I was very surprised to note that we haven’t ever talked about SurveyMonkey on this blog considering I use this tool pretty much every day.  We couldn’t do our jobs at LHL without knowing what you, the users, need from us.  We have lots of ways to get that information but SurveyMonkey is at tool we use to both gather the information and keep track of it.











We have had a library SurveyMonkey account since 2006 and have more than 250 surveys.  There are several plan options.We started with the Basic (free) plan, moved up to Select pretty quickly and now are Gold customers.  While everyone at the library has access to the surveys and results, we haven’t found that to be a problem.  Especially since you can group them and view your surveys separately.  There is a new Enterprise solution that might be better if you don’t want everyone to have access to everything.

Typically, I create a survey, either from scratch or from an existing survey, though there are lots of templates to edit and use.  The templates are both business and non-profit focused and can be edited to fit your needs.   We usually create a weblink that we embed on our website or send via email.  It is actually very easy to use, though if you are new to creating surveys you might want to plan a bit with the question types to determine how best to ask your question.

We use this tool to solicit information from a target group, for example a survey of faculty on resources or to do a class evaluation.  We also have surveys that we’ve created for our staff to use to track information from users or about things that have happened.  Data is presented in a variety of ways and can be downloaded and shared.

Find out more online or sign up for a free account to give it a try.

There are some other tools out there, Google Forms as an example, but I highly recommend SurveyMonkey.

How I Work: Sylvia McAphee





Location: Birmingham, AL
Current Gig: SerialsLibrarian
One word that best describes how you work: Determinedly.
Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why? 

  • Microsoft Office
  • Calculator
  • Adobe Acrobat/Reader
  • SharePoint
  • Yahoo Messenger

All of the above essentials aid me in proficiently and effectively performing my job on a day-to-day basis.

What’s your workspace like?

I like to think of it as functional dysfunction.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut? 

Cut, Copy and Paste J

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? 

I love electronic calendars.   They keep me on task and make sure I get up for work, turn in that report, etc. They make my life so much easier!

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? 

I absolutely cannot live without TV or streaming technology. It’s my portal to the world. Without the news, reality TV, the History Channel, etc., what would I do to entertain myself when I’m not on the phone or using a computer? Can somebody say Netflix or Hulu Plus? That’s good stuff! Variety is the spice of life J

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

I am really good at making good conversation and finding solutions to complex problems. I have always had the ability to make friends easily and learn from every conversation.

What do you listen to while you work?

EVERYTHING! I love everything from gospel, country and the Delta Blues. My taste in music spans all the way up to Gregorian chant. What I listen to depends heavily on my mood and what I am working on at the time.

What are you currently reading?

Bishop Fulton Sheen “Life is Worth Living.” This book is timeless and fits today’s troubled society. He was truly a genius.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I am a little bit of both depending on who you ask.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I am a healthy insomniac. As long as I get 4 hours or so I’m good.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions. 

Christopher Walken.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

There’s no such thing as accidents, just examples of life’s teachable moments. Embrace them, don’t surrender to them.


In case you need another motivator to wash your hands frequently, try out the
Sickweather app! It scans social media sites for mentions of illness, maps the location of those reports in real time, and can send you alerts for reports close to you. Quickly and anonymously add reports of your own illnesses by clicking the + sign in the top right.

Sickweather 1aSickweather 2










Receive a daily Sickweather forecast for a heads up of the most common illnesses reported in your area. There’s even a 5-day radar that shows the illness hot spots across the country over the past 5 days. You can select what types of illnesses you want to know about, such as bronchitis, common cold, flu, norovirus, pink eye, RSV, stomach virus, strep throat, etc. (Ebola is not included in Sickweather’s list of illness.)

Sickweather 3

Also, if you’re planning to travel, you can look up a city and see what illness have been reported most recently there.

I’m going to enjoy giving this app a try. I think it’s important to remind yourself that these are all self-reports of illness, however. While this app might be helpful for getting a general sense of how much people are talking about illnesses on social media (and thus may reflect what’s going around), there is no physician or CDC researcher reviewing these reports to confirm their accuracy!

Almost Painless Biosketches

sciencv logois an online tool that assists researchers in creating and formatting biographical sketches needed for federally funded research. Because it generates reference lists from My NCBI and imports grant information from eRA Commons, it is fast!  Save your templates to modify and update later.

Formatted Biosketch

  • Developed by NCBI (NIH) for the SciENcv interagency working group: DOD,DOE, EPA, NIH, NSF, USDA
  • Used to create, save and maintain multiple NIH biosketches for grant applications and annual reports. Includes template for NIH Biosketch now, and NSF is to be added Fall, 2014.

This video from NIH demonstrates the features of SciENcv.  Prefer to read? See these detailed instructions.  Or check out this guide to get started working with My NCBI.



Do you know Stanford Medicine X?

Stanford Med X logo

Medicine X brings together patients, providers, researchers and technologists to move health care and emerging technologies forwardway forward.

