March 27, 2008

Extra-Curricular Librarian

I recently spoke at the Spring 2008 meeting of PVAAL, the Pioneer Valley Association of Academic Librarians. My topic was "The Adjunct Life and other LIS Extra-curricular Activities," and at the talk, I reflected on my five years teaching library students and blogging. I promised to post links to what I talked about here, as well as the PowerPoint I used.

So ... the Adjunct Life comes from the title of an article I wrote in June for Library Journal (The Adjunct Life). I summarized the article and added new bits, but if you want to know what it's like for me to teach, this is a good review.

I talked about blogging -- why I do it and how I find the time. Why? I addressed some of that in an October blog post entitled "Another Reason I Blog." Another handy side effect of my blog is that I can point people to it as a way of getting to know my professional interests. It's a more comprehensive business card / resume, which illustrates my thinking and quirks (and sometimes even my cats).

Finally, I talked about two articles I am co-writing with a graduate student at UConn. We are writing about our shared experience in the Scopus Student Ambassador program, which I blogged about back in June. What was (is, we're still writing the second article!) fun about the process was that we had different angles on the project -- Chelsea was very interested in the peer-to-peer nature of the training, while I was focused on the great partnership between the UConn libraries and Scopus. And we both get two articles out of it! (More on them when they are published ...)

So ... all of this extra-curricular activity takes a lot of time. Is it worth it? Mostly, yes. The good thing about blogging is that I can do it on my time -- so when I am feeling unintelligent, I can keep my mouth / blog shut, and when I am feeling inspired or determined to understand something better, I can blog about it. Teaching is it's own reward -- the students are great fun, inspiring, and they encourage me to keep up with LIS trends, technology, and databases, all while keeping perspective on the essentials of library theory

March 23, 2008

Managing (Medical) Complexity

Another terrific medical article by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker. This one is about doctors using checklists to decrease the amount of infections in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I read it when it came out in December and didn't plan on blogging it ... but the article has stayed with me, so I thought I'd blog it. a) because maybe it'll interest you, Dear Reader, and b) so I could re-read the article and cement its ideas even more firmly in my memory.

The Checklist describes the work of Paul Pronovost, MD, PhD (public health) who developed a checklist to routinize the roughly 178 daily tasks ICU patients need. Gawande states that the average stay of an ICU patient is 4 days, and the survival rate is 86%. Pronovost's checklist, designed specifically to lower the rate of line infections in ICU patients, was implemented at Johns Hopkins in 2001. A year later, their 10-day line infection rate had dropped from 11% of all patients to 0%. Yes, zero percent! They reran the numbers and followed patients for another year. Over the 27 months of using the checklist, they had only 2 line infections. Astonishing!

Pronovost observed two main benefits of these checklists: a) they help with memory recall. As Gawande notes, "When you’re worrying about what treatment to give a woman who won’t stop seizing, it’s hard to remember to make sure that the head of her bed is in the right position." And b) the checklist itemizes "the minimum, expected steps in complex processes." Gawande notes that nurses were empowered to enforce the doctors' adherence to the checklist, thus improving their use.

Sadly, because a checklist for physicians is not sexy, Pronovost's ideas have not been widely adopted in this country. One exception is the 2003 implementation in the inner-city Detroit hospital Sinai-Grace, where line infection rates dropped by 66%. This was estimated to have saved over 1,500 lives and $75 million dollars over three years. Pronovost and the Keystone Initiative published these results in a 2006 New England Journal of Medicine article.

Gawande personalizes the case studies with his usual flair; the article discusses the near-drowning of a 3-year old in Austria who by age 5 had "recovered her faculties completely," (her doctors had used a checklist) and a Massachusetts limo driver who suffered a serious line infection in the hospital and fortunately recovered (his doctors had not used a checklist). He also talks about the process by which the US Army Air Corps implemented flight checklists as they rolled out the B-17 in the mid-1930s, commenting that "[m]edicine has entered its B-17 phase."

