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November 30, 2007

A delightful post from the google blog

Official Google Blog: Tracking Santa, then and now

Kindness and good humor obviously run in this family.

Posted by janeblum at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

Useful material for outreach, especially to seniors

Training Guide from the National Institute on Aging Helps Older Adults Find Health Information Online, November 27, 2007 News Release - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

"Health issues are a vital concern for older adults, and surveys show that most of those who go online search for health and medical information. However, since only 34 percent of people age 65 and older are online, the majority of older adults are missing out on valuable health information. To broaden the numbers of older adults able to search for and find reliable health information online, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has developed a free training curriculum for those who teach and work with older adults. This Toolkit for Trainers is now available on NIHSeniorHealth.gov, a senior-friendly Web site developed by the NIA and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)."

Posted by janeblum at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2007

Marcus said it first

Marcus, my colleague on the 2008 NPC, blogged about face-to-face versus virtual meetings (Marcus' World: The Value of In Person Conferences), and in doing so said much of what I was thinking but hadn't articulated. I won't repeat myself or Marcus, but will focus on one of his points, that during our planning sessions (both in person and virtual), one of the many topics of discussion was how to make Mark Funk's presidential priorities real while still attracting attendees for the onsite, face-to-face meeting. We're working hard to do both, and to maintain and leverage the best aspects of both modes.

I've planned and participated in both teleconferences and in-person meetings of various sizes. I value the opportunities to meet, talk, socialize with, and work alongside my colleagues from other institutions that I get by traveling to a conference site. I appreciate and take advantage of the synergy and dynamic tension that come from interacting face-to-face with leading thinkers and interesting, inspiring presenters. But I can't afford to travel to everything of interest - no one can - nor do I have the time to do so. An alternative that allows me, you, and our colleagues to participate when we cannot be present is a challenge, but one worth addressing.

Working on the 2008 national program committee has been interesting, challenging, thought-provoking, demanding, and lots of fun. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and that's true of the upcoming meeting as well. If that makes me and Marcus biased commentators, so be it. I'm hoping to see you all in Chicago.

Posted by janeblum at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2007

Welcome back

The first day in the office after a holiday break is easier than after a vacation of any duration. During vacations, your colleagues have an opportunity to overflow your email inbox and pile your undefended desk three deep in paper. Most of the influx stops or slows at the holidays, at least the major ones such as Thanksgiving, so that returning to campus means the snow is a greater danger than the paperwork.

We're having some interesting discussions in Librarian's Forum about the future of libraries and librarianship, and what that means for professional education, competencies, and life-long learning. The blog linked above continues a discussion which began at last week's in-person meeting.

That discussion meshes nicely with the theme of the Medical Library Association's 2008 Annual Meeting. Connections:BridgingtheGaps. The preliminary program is going to press shortly and once it's officially published I'll begin to blog here about some of my thinking about the meeting and its planning. You'll want to follow the official conference blog, too, for news and announcements.

Posted by janeblum at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2007

Why am I here?

When I first came to the University of Michigan and the University Library, many people (none of them at U of M, of course) asked me why I had made this job change. Like most career and life decisions, this one was multi-faceted, but among the motivations were a strong interest in biomedical research, belief in the community service and community engagement roles of publicly-funded institutions, and a sense that at UM the library, the health professional schools, the research enterprise, and the health system were all poised to begin a dynamic and qualitatively different relationship.

A little more than a year later, I answer enthusiastically that the position has lived up to my expectations, and that I am having a great time in a job I love. Building on strengths in curriculum integration, evidence-based medicine, and faculty partnerships, the UM Health Sciences Libraries have furthered their involvement in all the schools' curricula and committees and in graduate medical education. We've been invited to participate in Wolverine Island in Second Life and to join in the development a new Health Sciences Education Building in real life.

On the research side, the library partners with the National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics and the Center for Computational and Molecular Biology on informatics projects and planning; is part of the Clinical and Translational Science Award team; and is collaborating with our science and engineering libraries to enhance support for interdisciplinary life sciences research. We are exploring and evaluating the role of the informationist in biomedical and clinical research. We're part of grant proposals and their funding.

We are a resource library and an outreach library for the region, and have exciting new subcontracts for health information outreach to people with disabilities and to the public health workforce. We're building partnerships with campus, health system, city, county, and state non-profit and municipal organizations to serve the needs of the community.

And we have plans for much, much more in all of these areas.

