Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Visit the library for your health!

Every day, all around the country, some of you approach library reference desks with health-related reference questions. Those of you who don't come to libraries often use magazines, TV or the Internet to research health matters. Some of the information you find on your own may be reliable and up to date; however, some can be positively unhealthy! How to tell the good from the bad? Perhaps it might be useful to share with you guidelines librarians follow when we evaluate health-related materials for our print or online collections. What is the source? If it is print , who is the author, publisher, editor, or editorial board? If it is electronic, who has put the information together or who is running the site? Is it a branch of government, a university, a health organization, a hospital? How thorough is the coverage? How current is the information? Is it updated frequently?

On a recent visit to MedlinePlus, the website of the National Library of Medicine, I came across a short online tutorial on evaluating Internet health resources. It runs for about 15 minutes and I would like to recommend it to anyone considering health-related research on the Web.

For those of you who visit Storrs Library on a regular basis, may I suggest the new 4th edition of Magill's Medical Guide, generously donated to the library by the Friends of Storrs Library. This 5-volume print resource has received high praise from every major reference reviewer for its depth and accessibility. Its 3,026 pages, full of illustrations, sidebars and graphs, expertly bridges the gap between a medical encyclopedia for the professional and popular self-help guides. The Guide includes an "In the News" section that both informs and provides users with a critical view of popular reports. Also noteworthy is the addition of a list of "Symptoms and Warning Signs" and a "Pharmaceutical List" surveying brand-name and generic drugs. But, perhaps, the most remarkable feature of Magill's Medical Guide is the online database that accompanies it. All of the content is available 24/7 to patrons with a Storrs Library card!

I hope that this information is useful. Please don't hesitate to visit us in person or online at www.longmeadow.org/library.
Farida Pomerantz/Reference