Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MedlinePlus launches local health search

MedlinePlus is the online health information website provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. It has a health topic search, information about prescription drugs and supplements, a medical encyclopedia, and directories for finding hospitals and doctors. MedlinePlus also has a website for Spanish speakers.

The newest addition to the MedlinePlus health website is the "Go Local" search (link via ResourceShelf blog). This search allows people to find local health resources. The basic search is available for all fifty states and just covers hospital locations.

However, the complete search has three different ways to find information. One can search by county for all types of services, search for specific type of health care provider (such as nursing homes, physicians, and pharmacies), and search for local services by topic (i.e. particular diseases or health issues). The complete search capabilities are currently available for Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, parts of Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming. More states will be added over time. This could be very helpful for older adults who are looking for caregivers in their area. The search includes local counselors/therapists, home health care services, hospice care services, adult day care services, crisis services, senior centers, and support groups. This website would be a good addition to any library’s “older adult” link list.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Empowerment, Self-confidence, and Decreased Loneliness - Additional Benefits of Technology Training for Older Adults

Many public libraries offer introductory computer classes to help “bridge the digital divide” – to train people to use computers and to give them access to the internet. This is important because many health resources, government resources and applications, and job applications are now only available online. This technology training and access to the internet enables people to get the information that they need. However, two recent articles in the Journal of Aging and Mental Health pointed out additional benefits of technology training for older adults:

Shapira, Barak, & Gal (2007) described a study in which a group of older adults from elderly day care centers and from nursing homes were taught to use computers and the internet. These older adults scored significantly higher than control groups in life satisfaction, depression, loneliness and self-control. Shapira et al. (2007) reported that “Computer and Internet use seems to contribute to older adults' well-being and sense of empowerment by affecting their interpersonal interactions, promoting their cognitive functioning and contributing to their experience of control and independence.”(p. 1360).

Fokkema and Knipscheer (2007) set up an in home intervention program where handicapped and chronically ill older adults were taught to use computers and the internet in their homes. Then, the participants were tested for loneliness. They showed a significant decrease in loneliness compared to the control group. These older adults used the internet to communicate with others via email and this increased their social contact. Fokkema and Knipscheer (2007) found that using the internet gave people something to think about other than their loneliness and it also increased their self confidence.

These studies show the impact that technology training can have for older adults. It would be great for libraries to partner with adult day care facilities and nursing homes to bring technology training to older adults who can not come to a library for computer classes.

Fokkema, T. & Knipscheer, K. (2007). Escape loneliness by going digital: A quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a Dutch experiment in using ECT to overcome loneliness among older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 11 (5), 1360-7863. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from

Shapira, N., Barak, A. & Gal, I. (2007). Promoting older adults’ well-being through Internet training and use. Aging & Mental Health, 11 (5), 1360-7863. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Personal news and information searches delivered to you!

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the future, hoping that it would be like it was portrayed on the Jetson’s TV show. Well, we don’t have much robotic help, but we do have Roombas! One of the futuristic ideas that intrigued me was having software that brought personalized news to you every day. That sounded like a wonderful idea to an information addict like me. We are finally starting to see this kind of thing provided through RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

One can easily set up a free online reader, such as Bloglines or Google Reader and subscribe to receive blog posts or free information from websites. One of the benefits of these readers is that you don’t clog up your email with news articles. In addition, these online readers organize the posts so that one can read information from many different sites, allowing you to keep posts from the same blog together and easily save items of interest. Instead of clicking on each website every day to check for new items, these items are directly sent to your reader – you just open your reader and see any new items.

This is great for people who like free online information. However, much of what most non-techie people like to read is not free online – like newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. It can be very costly to pay for these subscriptions. Many people can access these magazines, newspapers, and journals through their library website, because their library pays for the online subscriptions (via databases, such as Gale). Usually people just have to sign in with their library card number through a link on their library’s website. Unfortunately though, many people are unaware that their library provides access to these subscription databases.

Now there is an even greater reason to introduce patrons to these library databases. RSS4Lib had a recent article highlighting the new RSS feature from Gale. This is a wonderful feature for libraries to provide. It is very simple to set up a keyword search or advanced search in the Gale database. For example, a patron could be interested in any new magazine articles about Alzheimer’s, in order to find out about new information or research about the disease. It is very easy to do this search on Gale. Then, the next step is to click on the RSS icon. This will give you a web address (URL) to copy and paste into your RSS reader. Then, as soon as articles on this topic are added to the Gale database, they are sent to the patron’s reader. So the patron does not have to search through thousands of magazines or newspapers each week to find news about their chosen topic – it is automatically sent to them every day. It is not a perfect system – the full text of some articles is not provided because of publishing agreements that delay online access to an article until the print version has been out for a period of time. But at least, even for these articles, you can see the title, magazine name, and date of issue for later use.

I think that library patrons will love being able to create RSS feeds of searches from the Gale database. It is easy, saves time, and is very convenient for patrons. I would like to design a class to teach older adults how to set up an RSS reader, how to add feeds, and how to use the Gale database. It would be a nice addition to other “how-to” computer classes, such as how to set up an email account. I encourage other librarians to investigate the RSS feature in the Gale database and to consider adding a computer class for patrons about this feature.

For an introduction to RSS, here is a video from the Common Craft Show (via Librarian in Black post):

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Grandparent's Day Statistics

Here are some interesting statistics about grandparents from the U.S. Census Bureau Facts for Features (link via this ResourceShelf post):

  • 5.7 million children live in a home with a grandparent - which is 8 % of all children in the U.S.
  • 43% of all grandparents whose grandchildren live with them are responsible for most of the basic needs (i.e., food, shelter, clothing) of one or more of the grandchildren who live with them.

  • 545,000 grandparents speak a language other than English and are responsible for caring for their grandchildren. Of this number, 217,000 speak English very well.

  • 496,000 grandparents are caring for their grandchildren and have an income that is below the poverty level .

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

National Grandparents Day

National Grandparents Day is the first Sunday after Labor Day, which is September 9th this year. President Jimmy Carter added this celebration in 1978. Marion H. McQuade first championed the idea for this celebration and her descendents created a nonprofit organization, the National Grandparents Day Council. The organization website states:

"Our goals are to honor grandparents and to strengthen
the bond between grandparents and grandchildren.
Additionally, we strive to draw compassionate attention
to the eldest of society's elderly--those in nursing homes."
Their website lists many intergenerational activities. It is a good source for ideas for library programs celebrating Grandparents Day. The Legacy Project provides an even more extensive list of activities and planning resources in their Grandparents Day Activity Kit. This kit includes scrapbook ideas, communication and storytelling ideas, keepsake crafts, and family history activities.

The National Grandparents Day Council sponsored a YouTube contest this summer for videos honoring grandparents. All the contest videos can be viewed here.

Here is the winning video:

I think that libraries should consider hosting a YouTube competition for children and teens with the theme of honoring their grandparents. This could supplement an essay or drawing contest held by libraries. The winners could be announced on Grandparent's Day, with prizes provided to the winners.

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