Blogs: April 20th-26th


In the last few years, if you’ve attend a MLA meeting, followed listserv threads on Medlib-L or looked at the library literature, you feel like blogs are following you everywhere. Patient education blogs. Journal club blogs. Library newsletter blogs. Librarian blogs. Blogs, blogs everywhere. Or to quote MLA’s own T. Scott Plutchak, “I see blog people.”

Last year, in our online CE, the Social Networking taskforce introduced you to blogs and RSS.  For a quick refresher, you can view the two common craft videos below.

Blogs in Plain English:

RSS in Plain English:

But how are we using them now?  What can we do with it now that we’ve got it?

Chapters: Some MLA chapters are using it to keep their members update (see NAHSL blog).  Others, like the Philadephia Regional Chapter, have moved their chapter website to a blog format.

Libraries: Libraries have been using them as newsletters, frequently asked question replacements, ways to keep homepage content fresh, replacements for manuals and lots more.

Individuals: Aside from keeping up with our friends who live in other towns and the latest happening on [insert your favorite TV show here] , librarians are getting the latest library news quickly and testing out topics for future articles.

But why? How is this going to save me time?
Blogs can be used in so many forms and add much flexibility with the way you communicate with the professional and personal world.  Don’t like web ads? Use a blog reader like (Bloglines or Google Reader) to import your RSS feeds and remove extra advertising.  Don’t know much HTML but need to publish a webpage? Blogs require minimal knowledge of HTML and usually have a graphical interface similar to word processing program.  Click, type and publish.  That’s all it take.  Need a place to bounce ideas off of a larger community?  A blog gives you access to the world of internet users interested in your subject.  It’s an automatic audience and feedback loop.

Preliminary Setup

The following exercises will require that you have a blog that you can experiment with.  If you have a blog set up already, feel free to use that one. If you don’t, there are several options for hosting sites out there.  For those new to the blog world and for the purpose of these exercises, we recommend using WordPress. If you need help getting started with WordPress, take a look at last year’s class on Blogging and RSS.

You can sign up for a free WordPress blog at

Discovery Exercises

Discovery Exercise 1: Customize for Functionality

  1. Change the theme and customize the about page.
    Play with the themes (designs) in WordPress to change the appearance of your blog. Themes can be found under the Appearance tab in the Administration area of your WordPress blog.  Choose one (not the default) that best represents what you’re trying to convey with your blog’s focus.
  2. Add relevant professional connections through a blog roll.
    Who are you reading in the blog world? Who do you think other people should be reading?  Your blog role gives your readers insight into who you are and what is relevant to you.  It gives context.  In WordPress this can be done using the Links tab in the Administration area of your WordPress blog.

Discovery Exercise 2: Plugins and Widgets

  1. Choose a Plugins or Widget
    Plugins are part of what brings your blog alive and makes it manageable for both you and your reader.  Plugins are often used on WordPress blogs that you have uploaded to your own server.  Widgets are similar to plugins and are used on free hosted WordPress blogs.  Often you will make sure you activate a Spam filter plugin or widget on your blog to reduce the possibility of malicious or unwanted commenting.  A preferred spam filter among several SNSTF members is Akismet.

    1. Go to WordPress (or your blog software of choice) and read about Plugins and Widgets.
    2. Browse through the Widgets or Plugins and choose to download a Plugin to your server.  If you are using a freely hosted version of WordPress go to Appearance tab and click on Widgets.
  2. Add a post to your blog that utilizes the fun/practical plugin or widget.

Optional Exercise:

  1. Further customization your theme
    Try adding a meebo or skype widget in your side bar, both of these might require editing the php or html. Note that instructors will not be able to help you diagnose HTML or PHP problems.  This option is for the more adventurous among the group who want their theme to look like their favorite blogs.
  2. Claim your blog in Technorati.
    This will get your blog indexed in Technorati and make it easier for others to find. Only do this if your planning to keep up your blog. Otherwise, you have a bunch of dead content out there.

A Final Note: Microblogging – Twhirled Tweets of Twittery Goodness.