Last week, UM's president, Mary Sue Coleman, gave an address to the university community, Five Years Forward: An Address to the University of Michigan Community - Nov.15, 2007. In it, she made a financial and philosophical commitment on the university's behalf to initiatives that are integral to what Michigan is, and to what attracted me here, among them interdisciplinary research and the university's public mission. Concepts such as outreach, engagement, investment in the local community, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, leadership, and diversity, and specific endeavors such as the University Research Corridor and Michigan HealthyU are all part of her vision for the future.

So that's why I'm here at UM and at the University Library. Why I am here at this blog is another question, and one I've struggled to answer during my intermittent blogging history. There are many librarians writing about the big issues and many more focusing on breaking news and latest technologies. I haven't found a unique voice in those areas. On the other hand, as many of my colleagues have pointed out, there is a dearth of directors who blog. So I'm wondering if I can use this forum to think aloud about my macro micro issues, about the day to day fabric of my professional life, and perhaps shed some light on what we mysterious managers think and do.

Posted by janeblum at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2007

More disappointing news

House Override Fails, Threatening Academic Earmarks - Chronicle.com

I feel more of an investment in the appropriations bill this year than I have in the past and consequently more disappointment in the expected failure to override the veto. As the Chronicle's analysis notes, "The compromise bill would allot $147.2-billion to labor, health, and education, about $3.5-billion less than Congress had proposed, but more than the president’s budget request of $140.9-billion, says Congress Daily. The new spending level would be 1.8 percent above the 2007 level, not enough to keep up with inflation."

Posted by janeblum at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2007

Very Interesting ...

I've been a big fan of Public Library of Science from its inception. I'm pleased to see PLoS ONE score a coup with the publication of Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur, especially since one of the authors is here at U of M. (GoBlue!)

It's also fun for me to read Bora's post A Blog Around The Clock : Extreme Dinosaur: Nigersaurus, the Mesozoic Cow! about the article and how it came to be published in PLoS. His joy and excitement is for PLoS ONE but also for the open access community and its proponents, for the PLoS ONE online community, and for the open and dynamic change of scientific information. "Go and read the paper. Rate it. Annotate and comment." In other words, you're all invited to be part of the conversation.

Posted by janeblum at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2007


Bush Vetoes Spending Bill for Student Aid and NIH - Chronicle.com

Not unexpected, but still disappointing. The MLA/AAHSL Joint Legislative Task Force had the NIH appropriation as a priority discussion item during our recent visits to Capitol Hill. We knew going in that a veto was likely and would be hard to override, but it's still frustrating.

Posted by janeblum at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

Embracing Imperfection

A colleague of mine, Jim Shedlock, uses as his email sig "Don't let perfection or 'better' be the enemy of good." I agree with the sentiment, but not all my colleagues share this outlook. Recently, I heard the same concept described as "embracing mediocrity" - a telling change in terminology.

The hard part of setting priorities comes when you've made all the easy decisions and still don't have the resources for everything you need to accomplish. It's easy to cut a service or resource that's not needed. It's hard to cut one that is needed, but not needed as much as another that you keep instead. The hard choices come with supporters and politics. That doesn't make them wrong, just uncomfortable.

Sometimes "good enough" is sufficient.

Posted by janeblum at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2007

Busy? Moi?

Don't let the title of libraries and the culture of busy - a reflection on the hospital blogging meme on ratcatcher's blog, omg tuna is kewl, fool you: this is not a post solely for hospital librarians. It applies regardless of specific environment, and I strongly suspect it applies as well if we are neither librarians nor working in libraries.

Take a minute to read the original article too. Don't worry, I know you're busy, but it's only two pages.

So, what have I to add to this article and the excellent commentary already posted?

On one hand, a plea: guilty. I, too, over-allocate my time. I try to be aware of this and make periodic corrections, for my own sanity as well for the well-being of my colleagues, friends, and family.

On the other hand, it's not just me (nor just us). The values in librarianship have been quantitative. We've justified our value to our institutions, our colleagues, and ourselves by enumerating how many of this we have and how many of that we've done: how many volumes we have acquired, how many questions we have answered, how many classes we have taught. If we keep the numbers going up, we are increasing our value, right? In such a value system, cranking out the numbers is rewarded and so, therefore, is busyness. And behavior we reward, we see more often. No wonder we're all so busy - it's just so rewarding.

Posted by janeblum at 06:46 PM | Comments (0)