Category Archives: Databases

Catherine goes to prison

prisonLast Friday, I went to visit a Forensicare researcher at the Melbourne Assessment Prison (formerly the Melbourne Remand Centre). Our library services a large range of groups who work in a variety of locations. Forensicare staff work in high security sites as well as in the community. This researcher worked in a prison and I thought it would be an interesting excursion to visit her (OK, I was very curious – I’ve never visited a prison before) and sometimes, showing a person how to search databases etc works better if they are in a familiar environment. It was raining when I left work to get on the tram and by the time I was at LaTrobe St, it was pouring heavily. My trousers were almost soaking! The researcher met me at reception and I signed in. Then I passed over my passport and staff ID for ID purposes to the guard and was then given a blue bracelet and visitor lanyard.. I had to put all my stuff in a locker – not even allowed to bring a pen in, but allowed paper. I had my sheaf of library bumpf and how-tos – that was allowed. Then we passed through a body scanner and then another scanner (this was for items being brought in ). Then to get to the staff meeting room with a PC, we had to go through 3 or 4 heavy doors with eye scanners. The researcher had to lift the flap and look into the scanner. At one guard point, it was looking in the eye scanner for her and for me, holding up my wrist to the window to show the guard I had been processed by the guards at entry. Past the first heavy door was the prisoner visitor communication booths. It was quite small and cramped looking. The building looks quite large from the outside but inside, from the areas I saw anyway, it was quite small. I guess the walls are very thick. I was warned it would take a long time getting through (it took about 30mins) and before I even got to this point, I had to provide the researcher with some personal details in order to be approved.

How can I end this post? If you have clients in multiple locations, it is worthwhile to do site visits. Not every client is able to physically visit the library for instruction sessions or research advice. Not only is it an excursion for you, it is also an opportunity to see what their work environment is like – what is technologically possible and what work-arounds could work. Next up is a visit to the Royal Park campus.


TEBM15 – more of what I learnt

I’ve been thinking about TEBM15 lately and how I can use what I’ve learnt in practice. The first thing I aim to do is to rewrite all my lesson plans for database refresher training sessions (due to the changes to Clinicians Health Channel, I have to do this anyway). One of the tips given by a TEBM educator was only teach the essentials. So – what are the essentials in teaching say, Medline via OVID? Is it absolutely necessary to include MeSH? A senior teaching clinician here mentions MeSH in his annual searching session to interns but it is only a small section (and we didn’t manage to go into great detail about it this year). He says it is essential. I’ve included it in the past but I wonder … To put the boot on the other foot – can you effectively teach searching in an EBM course if you don’t know what MeSH is (one of the clinical attendees at TEBM15 said he didn’t know what MeSH was)? Is MeSH too technical, too much jargon? That was another teaching tip – don’t get bogged down in technical details.


What I would like to know is, if you include MeSH in your Medline searching sessions, what place does it have (do you put a lot of focus on it or briefly mention it)? Or if you don’t include it, why not? Is MeSH a technical aspect or an essential aspect? I’m in a inquiring and nosey mood at the moment so please spill the beans!!



Free-Space-Explosion-Background-PSDI was reading some old photocopies I had taken of “Online Information Retrieval’ by John Convey recently (part of my attempt to read through my stash of papers and recycle the ones that don’t matter). This was published in 1992 so pre-www. Gosh, how things have changed! In these chapters, the cost of searching was discussed (some databases charged over $120 per hr) and the choice of whether to print records online (something like 60p per record) and whether you’d want to have the database print the records and then post them to you. You would then need to retype all the records to remove all the extra stuff that was attached to it (and also prettify it up for the client – no giving them the computer paper you got in the mail). I remember learning how to access databases via gopher and ftp when an undergrad.

But this is titled Explosion because I think from reading these chapters, I found the reason why this feature is called Explode. Remember the old computer screens – those black ones with the green font and no graphics what-so-ever? The screens were so small you had be very economical with what you called the database features on the menu. Many of these feature names have translated to the new www enabled database interfaces – including Explode. But I have to explain what this feature does countless times (do you?) and to my mind, it isn’t immediately explicable. The people we train are not dumb and can understand the most complex of concepts. But this word often throws people off. What does it mean? Why isn’t there are better word or phrase to indicate function? There is enough space on the interface surely? What word or phrase would be a better fit? Does it need to change?