Magazine article Online

Teaching Search Strategies without Going Online - an Example Using Medline

Magazine article Online

Teaching Search Strategies without Going Online - an Example Using Medline

Article excerpt


The Reference Division of the UCLA Louise Darling Biomedical Library has a full and varied instructional program for library patrons . In addition to traditional 'how to use library resources" classes, we provide instruction in the use of our online information catalog, ORION, and like many health sciences libraries, we have begun to teach a variety of end-user searching classes. With the increasing emphasis on teaching online systems has come the need for access to a variety of databases at different times and in various locations both in and outside the library. This need, in turn, has created a wide range of problems such as downtime, lack of telephone lines in classrooms, and costs of online searching, which must now be addressed by the Reference staff.

In response to these problems, the Biomedical Library Learning Resources Division developed a software program, SHOW, [1] which provides a simple method of effectively demonstrating online systems without having to rely on actual online time during class presentations. From any downloaded search, text can be reformatted with a word processing program into a series of screens or "slides." These "slides" are then displayed with the SHOW program using a microcomputer and a video monitor or projector. This article will describe how we have made use of the SHOW program at the Library to simulate online computer searches, and will explain the many advantages of the program as well as some of the disadvantages. SHOW is a good example of using new technology to improve traditional public service activities. With this program, we now have an easy method of creating and demonstrating very sophisticated audio visuals which have a lot of audience appeal and which present the librarian in the role of technological innovator.


In the Reference Division, we have used SHOW for various types of instruction and regularly depend on it for classes in the use of our online catalog. SHOW has been particularly useful in a class which we developed for endusers called "Subject Searching in the MEDLINE Database." In this class, we emphasize the structure of MEDLINE, the principles of NLM indexing and the tools used to search the database. People taking the class have or are considering access to MEDLINE through various services: BRS/Colleague, NLM's GRATEFULMED, DIALOG's Medical Connection and others. Using SHOW, we can illustrate strategies for MEDLINE searching without emphasizing search commands. And we can use downloaded searches from any of the systems to demonstrate differences in search techniques.

For example, we can illustrate the use of a MeSH heading and show the differences in exploding or not exploding a term. Our first slide might show the results of entering just the MeSH heading with postings (Figure 1). The second slide would illustrate exploding the MeSH heading, (Figure 2) and another slide would emphasize the differences by displaying both (Figure 3).


Apart from these capabilities in demonstrating the MEDLINE database, there are a number of other advantages to using SHOW in the classroom setting.

We avoid system reliability problems such as unexpected downtime, scheduled system maintenance or telecommunications problems. Moreover, we don't have to be concerned with line noise or worry about misspellings and other inputting errors when demonstrating a search. Because our search has already been run, we are not incurring online chai-ges during class and modems and phone lines in the classroom are unnecessary. We can avoid search result "surprises" since we already have our results to illustrate the points we want to make. We don't have to worry about a slide being damaged by heat if displayed for too long nor about our "projector" overheating.

Aside from these hardware considerations, there are several advantages for the instructors. …

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