Self-training in the use of the Internet and databases within the context of a biomedical consortium.

Enrica Veronesi*, Luigina Lazzari**, Paolo Civardi, Monica Boccato***
SBBL Sistema Bibliotecario Biomedico Lombardo - Via Vanvitelli, 2 - Milano
*Biblioteca della Facolta' di Medicina e Chirurgia - Universita' degli Studi di Brescia
**Biblioteca Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell'Emilia Romagna "B. Ubertini"
***CILEA - Consorzio Interuniversitario Lombardo per l'Elaborazione Automatica - Milano

SBBL and its use.

A consortium of 16 libraries (SBBL-Biomedical Library System of Lombardy) was set up in 1995 by the Lombardy Regional Authority to provide health sector employees with easy-to-use tools for up-dating bibliographic and factual data bases, full-text electronic journals and the document delivery service. This rapidly developing service, is available in over 130 institutes (hospitals, health authority clinics, research institutes, universities) to users who are experts in a wide range of fields.

From the beginning the SBBL has tried to train librarians or other personnel to act as consultants and to control the system and help the user. To this end the SBBL organized educational seminars on the existing services and how to use them; individual, one-to-one help is available, with guaranteed back-up via the telephone or e-mail. Information leaflets are also available. All of this has required significant time and effort.

Broadcasting of the services available and user education has been delegated to each of the single institutes, in some cases with poor results. Today, especially in small/medium institutes, users still expect the librarian to carry out both data base searches and provide specific articles either because the user himself is not informed of the services available or because he is unable to use the system autonomously.

For this reason the SBBL is investing in the education of the user so that he can all the services access, efficiently and autonomously, without having to take traditional courses which are time consuming for both the teacher and the student, but rather can take advantage of an on-line course.

Faced with users of very different requirements, as regards both interest and knowledge of the computer, it was necessary to offer specific materials and tools.

To fit in with the very diverse and continuously developing educational requirements of the user, the SBBL has developed a new and alternative kind of course which contains lectures and practical training. To provide widespread personalised training, we decided to set up self-study courses available on CD-ROM or via the Internet.

This system enable us to:

  • overcome the time/space barriers, allowing the user to choose how and when to learn
  • personalise training
  • share resources, allowing individuals to optimise access to the network for training
  • improve the educational content using different media to aid assimilation
  • improve handling of the educational content as the digital version is more flexible than printed matter and can be easily modified, implemented, moved and distributed.
The idea is to provide the user of the SBBL service with an instrument that can be consulted us and when is necessary according to his presents skills and educational requirements.

The task of the librarian is still to give specific advice, user support and up-to-date information on new services available.

Self-Training Courses

Potential users

Potential users are not required to have specific knowledge of the use of the personal computer or the programs and structure of the data bases.

Aims and objectives

The main aim is to make potential users of the SBBL aware of the information resources available and be able to use a PC correctly.

The objectives are:

A. to give basic training in the use of information tools, i.e. the personal computer, floppy disks, CD-ROM and the Internet;
B. to provide the basic elements required in order to use the main data bases available at the SBBL and also the services offered.


The tool chosen for self training is the hypermedia due to its ease of use, the possibility to adapt it to the needs of the user, and for the ability to involve reader/user more than hypertext.


The SBBL multi-media self-study course on CD-ROM comprised 2 CD-ROMs that came in 2 separate packs so that they can be used by anybody when and us required.

A. Basic course - to understand the use of the computer, the Windows 95 operating system, the CD-ROM containing other programs and\or data bases, and the Internet.
B. Course on the use of data bases - training in how to use the main bibliographic data bases on both CD-ROM and the Internet.