A more recent trend in the social networking world is called Microblogging.  Maybe you saw Oprah’s Friday (4/17) episode where she discussed the phenomenon with Ashton Kutcher. Wikipedia also has a good introduction. One of the most notable services in this area is Twitter.  Twitter can be installed as an app on your phone or used via the web to send short 140 character updates (aka Tweets) to your subscribers.  Services like Twhirl help you aggregate your Twitter feeds through a desktop client (for those of us without data plans on our phones).

But why would you do this?  In a connected age where people are on the go, microblogging becomes a way to share short bursts of news to a larger community.  Did you miss your friend at the session you were both planning to attend at MLA? Oops … wait, it’s not a problem. He just sent a Twitter that he was going to your sections business meeting.  At last year’s MLA annual meeting, several people were Twittering and adding to a common MLA thread.  You could sign up for to receive the feed on your Phone or computer and see information about where to get good free wifi, what paper session was hot or whatever else people were posting.   The MLA 08 twitter feed is no longer live, but the MLA 2009 feed is available at

Some medical libraries are using Twitter to send short news feeds to users. Some of these libraries are: CMHSL, fiumedlib, MDAndersonLib, and ucsf_library.  Some library companies and vendors are also using Twitter to send news feeds or alert followers of new journal articles or resources.  Some of these companies are: MatthewsBook, LibraryJournal, mdconsult, and natureblogs.  Don’t forget their are librarians on Twitter discussing issues at medlibs.

Submit your work.

To get credit for this course, please fill out the Blogs Course Progress Report.

Course Content , ,

Wikis: March 9th – 15th


You may remember wikis from our 2008 MLA course Web 2.0 101: Introduction to Second Generation Web Tools. As you probably know, a wiki is a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis. Wikis are used in business to provide intranet and Knowledge Management systems. Ward Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described wikis as “the simplest online database that could possibly work”. (“Wikis.” Accessed 19 February 2009.)

For more overview on wikis, watch this Common Craft video “Wikis in Plain English”

How can wikis be applied in the library world? For an overview of wikis and examples of applications in the  libraries and health sciences settings, refer to this presentation  “Using wikis in library liaison work: overview & trends” by Molly Knapp. (This presentation was originally part of the “Not-So-Dangerous Liaisons: Best Practices for Library Liaison Work” Symposium for the Medical Library Association’s 2008 Conference in Chicago, IL.)

Now that we’ve reviewed wikis and explored some of their applications in libraries, lets get some hands-on experience.

Preliminary Setup

This course will use

PBwiki was chosen because it is targeted to education professionals, does not have ads, is relatively easy to use, and is free. You can also set restrictions for wiki users. In our case, everyone in the class has ‘Writer’ level access to the wiki, meaning you can contribute to the wiki pages, but cannot irrevocably delete anything.

You will receive an invitation to join the class wiki through the email address with which you registered by Monday March 9th at 5pm CST.

PBwiki help:

Discovery Exercise 1: Mining wiki resources

As librarians, we are skilled in finding and sharing information on specialized topics. Let’s apply this to wikis.

Step 1: Locate one resource for each topic in the list below:

  1. Wiki software or platform
  2. Online resource/webpage about wikis
  3. A journal article, book chapter or book about wikis
  4. A library-related wiki
  5. A health sciences-related wiki (medicine, nursing, dentistry, allied health, biomedical research/animal care)


  • provides a listing and comparison of wiki platforms, while Wikipedia has a list of wiki software.
  • You can locate an article on wikis from a library journal in the LISTA or Library Literature database, or find a book on wikis in WorldCat. Commercial book sites like are another place to locate books on wikis. If you’ve read an article from a general magazine or journal on wikis, or a book on the topic, you can also use that.
  • Refer to the Web 2.0 101 blog for links to websites about wikis, or try a Google or Yahoo search. Maybe there is a website you found extremely helpful in learning about wikis from the Web 2.0 101 class. Maybe you have heard of a medical or nursing website that has written an online column or blog about wikis.
  • If your library has experimented with wikis for a project, or developed one for a department feel free to use it as an example, even if it is unavailable to the general public. There are also several general library wikis available.
  • David Rothman has a growing list of HS wikis on his blog

Step 2: Briefly browse, read and evaluate each of the items you located for your topics. Consider the following questions. You may want to jot down some brief notes or comments, but it is not required.

