What I Do: Current Awareness – A (very) Quick Guide

This looks at how I offer current awareness to its users. We send approximately 30 separate emails per month. I was going to use screen grabs but I was concerned about A) the size of the document B) dumbing it down too much! If you want them – let me know, I’d be more than happy to add them.

It uses:

  • Pubmed Linkout (not neccasary)
  • Pubmed My NCBI
  • Google Reader
  • Email
Creating The Searches

Using these we will eventually be able to directly email specific users with specific titles. It should be noted straight away that the groundwork for the Pubmed Linkout was created by a regional working group (PEAR) I had no input or want to claim any credit. The hard work was theirs and theirs alone. I am also aware that there are probably more effective ways of producing this. But it should be accessible and created individually by clicking here. This allows us to narrow searches to just our resources (what we have access to). If you choose to do this, it may take a while, but again it is not necessary.. If you do this, this will open more options for the later steps (personalising it for your users etc.)

You will need to create a pubmed account. If you have done the above you need to log onto the NCBI home page and try and find the ‘search filters’ option (I have no idea where this is on the new layout – sorry, it should sit somewhere within the ‘My NCBI’ options).

Select your searches. I started out with about 15 generic searches for example ‘Health Inequalities’ –which if you do a basic search of the general terms it will automatically search MESH terms etc. You can view the full term in the search details box in the lower right corner. This would look something like this:

(((“health”[MeSH Terms] OR “health”[All Fields]) AND (“socioeconomic factors”[MeSH Terms] OR (“socioeconomic”[All Fields] AND “factors”[All Fields]) OR “socioeconomic factors”[All Fields] OR “inequalities”[All Fields])) OR ((“socioeconomic factors”[MeSH Terms] OR (“socioeconomic”[All Fields] AND “factors”[All Fields]) OR “socioeconomic factors”[All Fields] OR “inequalities”[All Fields]) AND (“In Health”[Journal] OR (“in”[All Fields] AND “health”[All Fields]) OR “in health”[All Fields])))

I won’t lecture you on search protocol though you need to be careful as it will give you generic search terms you don’t want. If you edit it properly though it will work (mind your AND and OR’s J) . If you are struggling to find what you are after – just search MESH terms. Once you are happy, I would select the save search option (I would recommend using right click>open in new tab as we will need this page for rss option). Name it and then save it. Then choose how you want to receive it. We do current awareness monthly – sent to us directly. This allows us to edit the results before sending to the users. The other options we do are: 1st of the month; maximum of 20; report form: ‘summary’ and leave send even if no results unchecked.

RSS Feeds

If you do not have a RSS feed account create one now. I use Google Reader. If you have opened into new tab previously, go back to it. Save the RSS feeds as you normally would (again I have a google reader guide if interested) . There is an RSS feed just above the search box at top of the screen. Create these as you normally would. If you are storing on a website you can hyperlink to them – again I use Google reader pages.

From Search to Users

One of the problems I had was finding out users wanted and quite frankly if they wanted it. They had never had anything like this before – they were used to requesting a search/wanting something and us supplying it. I decided to take it to the users and making THEM opt out. We have an internal online staff directory and I used this as the basis of the distribution list. I spent hours and hours and hours creating email distribution lists from the directory and just sent it to them. I then got access to the new members of staff from the corporate induction list and then select the most appropriate current awareness. If you can’t get this I would recommend speaking to someone in HR so you can get a list of new starters (and their departments) so you can keep up-to date.

This is why sending the ‘results emails’ to us rather than directly to the users was important. They do not use RSS feeds etc. If the email is sent directly to us, we can pretty it up (there is lot of uneccasary verbiage used, you can remove all this and even remove/change order of article summaries)– give it a title they will recognise – I use ‘X (topic) specific free full text articles – Insert Month. I then do a quick paragraph explaining what it is, how they can get an Athens account (an email hyperlink), and then normally promote something – be it a survey, the library blog or even a change in opening hours. I tend to this in a word document and then just copy and paste it into each one. Doing it this way allows us to cut down time (it is basically sending 30 emails) as all the work has been done, though getting here was quite time consuming.

The Outcome

Not everyone wants it, but if you force them to opt out, many won’t. All the professional staff in the organisation now knows who the library are, and some of range of services on offer. Athens usage within the first 6 months literally tripled, as did Athens accounts requests. We have had more information consultancy requests, I have done more outreach work and information skills sessions.

Because the searches were generic, I had also users wanting specific searches, which was good on that level (they were paying attention) but also because I got an ‘in’ or contact within that team. If you knew where we were when I took over, you realise how important this was. It is also a good way to circumvent the fact they we are not part of the corporate induction.

My ultimate aim is to be able to offer mirrored services be they stood at the issue desk or sat behind their desk. Health staff do not have the time to pay us a visit when they need something, and for us to expect that is in my opinion, dark-age thinking.

Example of Email

CVD Specific Articles – June 2011

This is just a quick email to notify you of the arrival June batch of free, full text topic specific articles
delivered straight to your inbox. All you need to access them is an
Athens account. These results have been scanned to ensure that the results are more relevant to the needs of your team/department.

NHS Evidence has changed!

NHS Evidence has changed. To view a quick guide on how you can still access your favourite resources (and some new ones) please click the link below:


PubMed Results

Items 1 – 20 of 230

1. JAMA. 2011 May 25;305(20):2116-7.
Mortality risk among middle-aged women with first atrial fibrillation.Miyasaka Y, Tsang TS.

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[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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