If you are or were a student at Mount Sinai, you probably (hopefully?) remember learning some PubMed search skills in your first year. If your first year was recently, you probably went through our online tutorial and took an online quiz to show us that you had mastered the basics. It's that time of year for the new graduate students (welcome, PhD, MD/PhD, MS and PREP students!) and the PubMed Tutorial for Biologists has been updated to reflect all the changes that have happened in PubMed over the past year or so. And there have been a lot of changes! So even if you are not a first year student, might not be a bad idea if you have a few minutes to take a quick glance at the tutorial and update your search skills. After all, since this time last year PubMed has added about 840,000 articles for you to search through!
I was speaking to a researcher the other day, and I heard – once again – the familiar refrain of, "You mean it's only on paper?" Yup, imagine that. The whole issue of paper versus electronic records makes me fairly crazy, mostly because I don't trust electronic records, or maybe I just don't trust mankind's ability right now to deal with digital records over the long term. How many of us can right now put their hands on a document that they created and stored electronically 20 years ago? 15 years? Do I hear 10 or even 5? All those great digital photographs that you have created over the years, can you still find and view them all? Do you have your plan set up to migrate them forward onto new technology as it arrives? Is it all backed up, described and findable?
It is not that electronic records are 'bad' and paper is 'good', but electronic files are deceptively easy: just hit save. What is much harder in the real world of archives is that we are trying to 'save' things permanently, so that first save is just one of many unending steps required for the care and maintenance of digital documents. Archivists need to ensure that the information in each record is saved in a manner that will allow it to be viewed on whatever new software and hardware evolves in the future. On top of that, they need to ensure that when that record is displayed in the future, that the users can be certain that this is in fact a true representation of what that record originally contained; that bits and bytes haven't been compressed and lost; that the data hasn't been altered by users over time. All of this makes putting paper into acid-free folders and boxes and arranging them (once) in neat record series – all described in a searchable inventory – seem beyond easy.
Trying to oversee the many complex aspects of identifying and preserving archival electronic records is a tremendous task that archivists of today, myself included, cannot escape. But when I can reach out and actually touch the paper that was created almost 160 years ago, it is a satisfying relief and a real connection to the past. I am not at all sure that people in the future will be able to experience that connection to the people of the early digital generations.
At the moment on-campus access to PubMed and other NCBI resources is down. We're investigating what's happening and hopefully access will be back soon. In the meantime, if you need to get some articles from PubMed, you can try one of our other interfaces to MEDLINE (i.e., most of the content of PubMed):
Through the Web of Science interface: this interface lets you search MEDLINE like you would search Web of Science (it even lets you search both at once!). It works really well for importing citations into EndNote, and for citations that are in both MEDLINE and Web of Science, you can see how many times they have been cited, and by whom.
Through the OvidSP interface: this interface works like the interface we use for PsycINFO, and is popular at many other institutions.
Both of these interfaces use different search algorithms than PubMed, so the exact same search may get different results across the three interfaces. At the Levy Library we love PubMed for its Automatic Term Mapping feature, but these others have perks as well, especially when PubMed is down!
The blog ArchivesNext (http://www.archivesnext.com/?p=1512) gives awards each year for Best Archives on the Web. This year one of the winners for Best re-purposing of descriptive data is The Smithsonian Institution, Collections Search Center (http://collections.si.edu/search/). It is easy to see why they won an award! This site provides access to some real treasures. They even have two items that relate to Mount Sinai: images of medals created by the artist Adolph A. Weinman to commemorate the service of our doctors and nurses in World War I (below), and also Trustee medal.
The other thing I noticed, and that I wanted to share here, can be found from this same Smithsonian site. If you click on the Blog button along the banner and scroll down, you will see an entry from August 2nd called "Railroads are Fun". This was written by an intern at the Human Studies Film Archives, a part of the Smithsonian. This blog contains links to two silent films from around the turn of the 20th century. Both films were created by strapping a camera to the front of a subway car and filming it as it ran along the tracks. One is a trip over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, and the other is from 14th Street to the 1905 version of Grand Central Station. These are both silent films, and they make you wish the camera could rotate so you could see to the sides as you roll past people in Victorian clothing and pristine stations. But still, how neat is that?! From an archivists' viewpoint, what makes these even more interesting is that the films have been converted from paper prints deposited for copyright registration at the Library of Congress. That's right, to copyright a film in that period, the frames were printed on paper and submitted. Conservation specialists have now converted that paper to digital form and made the films live again so that they can be viewed by people around the world. As I said, how neat is that?!
If you haven't taken a look at the list of library classes lately you are missing out on some new additions! We have added extra summer sessions of perennial favorites: learn how to prepare your images for publication using Photoshop and then manage your list of perfectly illustrated articles with EndNote or RefWorks. Or drop those images into your professionally polished PowerPoint presentation: and now we'll even show you how to include video.
Still gathering information for that presentation or publication? We've got classes to help you find molecular and genetic information using NCBI's Entrez and BLAST, and visualize that information with the UCSC Genome Browser or Ensembl.
We're not forgetting clinicians either, with classes to help you find the evidence you need for patient care with PubMed and a new point-of-care resource that we are pretty excited about, Dynamed. You can also learn about where to find information to answer patients' questions about genetics and increase your own knowledge with Genetics Information Resources for Clinicians.