  • Which one was the most useful?
  • Did you dislike any of them?
  • What is the scope, purpose & authority of the resource?
  • What challenges did you face implementing your library wiki?

Step 3: Make sure you record the 5 resources you select on scratch paper or in a document, as you will need them for the Cumulative exercise.

NOTE: You will not share or post all 5 resources with course members.

Discovery Exercise 2: Exploring pbWiki

You should receive an invitation from to join the Dig Deeper Wiki on Monday, March 9th. If you do not get an invitation by 5pm, please email one of the instructors.

Step 1: Join the Dig Deeper Wiki.
Click the link in your email from to join the wiki. You will need to create a user name and password. (Yes, another one, sorry.)

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with pbwiki.

Features of wiki: Frontpage, SideBar, Edi

Features of wiki: Frontpage, SideBar,Help

  • FrontPage - like a home page. There is a link to return to it on the side.
  • Sidebar - where the wiki pages are located. Wiki pages are also linked in the content on the FrontPage.
  • Edit tab – Where you can edit the page. PLEASE DO NOT EDIT THE FRONT PAGE.

Step 3: Play in the Sandbox.

  • Click the link “Sandbox” on the Sidebar.
  • Notice the Edit Tab? (Behind the View tab at the top of the screen)
  • Click on the Edit tab and you will see a menu that looks similar to the icons for Word or Google Docs. Here is where you can edit the wiki page.
Editing a wiki page and creating a link

The Edit screen and icon for creating a link

  • Type your name or a message to your classmates.
  • Practice adding a link. Notice the Insert/Edit Link icon ? It looks like this:
  • Insert/Edit link allows you to add a link to a wiki page, email or an outside web page.
    • To create a link to an outside web page, select “URL” from the drop down menu and try adding a link your library’s homepage.
  • Notice there is a SAVE BUTTON at the bottom of the screen. Press this button to save your work. You will be automatically taken back to the VIEW version of the page.
  • TIP: Watch this 13 second video on editing pbwiki.

Cumulative exercise

For the cumulative exercise you will help build an annotated list of wiki-related software, articles, websites and wikis-in-use as they apply to libraries and the health-sciences.

Step 1: Refer back to your 5 resources from Discovery exercise 1.

Step 2: Choose one of your selected resources to add to the wiki.

Step 3: Go to the wiki page for the topic you are going to post about, i.e.: Wiki Platforms, Wiki resources & websites, Wiki journal articles, books & book chapters, Library Wikis, or Health Sciences Wikis.


Step 4: Edit the page and add the name of the resource, a link to the resource, and your initials (or name), as well as  some comments about it in 150 words or less.

TIP: Writing prompts and examples are given at the top of each wiki page
TIP: Try to keep the resources in Alphabetical order.
TIP: If your item is already posted, consider adding something else from your list. If you post the same thing as another person, please add some value to what has already been said in the previous annotation.

Step 5: Save the page. View the page. Look OK? Great, you are finished! Time to submit your work.

Submit your work.

To get credit for this course, please fill out the Wikis Course Progress Report.

Course Content

Registration Now Open for Wiki CE

Dig Deeper with Social Media Free CE Course
Course Dates March 9th – 15th

This course covers how libraries can apply wiki software to their work.
Participants will gain an understanding of the benefits and challenges
of wiki software, brainstorm and discuss practical applications of wikis
in libraries, and get hands-on experience through contributing to a
class “wiki on wikis” that can be used for future reference when using
this software.

Sign up today

Registration for this course is required by March 6th at 5pm CST.


Getting a “No Data” Notice in Your Chart? Here’s how to fix that…

Thanks to those of you who brought up this question–we definitely did not post enough detail.

Google Spreadsheets won’t let you create a chart unless you have numerical data in your chart.

