Monday, February 18, 2002

Peterson on Handhelds in Hospital Libraries

Peterson, Mary. 2002. Using Wireless Technology—Where Does the Library Fit In? Free Pint no. 104 (January 24). Available on the Web at

This article appears to be based on a talk Peterson gave at the Online Information conference in London in December 2001. Peterson’s goal is to provide “a personal view of the advent of this technology [wireless PDA’s] on the practice of librarianship” and the working habits of library users. Peterson works in a library serving a large teaching hospital. The diverse user population includes clinicians, laboratory staff, academics, and researchers. The librarian’s task is to figure out what types of library-owned information is best suited for users working with handheld computing devices. Peterson notes that, particularly in the field of special librarianship, “…in order to be really effective, the librarian needs to have a real understanding of how the library users work, what other systems they use, what sort of information they need, when they need it and where they’ll be using it.” The librarian’s role has evolved from being primarily an evaluator, custodian, and organizer of information to increasing emphasis on disseminator and teacher. Wireless tablet PC’s were tested in early 2001 at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, Australia. There was a high level of acceptance among the clinicians who used them. Peterson suggests that tablet PCs have not taken off as much as PDA’s in healthcare situations because of the aggressive marketing surrounding PDA’s. Peterson notes that, until all handheld devices are web-enabled, they will depend on access to downloadable products, and thus be limited by the amount of memory on the individual device. The trend in recent years toward evidence-based healthcare practice has resulted in a sharp increase in demand for current information. Peterson’s library has begun examining which library e-resources can assist clinical decision-making at the point of care. They began by categorizing their e-resources: drug databases, prescribing aids, dictionaries, textbooks, e-journals, etc. Peterson suggests that librarians work with publishers, vendors, and aggregators to develop web-based, PDA-compatible displays of information. The library’s own website also needs to be made PDA-compatible. No refs. (These reading notes were taken by Tom Peters ( on Feb. 15, 2002.)

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