They’re all in need of support. And where do they look for support? Yes – at[8]. One, two, three – get a petition in a minute or less, for or against each and anything and collect furiously supporters signatures. The Cochrane Library[9] has 4571 votes (including mine), the Hare Krishna[10] 1005 votes and “Ban referee Mark Clattenburg”[11] (my favourite) 2532 votes. What the hell did Clattenburg do? During the derby encounter between Everton and Liverpool, Mr. Clattenburg made unprofessional blunders that changed the outcome of the game dramatically. He gave a penalty for a foul committed outside the box and initially going to give a yellow card, he gave a red card to the Everton defender after a Liverpool player told him something … and even worse.…
In addition to the Premier League, the National Library in Bucharest[12] wants to be rescued from a conversion into a quasi shopping mall glass box[13] (figure), but that’s not our main problem at the moment, because… „Cochrane for the EU“ is definitely a good thing and No. 1 in too. I am as much convinced of that goal as the two people who wants to “Ban Whaling Forever”[14]…

National Library in Bucharest
The proposed National Library in Bucharest

Wikis for health librarians
Eugene Barsky and Dean Giustini wrote an introduction to wikis as part 5 of the Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association (JCHLA) series about Web 2.0 technologies in health. Wikis are an especially valuable Web 2.0 tool. Everybody who knows Wikipedia knows also how a wiki looks like. Whereas a blog could be thought as a mile-long paper roll, a wiki is more like a stack of file cards. Whereas blogs are structured mainly by date, wikis are structured by topic. Whether you choose a wiki or a blog for a certain purpose depends on the answer to the question: Who should contribute? Wiki entries can easily be edited by anyone, whereas blog entries only by the author himself.
Would you like to experiment? I entered some information about EAHIL into the Wikipedia article “Medical Library”[15]. So please put this JEAHIL issue aside right now and point your browser to: Scroll down to Associations and click on [edit] on the right. Now delete “since 1987” behind the EAHIL sentence (it’s safe, I just added it today[16]). Then click on [Save page] – and no Wikipedia reader will know that the EAHIL is almost 21. Do you feel the power in your hands? Can you understand why hundreds of thousands people try hard to and voluntary improve Wikipedia? Believe me, the first time I added something to Wikipedia, I was both amazed and frightened about the ease…..and the obvious consequences if everybody does it.
Wikis do not stop with Wikipedia. There are many wikis around, including medical as well as medical librarian ones. Just to name a few:
  • Dr. Wiki[17] is an online repository of medical information with approved physician-only authors;
  • Ganfyd[18] is a collaborative medical reference by medical experts and invited non-medical experts;
  • PubDrug[19] is an open-access drug database;
  • WiserWiki[20], sponsored by Elsevier, is a book (Textbook of Primary Care Medicine, 3rd Edition 2000, by John Noble), which will be continuously updated by invited physicians;
  • UBC Health Library wiki[21] is an knowledge database for health librarians run by Vancouver University of British Columbia, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies;
  • LIS-Wiki[22] is dedicated to Library and Information Science. For example, a list of Weblogs for medical librarianship[23] is managed here;
  • Be sure to take a look at David Rothman’s “More on wikis for health librarians”[24] or the interdisciplinary directory Wiki-Index[25] (about 3.000 wikis, incl. a Harry Potter wiki[26]).
At the end of their paper, Barsky and Giustini suggested, that in the future, expensive sources such as UpToDate[27] will be replaced by open-access wikis. Consider the requirements, assuming this wiki will not harm people. If you would like to establish your own wiki or play around with one, there are two sites worth mentioning. WikiMatrix[28] helps you to choose the appropriate wiki host or software. Just use the Wiki Choice Wizard, compare Wikis or lurk at the discussion forum. Wiki site[29] allows you to start a wiki on your own within minutes – go ahead!
[16] / If it was deleted already, add it again.

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