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Midwest Chapter Reflection: Disruptive

By Natalie Reynolds
MLIS Student
St. Catherine University
St. Paul, MN

Disruptive. Usually this word brings negative connotations and assumptions. At the Midwest Chapter Meeting, however, it was repeatedly used in in the context of disruptive innovations. Wikipedia defines a disruptive innovation as an act that “improve[s] a product or service in ways that the market does not expect.” Librarians, in the spirit of helping that is so integral to our profession, have turned disruption into a positive force. For example, Melinda Orebaugh and her team at Gundersen Health System are implementing an interactive patient care system that requires patients to participate in their own health care. The four pillars of this disruptive program advocate for thoughtful and careful participation by educating, empowering, entertaining, and engaging the patient. The team had the foresight to develop separate interfaces according to age group, allowing for seamless integration.

The word was used again by Michelle Kraft when describing the role of technology in libraries. She pointed out that technology has brought changes to libraries, and those changes are here to stay. Innovations such as computers, e-books, and mobile devices have disrupted traditional workflows in libraries; therefore, traditional aspects of libraries (like catalogers!) may no longer be necessary. As information innovators, librarians should use these disruptive technologies as opportunities to re-think traditional practices and allow for new ideas.

Even if not described as disruptive, many of the other presentations and papers advanced ideas that encourage inventive uses of information and libraries. Susan Schleper of St. Cloud Hospital has facilitated an outreach program with nursing students at a nearby college to help implement evidence based practice into the nursing curriculum. The hospital adopted wikis, a tool generally used in educational settings, to facilitate easier communication. This pilot project may result in more hospitals using wikis as a centralized communication portal. Belinda Yff of Sullivan University Library experimented with tools to create infographics, which can allow for easier digestion of certain types of information. Faced with extended hours and decreased staff, the librarians at Mount Carmel Health Science Library established a work-study program for nursing students. Uniquely, it is not federally funded; instead, it is paid for by donors and tuition reimbursements. This variation in traditional student work represents creative staffing solutions by medical librarians in order to ensure continued high-level customer service.

In addition to the outreach at St. Cloud Hospital, other examples of projects include a consumer health library and an EMS librarian. Mount Carmel College of Nursing, a private college, now offers a free consumer health library to the community. By making information professionals and vetted resources available to the wider community, this library can even help public librarians who have exhausted their expertise with detailed medical questions. Kacy Allgood presented fascinating examples of how she integrates library services with emergency medicine services, and encouraged librarians to better market their services in order to ensure continued funding. She made the point that the more you know about your patrons, the better you can serve them and understand their questions. This is a good practice for librarians to remember, whether it means rounding with doctors or training with firefighters.

In my current Capstone course at St. Catherine University, I am working with a partner to provide research assistance to an interdisciplinary team at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. The team supports selected nursing fellows who are pursuing an evidence-based research question. Working with nurses, SCU faculty and students, and other healthcare professionals, we are searching for evidence-based research; helping individuals track search terms; and learning about evidence-based practice. This is the second set of fellows that has included library students. We will synthesize our experience with the course and present ideas and recommendations for future opportunities for LIS students in these interdisciplinary teams. Outreach by and inclusion of LIS students will greatly benefit the research teams. Although the nursing fellows learn briefly about searching, they lack the time necessary to carry out thorough literature searches. LIS students (the more, the merrier) help ease this searching burden.

Disruptive innovation. (n.d.). In Wikipedia.

One Response to “Midwest Chapter Reflection: Disruptive”

  1. admin Says:

    Natalie is one of nine recipients of the GMR’s 2013 GSLIS Outreach Award. Awardees were asked to write a paper outlining was learned from any presentations, paper and poster sessions attended;
    descriptions of compelling outreach projects by librarians in the Greater Midwest Region; and ideas for future outreach services.