Medicine X just held their 4th annual conference in September.  To get an idea of how diverse their program is, check out the schedule.  You’ll quickly see that the 2014 schedule is not just a list of speakers and abstracts, but a way to connect to the conference and the speakers even if you weren’t there.  Many of the contributors to Medicine X are ePatients (meaning expert patients)–some are also well-established bloggers, blogging about their illness or chronic disease.

The conference is styled very similarly to TED Talks–the stage is flashy, no podium, speakers are cool, casual and inspiring.


Image (YouTube) of Brit Johnson delivering a talk about her experience with autoimmune arthritis at a Medicine X Conference at Stanford University. You can follow her blog @hurtblogger.


There is a list of Medicine X’s selected talks made up of conference presentations and weekly LIVE discussions that are designed to be watched and followed on Twitter (#MedX) every Tuesday & Thursday.  (NOTE:  The site seems to be behind in their promotion of upcoming LIVE discussions, but there are plenty archived on their YouTube Channel.)

As mentioned before, patients play a big role at the conference, ePatient Scholarships applications can now be submitted for the 2015 conference.  If you are or know a good candidate, this looks like an amazing & fun opportunity!



Social Media and Foodborne Illness Surveillance

“Twitter epidemiology” is a hot topic among public health professionals, as they investigate social media as a means of gathering data on unfolding health threats in the community. Perhaps one of the best uses of this new means of data collection is in tracking foodborne illnesses. Since many people who experience food poisoning treat it at home rather than visit a doctor or hospital, the incidence of food poisoning has long been recognized as underreported (Noesie, 2014). Social media, including online food and entertainment review sites and Twitter, are seen as a way to address that underreporting by identifying comments by users and “tweets” that report symptoms of food poisoning.

Foodborne Chicago banner logo

A recent MMWR issue reported on a project by the Chicago Department of Public Health which used Twitter to identify possible food poisoning complaints and follow up on them. The “Foodborne Chicago” site URL was provided in response to these online complaints, through which 193 complaints were submitted by users. In turn the health department inspected 133 restaurants as a result of these complaints, about 40 percent of which revealed health and safety violations.

Foodborne Chicago online form

The use of social media and online technologies to identify public health threats seems promising. Previous research has focused on the use of Google search analytics to help identify disease outbreaks. As far as foodborne illness specifically, the research so far has been limited. Most projects, including the Foodborne Chicago pilot, found similar results in surveillance via social media as compared to other methods. With further research, perhaps social media can become a mainstream adjunct to traditional methods of surveillance and follow-up for food poisoning outbreaks.

How I Work: Dana Hettich

dana hettich

Location: Birmingham, AL
Current Gig: Librarian
One word that best describes how you work: Deliberately
Current mobile device: iPhone 4S

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why? 

  • Uniball micro pens (purple).
  • Foam earplugs.
  • Coffee.
  • Sleep.
  • Indoor track.
  • Calendar
  • Reminder app

What’s your workspace like?

I like to think of it as organized chaos.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut? 

Eating a lot of foods (fruit, vegetables, cheese) uncooked. I find it sounds fancier when I call it crudité.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? 

At this point I use three different tools. I use a binder that is broken down by week with one part containing the list of items that need to be done by week’s end and the other part giving space to what bubbles up on any given day. I also use an old fashioned desk calendar. It helps reinforce long term deadlines with a glance. And finally I use reminders in Outlook and on my iPhone.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? 

Does my coffee maker count?

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

I’m not sure I’m better than everyone at anything. I don’t think there’s anything I do better than everyone. Here are a few things that I do reasonably well:

1. Make coffee. I started drinking it black years ago, and I find that most people make brown water, not coffee.

2. Filter my reactions. I have found that I will feel like I was short and irritable and when I apologize later for it people invariably react with “you were?”

3. Dana-doodles – useless but entertaining drawings made in the effort to explain something. (I just found out that this has become a thing in the office.)

What do you listen to while you work?

I’m ADD so I have a hard time listening to anything when I need to focus. If I find things are too quiet (yes, quiet can also be distracting) I like to listen to the Ambient channel on Soma FM. EXPAND

What are you currently reading?

I usually have a two or three of books going. Right now I am reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. It’s my lunch book. I just finished Decisions, the freshman discussion book at UAB.  And today I picked up Think Like a Freak. Also, I’ve made a habit of reading comics at bedtime. So right now I’m working my way through a collection of Calvin and Hobbes.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I would say that I’m a self-conscious extrovert.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I have always been an 8 hour girl. So now, since I get up a little after 5 a.m., I try to be in bed a little after 9, which gets me close to 8. Thankfully, I do much better with less sleep than I used to.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions. 

Neil Gaiman

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’m not sure it’s the best advice I’ve ever received, but I have recently been told to “lighten up.” I like it so much that I have it on a sticky note in my office and have added it to my Thoughtback list.




“62,804 top doctors. No waiting room.” Sounds pretty interesting, huh? HealthTap has been around in a free form for several years, but I just recently heard about it on a tech segment of the local news. Via the HealthTap website, a healthcare consumer can enter a health topic and quickly access a list of patient questions with doctor-provided answers, as well as links to tips and topic information pages. For example, a search on multiple sclerosis (MS) brings back doctors’ answers to questions such as, Can I catch MS? If I have MS, how can I reduce the effects of an attack? What are the signs of MS?

