[Asis-l] Summary of responses to request for info about Mendeley

Hope Leman hleman at samhealth.org
Fri Sep 23 14:46:56 EDT 2011

Hi, all. Thank you to everyone who responded to my question about Mendeley. I very much appreciate your time and willingness to share your expertise.

Below is a summary of the responses—as you will see many of the respondents compared it to comparable products such as Zotero and I have included that info as well.

Hope Leman, MLIS
Research Information Technologist
Center for Health Research and Quality
Samaritan Health Services
815 NW 9th Street
Corvallis, OR 97330
(541) 768-5712

I've used Mendeley and some of our research staff use it. It's good to know about, but the citation piece is not as robust as Endnote.

At the University of Michigan Health Sciences Library, many departments I worked with were heavy Endnote users, but I had many faculty & house staff who would use Mendeley (desktop version) in combination.  The biggest draw to Mendeley was the ability to extract reference information from pdfs they already had downloaded & saved.  I was told by many that this fit better into their existing work flow & patterns, versus the "import from database" methods of building your library we usually teach with the citation management tools.  Especially the house staff emphasized that they were often working away from their personal computer for snatches of time and would find pdfs and save to flash drives or would get articles emailed to them by colleagues, and that it worked well for them to be able to gather all of these random pdfs and "dump" them into Mendeley, then export their library & import into Endnote. (which they did so they were using the same software as 'everyone else')  As I understand it, this extraction of reference information from pdfs can only be done in the desktop version of Mendeley, is not always successful, and is more often inaccurate than the references imported directly from databases, but again, many users seemed to find it much more convenient.  We also frequently steered our international visiting scholars, or our house staff looking to go into private practice, toward these web-based free tools.

I really haven't used the other features of Mendeley at all, but that ability to extract info from pdfs is quite appealing.

I saw a presentation on this product. It encourages users to download pdfs (content) and put them up on the Mendelay server where they are then encouraged to share the content with others - in their workgroup, etc.

>From my perspective -  it encourages peer to peer sharing which I have some concerns about how this might violate licenses or copyright
particularly if they are working with others outside the institution.

For what it is worth.

Take a look at the articles listed here - http://www.mendeley.com/research-papers/ and note the articles available for download.  I doubt all of them are open access though some of them are.

The concept relies on the user knowing what the rights are for individual articles - something which most faculty and graduate students do not understand clearly.

I think this is just a lawsuit waiting to happen and would not personally want to be connected with it.

One student asked us for advise and it brought out another student's comments.

1. After a little use:

Thank you so much for compiling this.  I have started my Mendeley use, and I agree, its really really nice.  In addition to searching through my pdfs, it backs up and organizes all of them.  The web importer means it can act just like zotero, but it has the added benefits of a stand alone software.  The social/sharing aspects I think are just beginning to get off the ground.  Also, the Plug-ins for open office and word work wonderfully.

I think Mendeley and a decent RSS reader/aggregator are going to be my best bet.

2. This person had apparently been using Mendeley for a longer time:
 I'd like to point out that there is an additional option of Mendeley, a free paper/reference manager. I can best describe it as an amalgam of Papers & Endnote while it is far more full-bodied than Zotero. For freeware, in my opinion, this is the best reference management software. It is equipped with a pdf reader where you can highlight text and take notes on journal articles, automatic detail detection for citations, online syncing so that you're library can be stored online, an iPhone/Droid app and a nifty plugin for word to track citations. Also, the website features a neat social media network purely for researchers with interesting tracking and statistics based tools (which is currently the most read paper, which field has most citations for this month etc.)

My two cents for anyone looking out for good freeware.

Mendeley:  http://www.mendeley.com/

Just my quick thoughts - Mendeley is a wonderful tool that can help to make library information more accessible to patrons.

If you have not, I would also poke around at Zotero - the tutorials on their website are bite-sized and very helpful. It does fundamentally  the same things (interface differences abound) with the added advantage of being developed open-source by the Center for History and New Media of George Mason University (GMU) with heavy librarian involvement.

Just because I happen to know it - development on much of their interface slowed until late 2010 as they worked on making Web 2.0 functionality work (syncing library across computers etc...) since then it has been expanding by leaps and bounds (although it still has some quirks).

My sense of Zotero is that it's strengths are it works well for new users, particularly students (the I-tunes interface and easy web browser and website integration makes immediate sense to them) and advanced users (librarians etc... who appreciate the ISBN integration and similar features).

Menedely has a advantage when it comes to handling PDF's and for very large collaborative projects, which makes sense for working scientists. So I think you are on the right track that both of them can do pretty much the same things... but what is emphasized and the "mindset" of each plays a big role in how they are perceived and used.

I’m a recent convert to Mendeley.  Arizona State University is actually a RefWorks campus, but I found in my own professional life that Mendeley works much better for collaborative projects across institutions.  I appreciate that there are no site restrictions when it comes to creating a collaborative bibliography or set of references.  While you can create as many RefWorks accounts as you desire and share your references with those in other institutions, I don’t believe that they can log in and edit the account due to the authentication requirements.

Honestly, I was a little hesitant at first to try Mendeley because I wasn’t really looking for another social network.  But that was just my perception on how it was being marketed initially.  I used Mendeley when working on an ALA task force this past year and it was very convenient to upload and share articles with collaborators from across the country without clogging up email, having multiple iterations of the same document or relying on one single person to maintain a RefWorks (or other) account.

