Tech Savvy vs Information Savvy

Tech Savvy vs Information Savvy

Recently I had a conversation with a doctor. By the way, what I am going to write is not unique to this doctor, but it has happened with many. And so – this piece

We were talking about our online courses for undergraduate students. And she said, “When I studied my medical degree, we did not have all these resources, we only used our library and read books .”

And I asked “Were you introduced to the Index-Medicus”? There was silence. The answer was obviously no. Index Medicus was a resource available since the 1950s. It was a weekly index to articles published in many health science journals. You could search it by author or by topic and you got bibiographic details of articles by an author or on a topic. I am not sure how many medical libraries had this resource and if they did, now many students were taught about it.

Roll back to the year 1992, when I had joined a hospital library. Soon after I joined, someone asked me if we had the Index Medicus. I was still finding my ropes, so I asked a few regular library users. Interestingly no one knew! In a few days of settling, I did discover two years of “Cumulated Index Medicus” sets being available. (CIM had all the issues for a year cumulated into volumes)

I knew about this resource as we had learnt about it in Library Sciences. And soon taught people how to use it. I also taught them to use another index – “Current Contents”

I believe that if a critical mass of students / professionals had been taught about these resources in the print era, they would have had a basic idea of what to search for in online versions of these. PubMed is an online version of the erstwhile Index Medicus. PubMed actually has lots more content AND features of searching the content (obviously!). And IM users would have at first marvelled at “the extra”. Then they would have kept asking for more. But, instead the most often heard complaint that I have observed is “PubMed does not have full articles”. Well it was never meant to! And yet – it does link to the full article in the journal website or archives! But people miss understanding this, because they did not know what IM was and what an electronic version of IM has.

So – I tell people – it is not about being “Tech Savvy” (today lot of people are) – the need is to be “Information Savvy” and know how to use information resources best, with technology! We need to teach – from Information Literacy to Information Savviness. Otherwise we do not get a return on the investment made by our health libraries – the lakhs and crores spent on providing access to expensive databases,

The best time to start teaching Information Literacy is in the UG courses. We do not need exams and grades to count for their passing, but the courses should ideally be mandatory. Let the UG students “grow” with the learning!

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