National Survey of Early Literacy Program

Last summer we released an article about a survey conducted by Dalhousie University’s School of Information Management and the Read to Me! Nova Scotia Family Literacy Program to gather information on early childhood literacy programs across Canada.  The results of this survey may be found at:

Read to Me!.

Congratulations to Dr. Vivian Howard, and MLIS students Deirdre O’Reilly and Naomi Balla-Boudreau for this important work.

Deirdre and Naomi will be presenting their work at the upcoming Information Without Borders conference this week, as well as the CLA conference in May.

SIM student to present at major health symposium

Barbara Hill-Taylor, a student in the MLIS program, will be presenting the paper Evaluating a Pediatric Emergency Department Intervention: Promotion of a Standard Practice Change from Salbutamol Inhalation by Nebulization to Metered-dose Inhalers with Holding Chambers at the
2011 Symposium of the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, Vancouver, BC, April 3-5, 2011. This presentation is a direct result from Barbara’s summer practicum placement. The paper is co-authored with Katrina F Hurley, MD, Ingrid Sketris, PharmD, MPA (HSA), Colleen O’Connell, PhD, Doug Sinclair, MD, Andrew Wing, BSc

Well done, Barbara.

The Future of Law Librarianship

Kate Greene Stanhope and I spent a very interesting evening with the Legal Literature and Librarianship class last Thursday.  We hope that the discussion left folks feeling enthused about law librarianship.  It is a great career option with opportunities in various types of law libraries all of which offer intellectual challenge and practical experience.

During the question period,  some concern was expressed regarding the future of law librarianship.  I think this was particularly, but not exclusively,  in regard to law firm libraries.  Will law libraries be assumed into knowledge management or information technology departments?  Will their role in helping legal professionals find and understand the law fade as electronic legal information becomes prevalent and print materials fade into the background?

I think not.  As I said Thursday evening, there will always be the need for specialists and intermediaries to manage and help interpret the burgeoning mass of information.  Librarianship has always been a form of knowledge management and new techniques and software do not change that.  It is up to librarians to work with information technology departments, to help IT professionals understand how information and knowledge are used, and conversely to understand ourselves how information is stored and manipulated.  Additionally, it is up to us to take an active role in strategic planning for our organizations and to make sure we know and interact with the key players.

Related to this discussion, is that of what we call ourselves.  Personally, I prefer to be called a librarian.  But would it make any difference if I was referred to as an information specialist, a knowledge manager, or a resource coordinator.  Again, I do not think so.

When Inclusivity Trumps Usability: Gender as a Text Field

In most cases, improvements to website usability benefit all users, even if the intent was to make things easier for only small group. But sometimes, compromising the usability of a site’s features becomes necessary.

Sarah Mei, a programer on the new open-source social networking site Diaspora (now in private alpha) recently made the decision to make gender a text field on the user profile page. This means that there are no checkboxes for male and female; no drop-down list of genders to choose from. When filling out your profile, you are given a blank space in which to write whatever gender you choose.

It may not seem like a big deal, but to some people it is. I have friends who joined Facebook specifically because it was the first social networking site that allowed them to leave the gender field blank. Diaspora is going a step further, welcoming people of all gender presentations rather than merely tolerating them, or not acknowledging their existence. Mei made this decision to be inclusive. The decision was controversial. Another Diaspora contributor quit because of it.

If you’re interested in usability and/or gender, the comments on Mei’s explanatory post are an interesting read. A lot of people congratulated or thanked Mei, but some were annoyed. Arguments against the text field hinged on the usability problems created by the compromised data integrity: the field would be next to useless in the Diaspora database, because the vocabulary isn’t controlled. For instance, people entered a variety of variations for female: woman, girl, feminine, chick, etc. People put in more than one answer. People put in answers meant to be humorous (my favorite was Ada Lovelace). Among other things, this means that:

  • Marketers can’t target based on gender. (Disapora has no advertising at this point, but like most social media sites, the creators will have to find ways to sustain operations if it becomes successful.)
  • Users can’t segment their searches by gender. (But why do they need to? As many commenters pointed out, Diaspora is not a dating site, nor are these records kept for medical purposes.)
  • Gender can’t be translated into the other languages Diaspora supports.