The in-text citation piece seems to work well.  I’ve also used it both on my work PC and my Mac at home to edit the same document and so far I haven’t encountered any problems.  Now that I’ve given Mendeley a chance, it also seems like a good way to connect with other researchers who share the same interests.

Hope this helps!

This response may be overkill but I’ll share what I know anyway.  I saw your post on Medlib-L and wanted to offer my two cents.  I’ve actually been using Zotero since the beginning of the year and Evernote since the beginning of this week.  Zotero is a reference manager that is comparable to Mendeley. Evernote is more of an organization tool but it could be wielded as an archive for articles, too.
Here’s a lengthy email I sent to a patron after a nursing research forum.  It includes links to short videos that might be of use for background.  I swear by and love Zotero (warts and all) myself and my affection for Evernote borders on the embarrassing.


We spoke briefly at the nursing forum last Friday.  You mentioned RefWorks to one of the other forum participants.  I noted that there are several other free reference managers that might be of interest to you.  You might want to check out Zotero; Mendeley or Citeulike or even Evernote.  This might seem like an embarrassment of riches but you will likely choose a favorite tool or combination of tools that fit your needs.

Zotero is a free, open source reference management software to manage bibliographic data and related research materials (such as PDFs). You will need to use the Firefox browser to use Zotero. With Zotero you can sync to the web server, generate in-text citations, footnotes and bibliographies as interact with the word processors Microsoft Word, LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org Writer. It is produced by the Center for History and New Media of George Mason University (GMU).

My comment: This one is pretty easy to learn, I think.  It has lots of features you may or may not want to use.

Short video here:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYu6__8e94Q&feature=related  OR try this one


Mendeley is a desktop and web program for managing and sharing research papers, discovering research data and collaborating online. It combines Mendeley Desktop, a PDF and reference management application (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) with Mendeley Web, an online social network for researchers.  Mendeley requires the user to store all data on its servers. Upon registration, Mendeley provides the user with 1000 MB of free space, which is upgradeable at a cost.
This one focuses, I think, more on the social networking aspect but it does allow you to archive your citations and/or pdfs for use during research.  Also allows you to interact with word processors.

Short video:  Go to their website: www.mendeley.com  and click on the video in the lower right hand corner.

CiteULike is a free online service to organize academic publications, now run by Oversity. It has been on the Web since October 2004 when its originator was attached to the University of Manchester, and was the first Web-based social bookmarking tool.

My comment: I am mentioning it because it’s the one source here that is available over the web -- don’t need to install software or use a specific browser.

Short video here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LkNeEUV4sPs

Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for notetaking and archiving. A "note" can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten "ink" note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook. Evernote supports a number of operating system platforms (including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS and WebOS), and also offers online synchronization and backup services.

My comment: As I understand it Evernote is like Microsoft’s Onenote.  I started using this in Monday and there’s no stopping me now.  It’s just so darned handy.  You can add to and access across many platforms and mobile devices.  I heard about it at Computers in Libraries a short while ago but only revisited it recently.  Try it you might like it.
Short video here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_mjXFhNSpk&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL1AD815E034276C53

I am a big Mendeley fan. I have experience with both RefWorks and Mendeley, and I actually prefer Mendeley for my personal citation management needs. I think it is a little less buggy than RefWorks, and the cite n'write feature is both easier to use and better developed than RefWorks.

One thing that can throw some people is that your Mendeley account has both a web and desktop presence, and the two must be synced. When you add something to Mendeley from the web (say the contents of your PubMed clipboard) the first thing that happens is that those items are added to your web library. You then have to sync your desktop library with your web library, so the items you just added will show up in your desktop library. Your desktop library is primarily used for output, so if you need to use the write n'cite feature or create a bibliography you would generally do that from your Mendeley desktop. If, like me, you have more than one computer you work from, you can have multiple desktop libraries associated with one web library. A somewhat applicable metaphor is iTunes and mobile devices- you can have your iPhone and your iPod and your computer associated with the same iTunes account, and you have to sync them so you know all your music and videos will be available on all your devices.

Mendeley also has the social networking aspect that is pretty great. You can use Groups to create public folders that everyone, or a select list of people can see. This might be really helpful if you're working with a group of patrons who want to share a collection of articles. The groups have varying levels of access, so you can add full text and still be copyright compliant.
At one of the libraries I work at I've created a current awareness resource, and I used Mendeley Groups to organize the citations. Furthermore, because Mendelely provides you with an embed code, I can publish the resource to the library's web page (the only full text included are OA articles). Here is the link if you're interested: http://www.lifewest.edu/lw_library/articles.shtml

I don't know if I'd call myself  "whizz" :-)  but I do personally use Mendeley, and I teach classes on it here at Penn State. The classes have been very popular - we limit them to 15 participants, since they are hands on, and I've been full each time.  I have another one scheduled for November and it is already almost full.  The sessions are an horu and half long, but I always end up going a little longer for those who want to stay.

Generally the things people like about Mendeley:
the ease of getting citations into the system by dragging and dropping PDFs onto the Mendeley Desktop
the integrated PDF reader which allows highlighting and note taking
full text searching of both your library, and the PDFs
flexible and easy to use sharing options.
the fact that the basic plan is free (Grad students love to hear that!:-)
cross platform use and syncing of your library (Mac at home and PC at the office?? No Problem!)

I hope this gives you some information.

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