MeSH’s 50th Anniversary

This afternoon I watched the 5oth Anniversary Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) Event videocast. And yes, I personally found it interesting. If you are at all interested in matters vocabulary, you can watch the lecture yourself on the NIH website within a few days. Dr. Robert Braude reviewed the history of this medical vocabulary within its historical context. As a more mature person myself, I enjoyed Dr. Braude’s “unofficial” title for the lecture: “MeSH at 50: Should It Join AARP?”

I took some notes but Dr. Braude presented so much information that I couldn’t really keep up. And he had no audiovisuals to slow him down. I do wish that they would post a bibliography of the resources that he mentioned. I caught most but not all of them. I am sure most of them are listed here in this MeSH bibliography. Just for fun, NLM’s History of Medicine Division has posted the original 1960 edition of Medical Subject Headings: Main headings, Subheadings, and Cross references used in the Index Medicus and the National Library of Medicine Catalog. The preface notes that “The adoption of a single subject authority list for books and periodical articles is a departure from traditional practice.” I mentioned this later in the afternoon to our head of cataloging and metadata and this was as surprising to her as it was to me. The usefulness of a single vocabulary seems so obvious! I had no idea that MeSH was so controversial. One of the justifications for a carefully developed single medical vocabulary was its superiority over article derived terms in retrieving medical information. This remains a topic of discussion at MPOW. Here in the reference office we still have frequent discussions about whether it is preferable to teach health sciences students in the Google generation subject term searching rather than keyword searching. I am a staunch defender of the power of subject searching.

The most interesting part of the lecture were Dr. Braude’s personal reflections. He noted that as a young librarian the most valuable part of his MEDLARS training at NLM were the relationships that he developed. He spoke of time spent with many of the NLM greats. Imagine coffee breaks with Stan Jablonski! He noted that in those early days of the MEDLARS system searches were input using keypunch cards (I remember using those!) and search results were returned IN A FEW DAYS. How things have changed!

Searching E-Books

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the MLA ABCs of E-books webcast just down the road (I-76, that is) in the Ocasek Medical Library at NEOUCOM. I particularly enjoy going over there for “networking” reasons. I worked at NEOUCOM for many years, so I get to see many acquaintances of old. I also was eager to see the Midwest Chapter’s own Michelle Kraft who was a video-taped presenter along with her colleague Marian Simonson. NEOUCOM was one of the nineteen broadcast sites sponsored by the Greater Midwest Region and there is no charge for individual librarians. Attendance is always good with a great mix of academic and hospital librarians. The GMR has been sponsoring viewing sites for quite a few years and I think this is one of their best funding efforts.

I was interested this particular webcast because we already have access to more than a few books in electronic form at MPOW. And here in Ohio we are fortunate to have access to a wide variety of e-books through OhioLINK’s Electronic Book Center (EBC). Recently, our reference team has been working on a project to transform our reference collection from print format to electronic access. Since the EBC includes a considerable number of reference works, we are no longer purchasing titles in print if they are included in the EBC. In our own reference collection efforts, we have been purchasing reference resources exclusively in electronic format if they are affordable. But our dilemma now is how to integrate these e-resources into the “traditional” reference process both at the reference desk and by the end-user using the resources off-campus.

So I was particularly interested in the discussion of federated search. This sounds like the solution to our problem of finding where information might be within the many reference sources we have available electronically from any number of different vendors. This is actually something that wasn’t all that easy in the print environment. Should one use a general encyclopedic resource or something very specialized? Which of these resources do we have? We have access to way too many electronic resources to use a simple A-Z listing. Our library catalog doesn’t have the depth of information to be much more helpful either.

When I returned to work after the webcast I mentioned this to our head of reference. He asked me to write a summary of the things that I had learned. And here is where I discovered that my handwritten notes were rather inadequate. Notably, I did not have the web URLs for most of the examples that had been discussed. But I was rescued by my faithful tweeting colleagues! All I had to do is consult the transcript of the webcast backchatter and there was all the information that I needed to look good for the boss. Thanks all!

I am particularly impressed by the Vivisimo based search at the University of Pittsburgh HSLS. This function searches the fulltext content of all the included e-resources. The Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library is also using Vivisimo for their SEARCH10 but it does not search inside the content of their e-books. The University of South Alabama Biomedical Library e-books search looks nice but it is not clear to me if the “chapter search” searches just the chapter titles or the chapter fulltext.

Have you seen any other examples of federated search used to search the fulltext content of a set of selected e-resources? If so, let me know (cleibfar at kent dot edu) and I’ll look good for the boss again!

ABCs of eBooks – MLA Webinar

I unfortunately was unable to attend the MLA webinar “ABCs of eBooks“, but stay tuned, we’re hoping to get another contributor(s) to blog about it (if you’d like to volunteer, just e-mail!  It certainly seemed like a smashing success.

In the meantime, some resources:

  • The related twitter stream used the hashtag #mlaebooks.  Check out the transcript, from
  • The following midwest chapter libraries hosted the webinar; if you have access to/affiliation with these sites, you may be able to find out whether they are providing on-demand viewing or have purchased the DVD.
  • This just in!  The DVD will be available to members of the GMR through the lending library (via Max Anderson, on Twitter).

November is…

Quite a lot of things, actually. From

On a lighter note, from Wikipedia, it’s also:

  • National Pomegranate Month (no links better than the eHow site were popping up, but you get the idea!)

    Pomegranate with seeds
    photo by JOE MARINARO, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
  • Movember (perhaps of interest to health sciences librarians: it is a month where men grow moustaches as a promotional and fundraising activity for men’s health issues!)

So what do all these causes have in common?  The same thing any cause that picks a month/week/day to celebrate and raise awareness: they’re promoting and advocating for their issues.  Unfortunately, National Medical Librarians’ Month in October had to give way to all these other important groups, but November is worth calling out for one BIG reason: elections!

Here in the Midwest, the midterm election brought a lot of change, and what that means for us in both our professional and personal lives is for the pundits to discuss.  I would just like to point out that with the changing of the guard, there are going to be a lot of new people who need to hear about the issues close to our hearts in the medical and health sciences information arena!  Consider this my call for us all to use the wonderful resources below to contact our state and national government representatives, or to write letters to local newspapers (you could also promote some of the causes above, maybe earning some brownie points…):

You can write a letter at any time of the year, but November, with its important disease awareness raising, pomegranates and moustaches, not to mention its election, seems like a particularly opportune time, don’t you think?

If you do write a letter or otherwise forward the medical librarian cause, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

(and one last thing: MLA’s elections are happening right now!  be part of the process, and vote!  –note, this is the electronic ballot link and requires your login credentials.)