NY-NJ Chapter LogoNewsletter
Spring 2002

In This Issue

From the Editors

From the Chair

Spring Dinner 2002

From the Incoming Chair

Kudos for Chapter Members

Web Watch

Brave New World

In the Literature

Technology Review

Hospital Library Notes

RML Update

Advocacy Update

Special Feature:
Focus Groups

Online Newsletter Index

The Newsletter is published for the members of the New York-New Jersey Chapter of the Medical Library Association.

Editor of this issue:

Gail Hendler, Ehrman Medical Library, New York University Medical School, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, S-10, Phone: 212-263-8925, Fax: 212-263-8196, E-mail: hendler@library.med.nyu.edu.

Site maintained by Webmaster: Robert Dempsey
Posted 4/4/2002
2002 NY-NJ Chapter of the Medical Library Association
Technology Review
The Future Is in the Palm of Your Hand

by Nancy Glassman, MLS, AHIP
D. Samuel Gottesman Library,
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

You see them everywhere. These little, hand-held devices are starting to surpass cell phone and laptop use on buses, on trains, at airports, at Starbucks, and even in libraries.

What are these things? What can they do? Are they more than just an expensive toy?

They are personal digital assistants -- more commonly known as PDAs, or handhelds - small, hand-held, pocket-sized computers. PDAs can perform a wide variety of functions. They have commonly been used as organizers for scheduling, storing addresses and telephone numbers. They can also be used for word processing, spreadsheets, email, web access, and as reference and clinical research tools. PDAs can be synchronized or "synced" with personal computers, Macintoshes, or servers via a hardware device called a cradle, or via infrared transfer, also known as "beaming" to upload or download information. Data can also be beamed from one PDA to another.

The two most commonly used PDA operating systems right now are the Palm OS and Microsoft's Windows CE, a scaled-down version of the Windows operating system. Manufacturers including Palm, Handspring, and Sony Electronics use the Palm OS. Microsoft Pocket PC, Casio, and Hewlett-Packard use Windows CE. There are a few Linux-based PDAs, but they are a small minority.

PDAs use touchscreen technology to input data. Users interact with the PDA by writing or tapping on the touchscreen with a stylus. The stylus is used to tap icons on the screen, or for writing on the screen using a handwriting recognition software, such as Graffiti. Most Palm OS products use grayscale displays. Many Pocket PCs have color screens. Color screens shorten battery life.

Memory is an important consideration when selecting a PDA. The Microsoft CE uses more memory than the Palm OS because of the color display and other multimedia features.

PDAs contain expansion slots that let the user add peripherals, such as mini keyboards, modems, and extra memory.

Wireless technology is expanding the possibilities for PDAs. There are wireless PDAs that conform to the IEEE 802.11 standard. Wireless access availabilty depends on your geographic location (since it is not yet available everywhere), and your Internet Service Provider. The Kyocera Smart-phone is a Palm-based cell-phone-plus-PDA that is built for wireless web browsing and e-mail. Cell phone connections can be problematic for people who work in hospital settings where cell phones are not allowed.

Where there is connectivity to the internet, there is the possibility for viruses. In the past few years, viruses have infected some Palm devices. Trend Micro provides a free program, PC-cillin for Wireless, which deactivates viruses that infect PDAs based on the Palm OS, and Windows CE. McAfee and Symantec also sell anti-virus software for Palm OS and Windows CE. Many PDAs come with password protection options.

There are many medical and health care applications now available for PDAs. They include e-books, dictionaries, student guides, prescribing, patient tracking, and calculators. Database providers such as Ovid have gotten into the PDA game with Ovid@Hand (http://www.ovid.com/products/hand/index.cfm). Some resources, such as Epocrates (http://www.epocrates.com), are free. Others can be quite costly. A list of health sciences related PDA webliographies is a the end of this article.

Russell Smith's brief communication, "Adapting a new technology to the academic medical library: personal digital assistants," Journal of the Medical Library Association, 90(1), January 2002, 93-94, describes how the Norris Medical Library at the University of Southern California has used this new technology to increase its visibility to the University community. The Norris Library website contains lists of applications, resources and tips useful to the medical community: http://www.usc.edu/hsc/nml/lis/tutorials/pdas.html.

Mari Stoddard's article, "Handhelds in the health sciences library," Medical reference services quarterly, 20(3), Fall 2001, 75-82, is an overview of the PDA experience at the Arizona Health Sciences Library. AHSL has very detailed and thorough coverage of general and health sciences-related PDA resources on their website, http://educ.ahsl.arizona.edu/pda/hlth.htm.

MLA held a Satellite Teleconference, Sync or Swim: Managing the Flood of PDAs in Health Care on February 6, 2002. Information on the teleconference and information on ordering the video is available at http://www.mlanet.org/education/telecon/pda/index.html.

If you do not already have a PDA of your own and would like to see what your library's website would look like on a PDA, you can download a Palm OS emulator from the Palm website at http://www.palmos.com/dev/tools/emulator/.

Here are some resources for PDAs:



PDA Web Applications:

Extensive lists of Medicine & Health Care information for PDAs have been compiled by many libraries. Here are a few useful resources:

Antivirus Software for PDAs:

General websites customized for PDA Users:

PDA-related Listservs:

  • MLA has a new PDA Discussion list. To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail message to majordomo@mlahq.org. (This address can also be used to send commands to Majordomo.) Type the message subscribe mla-pda (This will command Majordomo to subscribe the sender to the e-mail discussion list.) Leave the subject line blank. For more information, see http://www.mlanet.org/education/telecon/pda/pdadiscuss.html.

  • LibWireless is a discussion list regarding all things wireless, including but not limited to PDAs. It is moderated by Wilfred (Bill) Drew at SUNY Morrisville College Library. To subscribe, send a blank message to libwireless-subscribe@ls.suny.edu.