So what does a health librarian need to know?

Back in April, I enrolled in the Health Librarianship Essentials course, developed by the QUT Information Studies Group and Health Libraries Australia. The timing for this was ideal, as I’d just started my new job in the medical library at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, so I was keen to learn more about the specific skills and knowledge that health librarians need to have. Tonight was the last class, and I found it a very useful course to have been part of.

The content was broken up into three modules: the Australian healthcare environment, health information sources and how to search them, and evidence based healthcare. As discussed by Steven Chang and Nikki May in their post on the NLS7 blog, a lot of the work of health librarians is focused on those last two areas. Even though I’d spent many years working in a university library showing students how to search databases, I still found it useful to be introduced to some health-specific resources which I’d never used before. I also learnt some new ways of searching some of the databases which I was already familiar with. The module on evidence based practice was a good refresher for me, especially now that I’m in a role which directly supports clinical staff who are using this approach to their practice. I’d also forgotten how useful it can be for librarians working on a research project 🙂

I would certainly recommend this course to any new medical librarians or academic librarians who support medical, nursing or other health science staff and students. It gives a good introduction to the essentials of working in this field. Keep an eye out to see if there are any future offerings. Now, I’m off to work on that last assignment!

Research impact data training for academics

Yesterday I conducted a workshop on research impact data for academic staff who are applying for promotion. As part of the application for promotion, staff need to compile a CV which lists their research outputs with a measure of their impact. This can take the form of the number of citations to a work in Scopus, Web of Science or Google Scholar, as well as the Impact Factor of the journals which the academics have published in. I also briefly discussed tools for creating a profile, such as ResearcherID and ORCID, and some of the altmetrics tools, such as the bookmarklet and ImpactStory. The workshop only went for an hour, so it was a quick overview of these three tools and how to extract the required information from them. We’d also prepared a “Tracking your research” LibGuide for the workshop, so the attendees had something to refer to afterwards.

We had 10 people at the workshop, which was a 100% turnout of the staff who had RSVP’d. They asked some good questions, which I was able to answer, and they seemed to be interested in the information that we were providing.

It will be interesting to see how many follow-up consultations the Research Librarians have with academic staff about the promotions process. We’ll be running two more of these workshops later in the year, so hopefully the academics will find them useful.

New focus for library training sessions

We’re now in the mid-semester break at the university where I work, so I thought I’d look back on the training sessions that I delivered during the first half of the semester. There were only four subjects which I ran training for, and the last one was the only “traditional” session which I organised. By traditional, I mean showing the students how to use the databases and our discovery tool to find resources to help them with their assignment. The other three classes had a different focus.

The first training session I conducted was in a lecture for approximately 350 first year biology students. This was the largest session that I ran. At the request of the lecturer, the focus was on showing the students how to use Google Scholar and Wikipedia as starting points for their research, and then how to link from these to library resources. The second session looked at Trove, and how it could be used by third year students in human geography to find historical documents to help them with their assignment. I ran another session for human geography students (second year this time) showing them how to use freely-available government sources, such as the UN and World Bank, for their assignment. The final session was for some first year human geography students, and this session was a basic introduction to the library and the resources that are available.

The focus for the training sessions has shifted towards adding access points to the library in spaces that the students are using, rather than forcing them to start at the library. For example, the library resources template on Wikipedia allows libraries to link to their catalogue or discovery tool from a Wikipedia page. It’s about going to where the students are and showing them how to get back to the library. If students are comfortable using resources such as Google Scholar and Wikipedia, why not allow the students to use these as discovery tools, then link back to the library for scholarly content?

There may be concerns around the “dumbing down” of search strategies by using this approach, but students are already doing their research by starting with these sources. Several studies have investigated the use of Wikipedia by college and university students (Head and Eisenberg 2010, Lim 2009, ColĂłn-Aguirre and Fleming-May 2012), and also ways of making it easy for students to access library resources if they start with Wikipedia (Arnett and Forrestal 2012). By providing a way for them to find their way to the library, we can show them how to go beyond these freely-available sources and locate reliable, scholarly material. I think I’ll be delivering less of the “traditional” training sessions in the future.