I hope that more hospitals will take this checklist approach, as it certainly seems to be a sound idea.

For More Information

March 20, 2008

Reference Theory & Practice

I'm thrilled to link to my article on The Reference Interview: Theories and Practice, recently published by Library Philosophy and Practice (LPP). They abstract it thusly:

The reference librarian's task is to translate the patron's question into one that can be answered with the library's resources. The first element of that task is to know what the patron wants; the second is to know what resources the library has and how to use them. Reference librarians must learn continuously throughout their careers, both because new resources become available, but also because patrons present questions requiring new resources. This article will focus on how to determine what kind of information the patron needs through the reference interview.
If you're interested in reference, I recommend the article.

And if you speak Albanian, I would suggest you read the first iteration of the article, "Intervista referale: teori dhe praktika," published in Biblioletra in November (pdf of entire issue). The article was originally solicited by my former student and president of the Kosovo Librarians Association Besim Kokollari, and he translated it into Albanian.

For More Information
  • Brown, Stephanie Willen. The Reference Interview: Theory and Practice] "Intervista referale: teori dhe praktika," [Article in Albanian] Biblioletra, v4, n2 (2007): 7-11. (pdf of entire issue)
  • -- The Reference Interview: Theories and Practice, Library Philosophy and Practice (LPP), February 2008.

March 18, 2008

Neuroanatomy Now

Neuroanatomy seems to be hot in my podcast feed lately. Ted | Talks just featured a presentation by Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroscientist and stroke survivor.

(or read the transcript)

And my favorite brain science podcaster, Ginger Campbell, just podcast a "whirlwind (55 minute) tour of brain anatomy, based on Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brain (2008) by David Bainbridge. Thanks to Dr. Bainbridge’s generosity (and permission) Ginger has embedded some of the brain anatomy figures on her podcast site, along with the author’s legends. This MRI of Bainbridge's own brain is pretty cool.

For More Information

March 13, 2008

A Little Light Music

Time for a rare musical recommendation: the Aluminum Group. They cite the Carpenters, Sergio Mendes, and Brasil 66 as musical influences, and their "lushly orchestrated pop" is simply divine. They've been around since the mid-1990s, but I only just heard them. Where HAVE I been?!

Anyway, here are some favorites:
Lovely Day will make you happy.

The song "Post It", about a lost post-it note, will make you want to rummage in your purse. Hear it and other songs from their 2008 release Little Happyness at MintyFresh, their "record" label (sound quality isn't great, but you get the idea). You can also read a review of Little Happyness at Pitchfork Media.

March 05, 2008

Another Cool (End-user) Widget

I'm close to reading an article in National Geographic about animal cognition (which I'll blog soon, hopefully), when I spotted this at the bottom of the page:
NGM Widgets
Put National Geographic images and puzzles on your web page.
Awesome. Widgets for normal people who want to see more National Geographic "stuff." This stuff includes a jigsaw puzzle out of a National Geographic photograph, a great photo of the day:

and their "Daily Dozen" - 12 photos they like each day.

So back to my earlier post about ESPN football widgets (Widgets! Libraries Need 'Em). We need to be offering creative widget-y things for end-users to put on their web space -- blogs, iGoogle, NetVibes, Facebook, course web sites -- so they can easily search & use library materials. I envision widgets for searching the opac (like what WorldCat does with its search box, only with stuff from YOUR library), searching EBSCO, ProQuest, iCONN, institutional repositories, archives (Conn. History Online, eg) ...

LibGuides and ProQuest are two companies I know of that let *librarians* create widgets and put them someplace handy (see my sample ProQuest widgets -- thanks PQ!). That's a great first step. But I'm talking about widgets for end-users: students (college, high school, graduate), teachers at all levels ... Look at the instructions for National Geographic's widgets and see how easy they are to create and use.

Anything that we put online for users to use should be made easier to use, find, and "widget-able" for people to put wherever they want.