Current awareness services in health libraries

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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, February 2018


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Current awareness services in health libraries (CAS) has, historically, meant to increase the awareness of new research for scholars, researchers and health practitioners. Health librarians providing these services generally use various methods to help their user groups stay current with newly-published academic and scholarly literature. A few of the more traditional modes of current awareness services include print journals, photocopies of TOCs (tables of contents), and professional publications in the physical library. Newer methods include setting up alert and conducting on-the-fly searches in biomedical databases to the mobile) as new materials are published. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages: routed print material moves slowly, distributing photocopies is labour intensive, and browsing materials requires time and active engagement. Even saved searches require expert searchers and ongoing amendments to the sets as the literature changes and is indexed. Email alerts can be very difficult to manage. Increased availability of publisher- and vendor-supplied really simple syndication (RSS) feeds is another option. RSS is not new and feeds have been commonly available for news and blogs for many years, journal content providers were slow to follow suit.

CA services are linked to outreach and the idea of keeping users current and as informed as possible; some librarians put their current awareness services at the top of their priority lists and help their users set up literature surveillance services in PubMed and EMBASE. A range of current awareness tools are available to health librarians and provide a way to stay connected to what is happening in medicine, which is valuable to solo hospital librarians especially. Health librarians use CA services for professional development and staying current. Keeping current in medicine and with information technologies is a priority in the digital age. Simply put, the idea is that health librarians are seen to be more effective by keeping up-to-date with the trends and news in medicine. There are a number of methods to facilitate current awareness for ourselves and our users. We can use electronic and photocopied tables of contents; relevant mailing lists, newspapers and magazines; web sites, books and journals. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a means of organizing and simplifying current awareness, as it uses feeds from a variety of sources in combination with aggregator software. The following list is a compilation of sites for medical news available on the web. The sites are limited to those that are open-access, and that direct the user immediately to top health stories, as opposed to requiring the use of a search feature. This list is not exhaustive; rather, it represents some of the more common news sources.

Some select health news outlets

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RSS Feeds in medicine


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