Let’s say that you asked the class members whether they want to go to Hawaii, and you gave them the option of selecting Yes or No. Your spreadsheet will have a column titled “Do you want to go to Hawaii?” with people’s Yes or No answers in the column. Though it seems like it would be easy just to highlight that column and create a chart with it, you can’t–you’ll get the dreaded “No Data” notice!

So, what DO you do in this case?

You have a few choices. Here they are, easiest to hardest!

  1. Go to the summary view
  2. Make note of the response counts for each response (i.e., 35 Yes, 25 No)
  3. Go back to your spreadsheet and create a new sheet (there is an Add Sheet link at the bottom)
  4. In the new sheet, create a table with your count data. (see below for an image)
  5. Highlight this table, and then go to Insert > Chart


Try the instructions here–it involves using formulas.


I suspect you can do something fancy with the Google Charts API or creating a Gadget–try it if you are very, very brave! Google Docs’ help section is pretty helpful if you want to go that route.


Web Collaboration Tools: February 16-23


Web office tools allow people to create, edit and share documents over the Internet.  This editing and sharing can by done synchronously, or asynchronously.  Documents that are created are stored on remote server as opposed to being store on your local drive.  The main advantage of using web office tools is that these documents are accessible anywhere that there is an Internet connection.  This is hugely helpful when you working with others to create a document.

We have mentioned documents, but in these web office tools can also create spreadsheets and presentations.  There are multiple services that offer these tools.  Some of them charge for access, some are free, and some let you do certain things for free but require you to pay for other things (usually to get more space to save files).

Here is a basic video explaining how Google Docs works:

As great as these web collaboration tools are, there are some drawbacks/concerns with using them.  There are often formatting oddities that can only be corrected by downloading the final version into a word processing program like Word to correct.  Another concern is that the documents created and saved in these applications are not stored on your hard drive or local server.  Instead they are saved to the application’s server.  This makes it harder for you to verify that your documents are secure, that backups are being done on a regular basis, and if you do have problems it is harder to reach someone to help you.

Since your access the tools over the Internet, how do you access your documents when you don’t have Internet access?  For some of the programs, you can install an open source browser extension on your computer that will give you access to your documents even when you are not connected to the Internet.  The extension does this by keeping the latest versions of your documents on your hard drive.  Once you are connected to the Internet again, your changes are synced with the remote servers.

Case Study 1

Members on a MLA Committee need to work on the goals and objectives for their committee.  Committee members are spread across the US.  The committee chair uploads a copy of last year’s document via Google Docs with her edits and proposed new goals.  The rest of the committee looks over the document and makes their comments.  The entire committee is always looking at the same document so there is only one version of it.  The committee completes the document without sending multiple files back and forth via e-mail.

Case Study 2

A library is offering a class on using RSS.  To customize the class for the participants, the instructor wants to create a quick survey to see how familiar participants are with the technology and what kinds of information they would find useful.  

Preliminary Setup

  • Go to
  • If you have a Gmail address or existing Google Account, you can log in with that information
  • If you don’t have a Google Account, you will need to create one.

Discovery Exercise 1

(Be sure to check the timeline below; meeting the deadlines will help the others in your group meet their deadlines, too!)

Practice using Google Docs to create a document and share it with others.

  1. Enter Google Docs at
  2. Start a new document by choosing File, then New, then Document
  3. Create and enter text
  4. Practice using the formatting options (font, bold, italics, bullets, etc.)
  5. Use Spellcheck
  6. Change the name of your document (you can click on the name to rename it)
  7. Share your document with your group.  Ask them to make changes to text and/or insert Comments. After your classmates have made some changes, check out the Revision History (under the Tools menu).

Discovery Exercise 2

Google’s version of Excel has a lot of the same capabilities with a few extra features.  In this exercise, you’ll use Google Spreadsheets to create an online survey, collect data, and analyze the results using graphs and charts.