I think it depends on what the intention of having that information available is. If it’s meant to be a way for individuals to express something meaningful about themselves to others, then the back-end usability of the data generated isn’t important. (Marketers will just have to find more creative ways to target their message. I’m tired of getting ads for diets, engagement rings, and baby clothes on Facebook, just because of the gender and age I have listed there.)

What do you think? When is it okay to compromise usability? Are there other examples?

Dalhousie SLA Student Chapter: Tour Update!

On Wednesday January 19th, SIM’s Special Libraries Association student chapter hosted a tour of two libraries of the Capital Health region located within the IWK Hospital: the Health Sciences Library and the Family Resources Library. Librarian and SIM alumna Darlene Chapman – Manager of Information Sources- began the afternoon with a tour of the IWK’s Health Science’s Library. This library is open to the public and primarily serves the staff and students of the Capital Health system. It is difficult to imagine that fifty years ago this was instead a specialized medical library open only to physicians; things have changed significantly. Darlene and her staff of 1½ library assistants serve all Capital Health staff at all levels, as well as its affiliated students in a variety of ways:

  • assistance in all information needs, including literature searches and interlibrary loan, and document delivery
  • instruction in how to use the library’s in-house and online resources
  • assistance and training in using audio visual and Telehealth equipment & software
  • photographic services

Read more…

Write Here, in Plain Sight

Dalhousie University will be hosting the fifth annual writing event “W.H.I.P.S.” (Write Here, in Plain Sight) on Friday, January 21, in the Rowe Management building. It runs from 9:00-3:00. The idea behind the event is to give people the opportunity to watch others write. Writing is a skill that is taught but never actually demonstrated to people. A variety of authors write for two hour blocks while audience members are free to interact with the author. Authors vary from professors, students, fiction writers, journalists, columnists, and others.

Every word, every typo, every moment of writer’s block will be projected on large screens. Witness the horror, the struggle, and the triumph.

Writers share their thoughts as they plow through the process. Ask questions while you watch. Open to everyone!  Enter and leave whenever you like as long as you do so quietly!

For more information, contact Deanna Foster at or 494-4556

Registration is open for the Information without Borders Conference

Please take this opportunity to register for the student-led Information without Borders Conference, to be held on February 3, 2011.  This year’s program looks exciting and multidisciplinary, and includes a number of keynote speakers and panels.  The theme of this year’s conference is Change Management, which is indeed very timely and relevant to today’s information landscape. A student poster competition will take place during the Conference and a cash prize will be awarded to the winner.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Health Informatics theme in CAHSPR

The Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research (CAHSPR) is meeting in Halifax, NS, May 9-12, 2011. Health Informatics is a theme for that conference, so interested students, researchers and decision makers in NS are invited to submit abstracts for oral and panel presentations and posters. The deadline for submissions is Jan 14, 2011 midnight. For more information visit

Richard Alvarez, President and Chief Executive Officer of Canada Health Infoway is a plenary speaker and this would be an opportunity for him to meet with the local health informatics community.

Canadian Virtual Health Library: A network for improved access to health information

Patrick Ellis (MLIS 1988) will be co-presenting at AccessOLA on the Canadian Virtual Health Library project which is currently working through the operational and governance components with funding from Canada Institutes for Health Research.  This will be great opportunity for folks outside the health library environment to hear about this unique Canadian initiative.

Program blurb:

Patrick Ellis, Dalhousie University;
Jim Henderson, McGill University;
Jessie McGowan, University of Ottawa

Health librarians and stakeholders have worked for many years on a vision of a Canadian Virtual Health Library  (CVHL) to link and leverage resources, services and expertise effectively so that health providers across the country  have easy access to high quality information via a bilingual interface.  For more information visit the CVHL website.

Samantha Read (MLIS 2012) presents at a Brown Bag session

Tuesday, January 25th, 3:00-4:30
Saint Mary’s University, The Atrium, Room 212

Bilingual Presentation/Présentation bilingue

«La présentation des besoins d’information des réfugié(e)s francophones en Nouvelle-Écosse : vers l’amélioration des services informationnels à Halifax »

«Introducing Information needs of francophone refugees in Nova Scotia for improved information service provision in Halifax »

Read more…