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Brain Awareness Week (Was Last Week. Oh Well)

The human brain. You gotta love it. The Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research through grants, publications, and educational programs also loves the brain. They love it so much they created Brain Awareness Week (BAW) March 13-19, 2017. Yes BAW has past now, but the brain remains. Here are some educational brain lessons that you might find a use for. AND to the Dana Foundation’s credit, several National Institutes of Health are on the list, including the National Library of Medicine. The next BAW is scheduled for March 12-18, 2018. See you then!


Here are a couple of my favorite links from the Dana Educator Lesson page:

Through the Virtual Cell: The Movie  (requires Flash)

Society for Neuroscience Brain Awareness Videos (Goes to YouTube)

Click here to go to the Dana Educator lesson page with lots of cool and useful links.

Things I learned at SXSWedu

SXSWedu 2017 photo collage

SXSWedu 2017 photo collage

Last week I attended SXSWedu, an education-centric pre-conference to South by Southwest Interactive. I came home with 13 pages of handwritten notes and an information hangover.  South by Southwest Interactive is the now seemingly ubiquitous conference of music, culture, tech and hipsterdom held annually in Austin, Texas. SXSWedu is a smaller gathering which occurs the week before the big event, attracting thousands of teachers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and students. It packs a hyperbolic amount of content about teaching and learning into three days, but many sessions are available now to watch for free.

Here’s a list of items of interest to me, a long time librarian in higher education:

Ed tech


  • Future ready librarians: K-12 education uses the term “future ready” to describe goal of bringing districts, schools, and libraries into the 21st century and give kids the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in a fast-changing world. What does it mean to be a ‘future ready librarian’? This infographic explains.  This panel had great online handouts.
  • Library & out of time meet up – This session gathered librarians from higher ed, K-12 and public libraries, as well as vendors, museum curators, and random library fans together for informal conversations & shared brainstorming. It was an introvert’s nightmare, though I did meet the folks behind Mobile Citizen, a mobile hotspot vendor aiming to make wireless access affordable to everyone. They want to work with library systems  to provide mobile hot spots for checkout.
  • Open Educational Resources: At the “Ed Surge Lightening Talks” I heard a university provost describe how librarians and instructional designers at her school located & tagged open educational resources with learning outcomes to develop an OER Commons for their faculty. Here’s their LibGuide.



  • Enterprise embracing the MOOC – Salesforce Trailhead embodies the classic features of a MOOC (badges, online, asynchronous, massive & free) to train up skills for their sales software
  • “Digital Education is the oil of the knowledge economy” – just a neat quote
  • Ed Tech moving into the East & South markets (China & Africa)
  • New tools: DigiExam (digital exam platform), Zzish (mobile learning apps), Open Campus (“campus” (as opposed to course) management system), Practice (video platform designed to empower interactive, individualized learning for mobile, active learners, anywhere, anytime, and on any device – prototyped with surgery residents at UCSF)

Would I attend SXSWedu again? Maybe. It is close to where I live and professional development funding is available. But for the average health sciences librarian, SXSWedu might be one of those ‘bucket list’ conferences. Good for a one time visit, likely not a return customer.

Need More?

The SXSWedu YouTube account includes keynote speakers and spotlights, while the SXSWedu Twitter feed aggregates content from everywhere.

Literature Database from the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) “is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault, or disaster. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don’t go away over time or disrupt your life, you may have PTSD”.

What you’ll find on the website:

There’s a public section for veterans, the general public, family and friends.


Returning from war:

Specific to women:


There’s a Professional section that contains training materials as well as information and tools to help care providers with assessment and treatment. The materials are based on the latest research, much of which is conducted by National Center staff.

There is a Continuing Education section where all the courses are free:

Possibly of most interest to health science librarians is the PILOTS database.

PILOTS stands for Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress database and is an index to the worldwide literature on PTSD and other mental health consequences of exposure to traumatic events. Unlike other databases, the PILOTS Database does not restrict its coverage to articles appearing in selected journals. It attempts to include all publications relevant to PTSD and other forms of traumatic stress, whatever their origin without disciplinary, linguistic, or geographic limitations. There is an option to limit a search to peer-reviewed journals.

