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New library software helps find the needle in the haystack

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2006 - Autumn


Some researchers and clinicians may feel joy when they consider that the database PubMed contains 16 million citations for journal articles. But for others, the possibilities of the information superhighway are overwhelming. Fortunately, Charles J. Greenberg, M.L.S., M.Ed., can offer strategies for finding what’s useful.

“You have to learn how to confront the large quantity of information and make it manageable,” said Greenberg, head of Curriculum and Research Support at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library.

One useful approach is to use automated systems to tailor the flow of information to one’s interests.

PubCrawler ( and My NCBI ( automatically search for newly indexed articles in PubMed. The user creates search parameters and then receives citation alerts about new articles via e-mail. Alternatively, PubCrawler and My NCBI can save articles in a user’s account on the application website.

For best-practices, one-stop shopping, Greenberg recommends UpToDate (, which, he says, “replaces a shelf of textbooks” and is more current. This online compendium supplies regularly revised information for 13 clinical specialties and can keep clinicians informed about new treatment recommendations. It can also remind or update clinicians about ways to treat a problem they rarely see—say, when a surgeon gets a question about an ear infection.

Greenberg believes that all computer sophisticates need to use RSS, or really simple syndication, an alternative to e-mail. Users can obtain grant announcements, FDA alerts and even check their Netflix DVD account queue using RSS. Users can sign up for an RSS “feed” by finding the orange XML or similar button on any Web page that offers RSS feeds. To view the content, one needs an RSS reader that automatically checks feeds. An example of a reader available is at All Yale faculty, staff and students have an RSS-reading portal account at