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Midwest Chapter Reflection: Opportunities Abound

By Emilie Vrbancic
MLIS Student
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL

I had the great pleasure of participating in the Midwest Chapter Conference in East Peoria this past October which was made possible by the generous award supported by the Greater Midwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. This opportunity has solidified my choice to pursue health sciences librarianship after I complete my studies in May. Although I currently work as a graduate assistant at a health sciences library and am familiar with a great deal of medical library topics and issues, the Midwest Chapter Conference has broadened my horizons to the possibilities and opportunities held within the field of health sciences librarianship. Through networking, poster presentations, and the health information summit, especially, I learned valuable lessons on the varied paths health sciences librarians can take to connect various user populations with health information.

The poster and panel presentations represented a wide range of topics surrounding health sciences librarianship. I learned a great deal in the GMR Technology Forum which, this year, focused on technology in disaster planning and response. Meshing disaster preparedness, librarianship, and community outreach activities is a compelling step towards creating new and improved roles for health sciences librarians which critically engage the community in creating positive change. Kacy Allgood, better known as The Ambulance Librarian, spoke several times during the conference of her role as an embedded librarian as well as her continued efforts to provide evidence based prehospital care, even in the back of an ambulance. As an element of outreach, Allgood spoke of marketing library services to multiple stakeholders in order to maintain library relevancy in an institution as well as in the community. Learning to speak stakeholders’ language, knowing the overarching goals of the various stakeholders, and the overlapping interests of stakeholders are all critical elements when marketing library services as well as providing and connecting outreach services to various community institutions. One of the most important takeaways from the conference was the importance of thinking outside of the box, getting rid of some “sacred cows” and re-thinking the ways librarians function inside and outside the library.

Throughout the meeting, I found myself asking myself, “What will my contribution be?” I am very intrigued about the role of outreach librarians in medical libraries. I was, astonishingly, unaware of such a role within academic libraries; I generally thought of outreach librarians as only particular to public libraries. The conference proceedings as well as speaking with other conference participants, has opened my eyes to the possibilities of integrating outreach into everyday library practice. After hearing Sarah Houghton speak about medical issues within her public library branch, I began to think of the unique partnerships medical and public libraries can create in order to increase access to reliable consumer health information for the general public. Working the exhibit table was a unique way to experience outreach activities in the moment and I was excited to hear of the programs supported by the GMR, especially those that support issues coupling diversity and health information.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend the Midwest Chapter Conference and look forward to incorporating outreach activities in my future career as a health sciences librarian.

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