  1. Enter Google Docs at
  2. From the New menu, choose Form.
  3. In the new form, you can create multiple types of question: multiple choice, text, scale, checkboxes, and more.  You can also choose to make questions require or optional.
  4. For this exercise, create a survey (form) with 5 questions.  So that you can create a graph or chart, you will need to include at least one non-text question.  Because the survey results will be published publicly, you will want to refrain from asking personally identifiable information. HINT: You will need to delete the “Name” question that is by default included.
  5. Once you’ve created 5 questions, save your form.
  6. To send your survey to your classmates, copy the URL on the bottom of the form and send it to the class Google Group (  Your classmates’ responses will be entered into your form live. NOTE: You must send this email from the email address you used to register for the Google Group.
  7. Next time you log into Google Docs, your form will have the survey results in spreadsheet form.
  8. You can use the Form menu’s Show Summary option to see a summary and charts Google automatically creates based on your data.
  9. Create your own graph or chart on at least one answer.  The chart creation tool is available in the Insert menu. UPDATED 2/17: For chart help, see our updated instructions.
  10. Once your graph or chart is completed, save it.
  11. Click on the saved chart and select Publish.  Send the published form link to the course instructors ( AND  We will embed it on the course blog.
  12. UPDATED 2/17: Graphs and charts automatically updated as new information is entered into your spreadsheet.
  13. Complete a MINIMUM of 20 of your classmates’ surveys as they are sent to the Google Group mailing list.  If you have time, please complete as many as you can.  The more responses each survey receives, the better you can see how the charts and graphs work.
  14. Complete the progress form to get credit for the class.  The progress form is due Monday, Feb 23.

Optional Exercise

Try using the Offline tool in Google Docs to see how it works.

  1. While in Google Docs, click the Offline link in the upper right.
  2. Click the Get Gears button, and then Install Gears.
  3. After installing, go offline and then try accessing your documents.

Timeline for Exercises

Monday-Tuesday (Feb 16-17): Create and share document in Discovery Exercise 1 with your Group members.

Tuesday-Wednesday (Feb 17-18): Edit/Add comments to Google Docs that your Group members created and shared with you.

Thursday (Feb 19): Create and share an online survey with the class using Google Docs (Discovery Exercise 2).  Complete a minimum of 20 of your classmates’ surveys (this portion can be completed through Sunday, Feb 22).

Friday (Feb 20): Complete Discovery Exercise 2 by returning to Google Docs, looking at your survey results in the spreadsheet form, creating a graph/chart, and then sending it to the instructors ( and

Saturday-Sunday (Feb 21-22): Finish up any exercises that you haven’t completed.  Be sure to complete a minimum of 20 of your classmates’ surveys.

Monday (Feb 23): Last day to complete your progress form.


Additional web office tools:

Course Content

Registration Now Open for Web Collaboration Tools CE

Dig Deeper with Social Media Free CE Course
Web Collaboration Tools
Course Dates February 16th – 22nd

Web collaboration tools allow people to create, edit and share documents over the Internet.  This course will focus on editing and sharing that can by done synchronously, or asynchronously. The main advantage of using web office tools is that these documents are accessible anywhere that there is an Internet connection.  Course content will demonstrate how helpful these collaboration tools are when working with others to create and modify documents.

Registration for this course is required by February 9th.

Sign up today


Media Sharing: January 19 – 25th

Oh no! Help! Our users are no longer coming into the library to access our expertise and our collections. What are we gonna do? How do we know that our users will be able to find and access the information they need?

Ah ha! We are going to take our skills to our users in their workplaces. So how do we do that, you ask? We will use media sharing to “show” and “tell” our users how to find and access what they need.

For years we have used Instant Messaging (IM) to provide synchronous interaction with our users. IM allows us to easily send text and URLs to resources; but IM features vary greatly and can be limited when you need to share a screen capture or show users a video of where to click on the screen. IM, coupled with media sharing, can greatly increase your ability to convey step by step instructions to users in a quick and efficient manner.

So let’s start with the basics. According to Wikipedia, media sharing is “the interactive process of sending via email, instant message, text message, posting or linking to media on a website or blog and other methods of sharing media to a targeted audience.” Wikipedia also says that a screencast is “a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration.” Some examples of media sharing include Flickr (photo sharing), YouTube (video sharing), Del.ici.ous (bookmark sharing), Digg (news sharing).