A. "Basic Course"

The course covers the following areas:

a. The personal computer and the Windows operating system:

  • brief introduction to the personal computer (the significance of hardware);
  • brief introduction to the software (the operating systems and programs);
  • Windows: starting and ending a session and access to the Internet using a password;
  • description of the desktop objects (folder, file, icon, window, etc.);
  • opening, use of and closing a folder, file, icon, window, etc.;
  • detailed description of how to use the commands, i.e. find, copy, rename, delete, open, modify and save a document.
b. Use of the CD-ROM and its programmes and/or data bases:
  • installing, up-dating and uninstalling a CD-ROM;
  • description of the main functions present in the data bases of the CD-ROM and their use;
  • functions of the Windows 95 operating system for retrieving information from the CD-ROM and their use;
  • trouble-shooting for most frequent problems occurring when using a CD-ROM.
c. Use of the Internet:
  • brief introduction to the Internet and the main services available (http, e-mail, newsgroup, archie, ftp);
  • the HTTP, use of the browser for surfing the Web, use of search enginesto retrieve information from the Web, extraction and handling of the information from the Web page, collection, handling and use of URL and its link;
  • the E-mail service, use of a program for reading and writing electronic mail, sending and receiving a document via e-mail;
  • the SBBL service on the Internet, connecting, structure and use.
B. "Introduction to scientific data base course"

The course covers the following areas:


  • Links with the history and the services provided by the SBBL
  • Catalogue on-line and on CD-ROM
  • Retrieving articles, document delivery
  • A Web page and the data bases, connecting, structure and its use for searching for and acquiring information
b. Bibliographic Information
  • The standards
  • Personalised Bibliographies
  • Data Bases
c. Medline
  • History
  • Structure and contents covered
  • Thesaurus
  • Research software
d. Embase
  • History
  • Structure and contents covered
  • Thesaurus
  • Research software
e.Chinal, Evidence Based Medicine, Dare

f. Sciencedirect

  • Scrolling the list of journals
  • Searching for article titles and abstracts
  • Alert
  • Downloading full text

1. Each CD-ROM will be installed automatically (for Windows 95) and therefore easy to access.
2. Each CD-ROM contains an index so that the user can choose the subject and the level required of complexity.
3. Following this choice, the self-study course will present the topic by means of links, images, cartoons, video and vocal comments, illustrating the fundamental aspects in a simple manner.
4. Each CD-ROM includes a few brief exercises to be done at the end of the course so that the user can test himself on most frequent operations with video examples. 
5. The CD-ROMs are in Italian and for use with the Windows 95 operating system; where possible, they will also be able to work on the Windows 3.x system.
6. In this project, CD-ROMs for use with the MacOS or System 7.x. are not currently available.

This package is a useful tool for understanding the basic notions of computing and a useful reference guide, for self-training in the use of the main biomedical databases.
The need to provide specialised training easily and quickly led to the development of lessons dealing with single issues, each lasting a maximum of 15 minutes. The contents and the structure of the lessons are adapted to the subject matter and enriched with images, examples and exercises when necessary. Each lesson is presented as a link containing related and interactive images, exercises, tests and self-evaluation. 
Particular attention was paid to the choice and preparation of tools for use in surfing the net to make it easy to understand and simple to use.
Each course has an initial subject index, allowing the user to choose the topic and the level of complexity to suit his training requirements.
The courses can be consulted with a common browser and will soon be freely accessible at the SBBL Web site.


1. How to inform users about resource sharing Gemelli P., Lazzari L., Pistotti V., Veronesi E. -  8th International Congress on Medical Librarianship and 7th European Conference on Health Information and Libraries, London, July 2nd - 5th, 2000 (accessed 30/05/2001)
2. SBBL: Biblioteca virtuale, Servizio reale Veronesi E. The Digital Library: Challenges and solutions for the new millenium, Bologna, June 17-18, 1999 (accessed 30/05/2001)
3. La biblioteca digitale (2000) A. Salarelli, A.M.Tammaro, Milano, Editrice Bibliografica. pp. 226-233
4. Comunicare in biblioteca (2000) V. Comba, Milano Editrice Bibliografica. pp. 93-135