Reskilling for Research workshop

Today I participated in a “Reskilling for Research” workshop, facilitated by Jenny Cameron. It aimed to provide librarians with an idea of the sorts of new skills that they need in order to support researchers at their institutions. These skills gaps are outlined in the Research Libraries UK’s Re-skilling for Research report which was released last year. A lot of the themes were similar to the presentations which were given at the Research Support Community Day which I attended in Brisbane earlier this year.

The workshop was broken into six sections:

  • Assessing researchers’ information needs
  • Supporting the publication process
  • Managing stuff
  • Research data management
  • Social media and collaboration tools for researchers
  • Training for researchers

The first part was a discussion around how researchers find information (Jenny quoted a CIBER report from 2008 which found that 30% of them start with Google or Google Scholar). Maybe we need to offer a “tips for using Google/Google Scholar” course. I know some libraries do, but we haven’t. Librarians need to insert themselves into the literature searching process, and show that we can add value by being a partner in this daunting process. There was also discussion around the differing needs of researchers who are at different stages of their careers. New Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are heavily influenced by their supervisor, so if we can work with the supervisors and give them a good grounding in using the library effectively, we may actually be helping their students too.

The next section looked at how librarians can researchers in the publication process. Examples of our involvement could include advice on how to select which journal to publish in, explaining Impact Factors and other bibliometric tools, and what to look out for to avoid publishing with a predatory publisher. We can also provide advice on how to ensure that the work of our researchers is both discoverable, i.e. is indexed by appropriate sources, and accessible, i.e. available via open access or in a journal which is widely subscribed to. Jenny also noted the increasing move away from journal-level metrics towards article-level metrics, including the adoption of altmetrics. I also learnt that it is possible for a country to have an h-index, as SCImago can calculate them. The various models of open access publishing were also discussed.

The third section looked at how “stuff” can be managed in order to improve personal effectiveness. Each of the attendees gave examples of how they try and keep abreast of all the information that we receive via different sources e.g. RSS feeds, bookmarking using Delicious, Twitter. The pros and cons of using the cloud for storing “stuff” were also discussed.

Research data management was the next topic, and this was more of an overview rather than an in-depth examination. There are many different ways that libraries have involved themselves in data management. This is something that we’re starting to get involved in, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Next up was the use of social media and other collaborative tools by researchers. I noticed that there were a couple of tweets from attendees at the Web 3.0 conference which were particularly relevant to this discussion:

This is a fairly new area for many researchers, so it seems like a good time for the library to get involved and provide training in to how use these tools most effectively.

There was also a couple of tweets from the RAILS9 conference which summed up the workshop quite well, I think:


All in all it was a very interesting and informative workshop, and gave us all some ideas on new services and approaches that we can offer our researchers.

Back in the classroom

Yesterday I sat in on a couple of tutorials for a protein chemistry unit. I’d had a couple of postgraduate students from this unit ask me for some help with their assignment last year, so I wanted to see firsthand what they are taught in the class. I was there as an observer – the lecturer was the one up the front doing the talking.

I’m glad I went along, because I learnt a few things while I was there, not so much about protein chemistry, but about the information sources that the students are shown. A couple of the tools I’d never heard of or used (and probably won’t ever use them), as they were quite specific to the protein chemistry field (UniProt and ExPaSy). However, the database they were referred to in order to find journal articles was PubMed, which I was familiar with. The students were shown how to do a keyword and author search, and how to refine the search results to review articles.

When it came to accessing the fulltext of the articles, most of the students were aware of how to search the library catalogue to find a journal if there was no fulltext link from PubMed – I was pleased to see that. This has given me something to work on though, as I’d like to include our link resolver (we use Article Linker) on PubMed pages, so that students don’t need to go to the library page to look for the fulltext. It looks like other libraries have done this successfully, so hopefully we can too.

I think my presence in the class was appreciated by the students and the lecturer, as I was able to answer any library-related questions that the students had. These were mostly around trying to find the fulltext of an article, and how to use our interlibrary loan service for articles that we didn’t have access to. Hopefully this is the start of a productive relationship between the library and the staff involved with this unit, and I’m keen to stay involved.