While verbally explaining how to do a task can be effective, there are tools available that will allow librarians to create screen captures or screencasts (a video of one’s movements on screen) which can then be sent to users via IM or e-mail.

One screen-capturing tool is Jing (  Jing is a free (at the moment) tool from TechSmith; the developer of the commercial screencasting software suite Camtasia.  There are two required components to use Jing: a locally installed application and Web space to store screen captures and screencasts.  The application uses a minimal amount of memory and runs continuously once it is started.  Jing can be used when it is needed to capture an entire window or just a section of a window.  Once the selection has been made, there is an option to create an image or a video of the screen area.  Jing seamlessly uploads the capture to free Web space with its partner service,  Jing screenshots are also capable of being added to Flickr accounts (  For screen captures, the entire process takes just a few seconds, and a URL is automatically generated so that one can immediately paste it into an e-mail or IM message.

In addition to taking screen captures, Jing is also capable of creating screencasts.  In general, screencasts will take longer generate a URL; depending on the amount of video captured.  The screencasts are viewable from the Web space or downloadable in Flash file format (swf).  Using a tool like Jing can help a hospital librarian use “show and tell” to answer questions about electronic resources.

So you might be thinking why do we need this tool?  Screencasting allows:

  • users to see what you do
  • users to watch, pause, and rewatch instructional videos
  • librarians to take users through a process
  • librarians to mimic the classroom experience

Preliminary Setup

Discovery Exercise 1 – Image Capture
You would like to highlight elements from a PubMed search and share it with a patron. In this exercise you will use Jing to do an Image Capture and utilize the Arrow, Text, and Highlight tool. See for an example.

  • Go to PubMed and search for Otitis Media
  • Using the Jing crosshairs select the portion of the Webpage containing your search
  • Use the Arrow, Text, Frame, and Highlight tool to provide notes on the search page.
  • Share your image capture by clicking on the Send to button. Note: if this is your first time using Jing you will need to setup a account.

Discovery Exercise 2 – Video Capture
A patron needs help applying limits to a PubMed search. In this exercise you will use Jing to do a Video Capture. A microphone is preferable, but not required. Guide the patron by performing the PubMed search and applying limits. See for an example.

  • Go to PubMed
  • Using the Jing crosshairs select the main body of the PubMed page.
  • Select Video capture
  • Wait for the countdown to complete and then begin your video capture. If you have a mic, narrate your actions.
  • In PubMed perform a search. For example Neoplasm Recurrence
  • Click on the limits tab and select some limits
  • Stop the video capture
  • Preview your video capture
  • Share your video capture by clicking on the Send to button.

Discovery Exercise 3 – Students Choice
Pick any Web 2.0 tool and show a user how to use a feature using a video capture.  If you need ideas for a Web 2.0 tool you can use any of the topics discussed in MLA’s previous Web 2.0 CE  Share your video capture by clicking on the Send to button.   Save your link as you will be asked to submit this with your course work.

Hint:  You can always recopy your link by logging into  Once you login click the Jing folder.
Introduction to Screencasting

7 Things You Should Know About Screencasting

Screencasting Strategies

Screencasting and Podcasting: Experience of the Yale Medical Library

LibCasting: Screencasting and libraries

Expo Notes: Jing, a year later

Course Content

Social Networking Software Task Force Short Courses

Welcome to the Website for a series of short courses provided by the Social Networking Software Taskforce of the Medical Library Association.  Content for the first course will be posted here on January 19th.  A complete schedule for all short courses can be found on the right-hand section of this Website.  Sign up for the Google Groups email list and we will send you email reminders, updates, and notifications.

Each course is offered a la carte so you can choose the topics that are of most interest to you and is free to current 2009 MLA members.  Note that institutional members may only have one person complete each short course for CE credit.  Please read the Technical Requirements page before beginning course work.  

Other than that, buckle up, put on your Web 2.0 hats and enjoy the courses.

If you have any questions please contact Bart Ragon at