HealthTap Consult AskThe HealthTap app requires you to create a personal account. To “personalize your experience,” you are guided through a series of pages to provide information about yourself: gender, location, three health topics of interest to you, etc. After that you can:

  • view a feed of targeted health information, much like a health-focused Facebook feed;
  • search by condition, symptoms, doctors, medications, or procedures;
  • enter a question, at which point you’re given the option to (a) (for a fee) consult a live doctor via video, phone, or chat, or (b) (for free) email a doctor anonymously if none of the provided links sufficiently answer your question; or
  • find doctor-created checklists.

The fee-based features of HealthTap were launched just last month as HealthTap Prime, which gives users (for a $99/month fee) access to unlimited medical advice via live video conference with participating physicians.

HealthTap also markets heavily to physicians, highlighting numerous benefits for doctors to offer services through the site and app. In fact, there is a separate HealthTap for U.S. Doctors app that allows physicians to, as one reviewer put it, “help people in [their] spare time.”

It’s no doubt the website and app are slick and user-friendly and the convenience of being able to video conference with a physician at any moment is enticing. I believe this company is onto something exciting. However, I can’t help but feel a bit skeptical of the service. I saw several typos in my browsing of physician answers, so I question the quality control and review process of the information provided. (I couldn’t find a description of their editorial process.) On their Additional Information page, they do address one of my initial concerns about the service by pointing out that virtual consults with HealthTap Prime physicians should not replace regular visits to primary care doctors. Which makes sense: your primary doctor knows your history and has access to your health records. Personally, based on what I saw on their website and app, I’m not yet ready to take a $99/month plunge. But what do you think?

How I Work: Cathy Beadlecomb

How I work: Cathy Beadlecomb

Location: Lister Hill Library, Content Management

Current gig: Library Associate II

Current Mobile Devices: iPad 4 and my flip phone (does that count? it is mobile and has a screen)

One word that best describes how you work:

Creatively (i.e. chaotically). I’m always torn between my perfectionistic desire to focus on the details of the work at hand and my opposite more creative tendency to solve problems, plan projects and analyze everything going on around me.

What apps/software/tools you can’t live without?

I still miss my candy bar phone, so I’m obviously retro and don’t use many apps or tools. My most important organizational tools are Excel and email. I often send myself or others (they love that) emails just so the information contained will be searchable. Fortunately, I was one of the first people at the library to get two monitors (in order to catalog electronic resources more efficiently) and it’s great to have two screens! I’d be lost without those.

What is your workspace like?IMG_20140808_101516509_HDR

My area is extremely clean and neat at least twice a year (after I rearrange the furniture). Normally though, my desk is covered with overlapping and irregularly placed stacks of paper, files and post-it notes. I also have a multitude of icons on my computer desktop, but I can’t figure out how to make those quite as messy.

What is your favorite to-do list manager?

Paper and pen. I make lots of To Do lists on a variously colored notepads. I rarely return to these lists to mark anything off. I just start a new list instead. This sounds futile, but when I run across a previous To Do list, somehow the important tasks listed have magically been completed.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Definitely, the printer is my most favorite “gadget.” If I had to work without easy access to a fast printer I’d be in trouble.

What is your best life hack?

Just thinking about going to the Botanical Gardens can be stress relieving for me. I’ve gone to the Japanese Gardens all my adult life and now I have a favorite swing where I read (usually a cozy mystery) and watch people. I’m always bummed though if someone is in MY swing.Birmingham_Botanical_Gardens_-_Japanese_Garden_Torii

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

I’m definitely an introvert though few seem to believe it. Most people would more easily believe that the “Chatty Cathy” doll I had in the 1960s was named after me.

What is your sleep routine like?

For me, sleep consists of naps punctuated with philosophical thought (i.e worries) and eventual Netflix watching on the iPad so that I can fall asleep again for a few more hours.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Life is not fair. Get over it! This wisdom comes from a friend I’ve known for about 35 years. She keeps saying this to me, so it must not be sinking in, but still it IS good advice.

The Emojli Network :) or :(

You’re either going to love this or really hate it.

A couple of guys from London, Matt Gray & Tom Scott, are getting ready to launch an all emoji social network for iOS called Emojli, which will make exclusive use of the emjoi keyboard on your mobile device.

All the posts will be made up of emoji–only emoji.  Even your username.

It’s certainly not Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and not intended to be.  For those who get bent out of shape in thinking that texting and tweeting have ruined our ability to communicate in writing, Emojli isn’t that serious.

Emojli is like the Monty Python of Social Networks.  It will be silly.

They hope to make it available on iPhone sometime this month, and for Android soon after.

To reserve your username and watch their promo, click the image below.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 10.35.31 AM

FYI: Before you enter in a username, be sure that you’re comfortable with it.  If you try a username and it hasn’t been taken, it’s yours.  And with over 250,000 two-image combinations still available, you can also waste, I mean spend, a lot of time trying to come up with something clever.

If you do decide to be a part of the big Emojli joke, look me up.  I’m timebomb


To add the Emoji keyboard to your iPhone or iPad, follow these steps.