Posted by: menotmd | December 14, 2009

Attack of the Clones…

Yes, folks! I am a star wars fan. My parents took my sister and I to see it at a drive-in. There I fell in love with Chewy (I have a thing for hairy creatures), got a glow-in-the-dark light saber, dressed as Yoda for halloween, played the sarlacc pit game and became slightly disappointed by the last three films lucas put out. So when in these recent times, I read about medical librarians getting let go from their jobs in the manner in which Anakin takes down jedis and padawans (budding jedis), I have to ask, “who is going to keep the order?” Before we allow the dark side to take over, allow me to give an example of some great librarianship:

I have taken this from the medical librarian listserv which is used to find articles, information and problem solve. I have asked for permission to all involved regarding using this exchange in my post as I hope it will create a new perspective on what is librarianship (it ain’t about the “SHHH!”, hair in bun and looking at you with my glasses on the bridge of my nose).

At about 10 pm at night, this email from the med librarian listserv popped up in my inbox:

Hello All,
I am teaching a class at our local community college this summer in the Library Technician program. Two weeks ago, I assigned students to do a book review (or it could be software or whatever). One of my students picked an audio book to review (which I thought was unique.) The book was on adrenal fatigue (which interested her because she has a friend with this disease) published by the Adrenal Fatigue Institute. Acting as a reviewer, I challenged her to find out how credible this Institute is. And interestingly (or maybe not) the only thing she has been able to find out is that their web page is under construction!. No where has she (nor I) been able to find out anything about this place (she even emailed them and called them with no response.) This sends up a red flag for me, but now we are both curious about this Institute.

So now I am calling on the expertise of you, my venerable colleagues…have you ever heard of this place and can if so , can you point us in the directions on some information about it. Thanks!

About 2 (yes, folks that 1am/ 10pm california time) hours later, came this response from another med librarian:

Try Google … sounds like AFI might be a front for a con game

7 hours later, another med librarian chimed in:

Well, this was the first link that popped up on GOOGLE…HMMMMM!!!

As well as this one:

While AFI looks plenty fishy to me, I think there are issues with too – I have seen it become a rant site for self-perpetuating complaints with questionable merit (“I gave my dog this dog food and he died of cancer a week later…”).

As always, caveat emptor.

Caveat emptor means “let the buyer beware” (had to look it up). The medical librarian with the initial query wrote this final missive:

Thanks to all my colleagues who responded to my query about the Adrenal Fatigue Institute. As I suspected, you all waved the red flag also. It is interesting that this group put out an audio book that seems to be useful and credible but that they cannot be reached by any of the addresses they listed that my student tried. And of course, the consumer complaints were the icing on the cake.

It was a wonderful lesson to my class that everything that is published is not reputable and the acquisitions librarian has a responsibility to do some checking before purchasing. In this case, someone at the library from which she borrowed the tape sure missed the ball!

Again, thanks! You guys are awesome!!

Yes, we are. But more importantly, we are responsible. We all understand the impact of misinformation, this is nothing new to the nonlibrarian, however can you imagine a library or a digital world without the expertise of a librarian? Sure, we make mistakes (that’s evident with the acquisition librarian critique), however day in and day out this is what we do. We scrutinize any information that falls into our hands.

I found that there are two different websites, both that are shady. I wrote the librarian to get an update from the research that the student did and this is what happened:

Well, there really was no outcome except that the whole thing is rather
suspect and really a marketing ploy for a drug. She never got a response
from the Institute but a new web site containing a rebuttal from the author
popped up the last day of class.

I think she still thought that the disease does exist and that the videotape
was useful. She did, however, say in her report that the buyer should
beware and that the tape should probably not be in a library, at least until
further clinical studies can be carried out.

Probably this will be something that either dies a quick death or just lies
latent and doesn’t get much interest except for those who are vulnerable and
find the web site.

One nice thing did happen though. I got an email from a physician on the
east coast congratulating me on using the opportunity as a teachable moment
and bring forth that not everything on the Internet and in electronic and
print formats is worthwhile. I thought that was rather nice.

Talk to your medical librarian, either through twitter, blogs, facebook or call ’em up — we are out there and trust, we’d rather lose sleep helping folks than lose sleep because we didn’t.


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