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Magazines > Information Today > September 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 8 — September 2003
DEPARTMENTS
In Other Words
By Lauree Padgett

"Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain was yellow.... Try to remember and if you remember, then follow." Even when I was little, these lyrics from The Fantasticks put a lump in my throat. Decades later, the song still gets to me, as does September itself. It's a month of changes, of uneasy anticipation. Something in the air makes me melancholy and restless. And you can be sure that at least once during these 30 days, I'll dream about being in school, arriving late to class, not having my assignment done, and forgetting my locker combination.

Training Wheels

Maybe you don't have anxious dreams ofbeing a schoolkid again. Maybe yours are about teaching. In "Training Technology Trainers: Lessons from the River" (Computers in Libraries, September 2003, p. 14), Stephanie Rawlins Gerding sharestips about how to train the trainers. First, don't overlook their fear factors, such as being in front of a group, having to handle an unexpected situation, or planning a course. Recognizing trainees' experience and listening to their concerns will help alleviate their stress. Encouraging them to speak in front of groups is a great confidence-builder.

Another trainee worry is time management—running out of time or ending with too much left over. This is why it's important to show new trainers how to set classroom goals and objectives, such as how to break class time into workable 20- to 30-minute segments. Flexibility is also vital, for as Gerding notes, "something almost always goes wrong in the classroom." Providing samples of common training obstacles will help trainers come up with viable alternatives.

Boredom is another roadblock that canthrow a session off course. Trainers who incorporate fun learning activities will create enthusiasm. Showing a bunch of co-workers how to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively will raise their interest level as well. Most importantly, Gerding says, trainers must be guides who let students learn for themselves.

Do You Yahoo! Search?

Try to remember the last time you fired up the Yahoo! Search engine. If it's been a while, you'll want to check out Donna Fryer's article "The Renaissance ofYahoo! Search" (ONLINE, September/October 2003, p. 28) to learn why a revamped interface—ad-free and uncluttered—might have you proclaiming "Yahoo!" again.

According to Fryer, Yahoo! spent a lot of time and money to find out exactly what searchers want—for example, algorithmic capabilities as well as "related words" suggestions and categories that link to other locations. Another new feature is "Open in a New Window," which allows the user to open an additional browser window while access to the original results page is still in view. Truncation, which very few search engines or portals allow, is offered (even if in a limited way) in the News section via an asterisk. As Fryer points out, "A search for 'automobile•' will retrieve both 'automobile' and 'automobiles.'"

Yahoo! shortcuts are provided within five specific areas: news, weather, maps, yellow pages, and word definitions. For instance, by typing in the word "plumber" and a ZIP code, you can retrieve Yellow Page listings for, yep, plumbers in a certain city. (A complete list of additional Yahoo! shortcuts is available at http://search.yahoo.com/shortcuts_tutorial/yahoolist.html.) Fryer concludes, "As search engines and portals move to a simpler, dynamic, content-driven form, Yahoo! appears to be back on track to be the search powerhouse it was several years ago."

Pipeline Dreams

Speaking about anxiety nightmares like being on a sinking raft or blanking out during a midterm, imagine doing a pharmaceutical search for a client and getting horribly conflicting results. That's the scenario Tara Breton sets up in "Working the Pharmaceutical Pipeline Databases" (Searcher, September 2003, p. 32). In that article, a client needs to know how many rheumatoid arthritis drugs are in the "pipeline." (A pipeline is anything a company potentially has to offer for a product. Within the pharmaceutical industry, that can include drugs in preclinical through phase IV trials.)

Breton selects her database and in no time is able to cull the numbers she needs. But wait. A new pharmaceutical info pro posts a note on a listserv asking why her search has left out vital information. Breton decides to run the search again in another pipeline database. The numbers are totally out of sync. The more databases she tries, the more perplexing her results become.And nothing is adding up. Breton's initial suspicion—that different inclusion criteria could alter the time when tracking for a drug begins and ends, thus skewing the numbers—doesn't pan out. All the databases were created on or before 1994, and all had retained their content. And the largest chemical-contributing countries are covered in each database.

Just as Breton's pipeline predicament seems hopeless, the answer bubbles up. She had been too specific. Preclinical drugs are too new to be given targeted indications, and she had searched on "rheumatoid arthritis," a term that wasn't general enough. A drug approved for one indication in the U.S. could still be in phase III trials for another indication somewhere else.

Breton got her answer and picked up a few crucial tidbits for future pharmaceutical searching. For example, search results are influenced more by search method than by the contents of the system. In addition, no one pharmaceutical database is superior to the others. It all depends on what the client needs to know: preclinical status, incidence and prevalence numbers, accessible clinical literature, etc. Breton can feel confident with the numbers she gives to the client, who's happy to learn about the range of items found within the pipeline.

Memories

As your schedule starts to get crowded with meetings and activities, I hope you can recall plenty of summer fun to give you a peaceful, easy feeling when stress levels shoot into the danger zone. And speaking of peaceful, easy feelings, one of my best memories from the summer of '03 was seeing the still awesome Eagles (the band, that is) in concert. Talk about mellow fellows! Now excuse me while I go hit the books. Next time, I'm going to be ready for that midterm-exam dream!

 


Lauree Padgett is Information Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail address is lpadgett@infotoday.com.
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