Second Life

One of the more technophile and techno experienced blogger in Europe is Guus van den Brekel, Coordinator of Electronic Services, Central Medical Library, University of Groningen, NL. Reading his blog digiCMB[1] can be a quite breathtaking experience sometimes, as he takes you far ahead in the future of medical librarianship. His ideas, weblog mashups, and Web 2.0 tools are always invaluable helpful and inspiring. For example, the customisable toolbar[2], was detected by him and the news spread out to the blogosphere[3] by a post on digiCMB. If you want to start, just set up an account for free, change it according to your user needs, and tell your clients where to download it. The success is overwhelming, since October 2005, 1.000 users installed our library toolbar[4].

Guus´ favourite topic and the major category on his blog too, is Second Life[5], where he is building a complete medical library in virtual space. He’s also the one who proposed at the Cluj conference “that the organisation of EAHIL should start an official EAHIL blog and an open access repository of all publications, presentations, posters, proceedings of the EAHIL at one place for everyone to access”[6]. That is a fascinating and actually important goal, since proceedings are online-only and the links might rot[7] over time, resulting in an irretrievable loss of valuable information[8].

After his presentation in Cluj “Into the user environment now! How users have changed and how libraries can adjust”[9], Guus experienced that EAHIL conferences are great places for networking and building communities. Not only the audience pester the living daylights out of him with all their questions, but he was also invited afterwards to Iceland and Norway for sharing his knowledge with medical librarians abroad.

The language thing

Since 2004, the number of blogs related to medical librarianship is increasing at an accelerating rate. For the reader the challenge is not to find information but to wade through it. For the blogger the challenge is a) to read the blog entries of anyone and anyone can read their blog entries too (e.g. to become part to of the international blogosphere); b) to effectively filter, post, and comment the stream of news. Actually, both require to read and write in English, and blogs in English like digiCMB naturally have strong ties to the Blogosphere (Fig.1). Unfortunately (or fortunately!) we’re not the UK or USA, so language is a challenge in itself – Europe has many of them. Nevertheless we did some surveys and asked our blog readers if they would like to read their blog in English instead of German or Dutch.[10],[11] The answers brought us back into line quite soon. My readers literally rebelled and put their veto on this ‘stupid’ idea. One of the kindest rebukes was that my English is disastrous and miles apart from worth reading. So, we’ve learned, that our main target group likes the information but not the language from abroad.

Fig. 1: Language is always an issue

People are accustomed to their mother tongue: The Germans love reading German, the Dutch loves reading Dutch.[12] To be successful their and to serve their information needs, we have to focus on our very readership, their habits and language. In this sense, blogs like Biomedbiblog, BIUM[13], or Medinfo[14] are important intermediaries. By routing (this includes finding, filtering, translating, distributing) news from abroad, they act like national clearinghouses.

Biomedical libraries blogs search

Some weeks later – and still thinking on the idea of a collaborative European medlib blog – Dymphie at Biomedbiblog constructed an ingenious search engine for all “Biomedical libraries blogs”[15] by the help of Google’s Custom Search tool[16]. With that, you’re able to locate pretty well ten thousands of entries in a total of 53 medlib weblogs[17] (when you read this, their might be more than 70 blogs).

Medlib’s Planet Biblioblog

To make the European medlib blogs easier accessible, recently I merged all entries of nine European blogs into one to create something like the “Medlib’s Planet Biblioblog”[18] by use of the service MySyndicaat[19]. Navigating to this Planet[20] will show you all posts of every European blogger embedded into a nice interface and add-on features. But that’s not the end of the story, there are further options: Let’s say your library want to provide it’s customers with a news feed on health topics. You enter all interesting feeds into MySyndicaat – Reuters Health, table of contents for some journals, the science news of your daily magazine, clinic news feeds, PubMed searches, (don’t miss the library’s own feed!) – and you’ll get a really impressive blog of daily if not hourly changing health news. Then you can embed this blog’s RSS feed (which MySyndicaat is providing) everywhere on your web site. You can customise the resulting feed even further according to the need of your clients: Imagine your working in the library of an Cancer Institute. Probably there are not much interested in news on diabetes or orthopaedics, so what to do? MySyndicaat allows you to filter news by keywords. Just type in “oncology” or “cancer”, and the resulting blog or RSS feed will only show items which contain these words. So it’s pretty easy to create a super blog (or feed) for skin cancer or hyperthyroidism, for example.

Manifesto 2.0

A really great source of inspiration in the last months was Laura Cohen’s Manifesto 2.0[21]. It consists of 17 affirmative sentences (some even argue that’s more like a credo). The statements range from general ones like “I will be willing to go where users are, both online and in physical spaces” to detailed ones “I will lobby for an catalog that provides personalized, interactive features” to funny things like “I will not fear Google or related services”. Mostly are Web 2.0 oriented as “I will encourage my library’s administration to blog” or “I will enjoy the excitement and fun of positive change”. Excitement and fun are two important words in Web 2.0 – the interactivity in Web 2.0 is much fun, and the richness and variety of tools is exciting (if not overwhelming). Not long after the Manifesto was published, the blogger community began their game of citing, interpreting, forwarding, and praising – as with every excellent idea in the blogosphere. The Danish blogger Soren Johannessen[22] even produced a video with the Manifesto sentences mixed up with Burning Man[23] pictures and techno music – a really congenial work[24]. At a recent workshop on social software at the Bavarian State Library, I presented this video to a perplexed audience.
By the way, the 80 participants were able to interact with the speakers at the accompanying weblog[25] before and after the one day workshop. In my opinion, social software rather had to be tasted than teached to get an idea of it’s power.

[3] “Blogosphere is the collective term encompassing all blogs as a community or social network”
[8] “Conference Proceedings of EAHIL: Scattered with the wind?”
[10] “Medinfo only in English? Medinfo-Beiträge nur noch auf Englisch?“,
[11] “The language thing”
[12] Nowhere North (Sweden) and digiCMB are English blogs
[24] (and if you are at YouTube, pay a visit to the promotion video of the Fulton County Public Library!

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