2 search tips provided on the site:

  1. By default, the database is programmed to look for documents with all the terms entered.
  2. Use “quotation marks” to search for exact phrases.

6 Things to know:

  1. You can use MeSH two-letter subheading codes along with your search terms to focus your results
  2. There is a controlled vocabulary thesaurus, but it is in PDF format.
  3. There is an advanced search option.
  4. Adjacency searching is also an option. See Help:
  5. You can save results
  6. You can setup an alert


The NCBI Gene Database: a librarian’s unknown known for genetic questions

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A student walks into a library looking for breast cancer information for a class project. All they know is their teacher asked for a report on the genetics of breast cancer. The teacher wants to know the location of the chromosome in the gene assembly where the breast cancer gene mutation occurs, variations in the gene and if  they are associated with other disease, and genetic testing options. The project is due tomorrow. Can you help?

Before you start thinking the joke is on you, consider the NCBI Gene  database.

NCBI Gene is one of those databases you don’t know you need to know until you need to know and you don’t know.

Basically, it’s like a Wikipedia for gene related information.

I draw that similarity because  NCBI Gene centralizes gene related information into individual records. All kinds of gene-specific data are connected, from gene symbols to PubMed citations to 3D gene visualization. Much like a long Wikipedia entry, the gene-specific data are presented in an expandable outline format, so getting to a particular piece of the gene-specific data is fairly painless. It also bears mentioning that much of the data in NCBI Gene is user-submitted, so in that respect, like Wikipedia, NCBI Gene is crowd-sourced.

So the next time a last minute request for genetic information comes your way, don’t panic. Head to NCBI Gene and try searching the keyword. It helps to know the organism (ex: homo sapiens), or you can filter results by Top Organisms. (For the record, the breast cancer gene – BRCA1 is located in Chromosome 17 of the human genome.)

Learn more about how to search NCBI Gene at our bioinformatics webinar next Thursday, March 9 at 10 am PT/ 11 am MT/ Noon CT/ 1pm ET

Can’t make it? Register anyway & we’ll send you a recording. Registration info below.

Five questions you can answer using the NCBI Gene database

Mar 9, 2017
1:00PM – 2:00PM ET






5 Free Classes for Health Science Librarians from the National Library of Medicine

Discovering TOXNET logo

Discovering TOXNET logo

WHAT: Discover NLM environmental health databases such as TOXNET and Hazardous Substance Data Bank through videos, guided hands-on tutorials, and discovery exercises.

WHEN: March 1-31

HOW: Self-paced (via Moodle course management system)


PubMed for Librarians logo

PubMed for Librarians logo

WHAT: Our 90 minute live webinars cover basically everything you ever wanted to know about PubMed, from basic intro to creating customized search filters.

WHEN:  Wednesdays in February, March, and April, 1-2:30 pm ET

HOW: Live webinars occur on Wednesdays usually, or view a recording of a previous class


Teaching Topics logo

Teaching Topics logo

WHAT: Get in the Picture – ACRL Framework and You. As part of our Teaching Topics series, we’ll introduce the ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy and talk to several academic health sciences librarians about  their experience using it.

WHEN: April 26, 2017,  1:00-2:00 PM ET

HOW: Live webinar (will be recorded)


NCBI logo

NCBI logo

WHAT: Five questions you can answer using the NCBI Gene database. In our second installment of bioinformatics educational webinars, two NCBI experts will walk through five questions you can answer in the NCBI Gene database.

WHEN: March 9, 2017, 1:00PM – 2:00PM ET

HOW: Live webinar (will be recorded)


National Library of Medicine Logo

NLM Logo

WHAT: Experts at the NLM introduce new users to the basics of using NLM’s EDirect API service to access exactly the PubMed data you need, in the format you need.

WHEN: Tuesdays in February & March, 1-2:30 PM ET

HOW: Live webinar (You must also watch the first Insider’s Guide class “Welcome to E-utilities for PubMed”, or be familiar with the basic concepts of APIs and E-utilities)