Magazine article Information Today

An Interview with Rose Marie Woodsmall, Program Analyst, National Library of Medicine

Magazine article Information Today

An Interview with Rose Marie Woodsmall, Program Analyst, National Library of Medicine

Article excerpt

An Interview With Rose Marie Woodsmall, Program Analyst, National Library of Medicine

Rose Marie Woodsmall got into information analysis because she was a "premed drop out" who decided she wanted to stay in contact with the biological sciences and medicine. While she was considering career alternatives, she read an article on computer applications in libraries. It sounded so interesting Woodsmall decided to go to library school. She took her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from Indiana State University and an M.L.S. from Indiana University's School of Library and Information Science. Upon graduation she was selected for a one-year internship at the National Library of Medicine (NLM). That was 20 years ago, and she has yet to return to the midwest as she originally planned. "NLM is such a fascinating place," said Woodsmall, "that I have been unable to leave." Currently Woodsmall is a program analyst in the Office of Planning and Evaluation, headed by Elliot R. Siegel.

NLM got involved in CD-ROM when, in 1985, it was approached by the first of several vendors who had an interest in producing MEDLINE as a CD-ROM product. A time-limited agreement was signed, giving the vendor a cost-free lease of the MEDLINE database, along with helpful feedback from NLM on the early versions of its prototype. The agreement also gave NLM the option to evaluate the resulting CD-ROM product at three sites of NLM's choosing.

As the number of CD-ROM MEDLINE products grew to seven, NLM put in place a coordinated evaluation project involving field tests at 21 sites throughout the country. The vendors furnished the hardware, software, and CD-ROM discs; NLM served as the coordinator of the field tests; and the sites carried out independent evaluations, both in libraries and clinical settings. Data was gathered from all sites via questionaires.

At the conclusion of the evaluation period, representatives of the 21 sites, the vendors, and more than 250 attendees gathered at NLM for a one-day forum. The formal reports of each evaluation site, a record of the day's panel discussions and an introductory chapter by NLM staff, has just been released in book form, entitled MEDLINE on CD-ROM: Evaluation Forum, edited by Woodsmall, Becky Lyon-Hartmann, and Siegel. Published by Learned Information Inc., MEDLINE on CD-ROM: Evaluation Forum sells for $49.95.

The following is a discussion with Ms. Woodsmall on the findings of the evaluation.

Q. On the basis of the evaluation, what should librarians be aware of when they evaluate CD-ROM systems they may wish to purchase for their medical libraries or clinics?

A. That the "best" CD-ROM product will depend on the setting. What is important is to assess who is going to be using the information, what their needs are, and then matching those needs with appropriate products.

As the evaluation points out, some products are easier to use than others. In some systems, actions can be taken with one keystroke, as in a menu system. There are also full-blown command-based systems that demand from users knowledge of Boolean logic and very specific commands. Some MEDLINE products have two tiers--both a novice "menu" mode and an experienced user mode. Expert medical librarians know a great deal about their user populations. The librarians know what they are involved in, what research they are doing, the types of journals they read. These librarians can use their knowledge and experience to select the best product for their user's needs.

Q. What are some of the more interesting findings of the CD-ROM MEDLINE evaluation?

A. There was a great deal of speculation as to whether CD-ROM would attract new users, and we found that, indeed, there's a whole flock of people who don't want to ask librarians to perform online searches for them. There were about 2,000 questionnaries completed at the 21 evaluation sites, and 25 percent of these respondents had not previously conducted or requested a MEDLINE search. …

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