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Midwest Chapter Reflection: Finding one’s community

By Darra L. Hofman
University of Kentucky
School of Library & Information Science
Lexington, KY

Professional conferences are rife with opportunities, through papers, posters, and continuing education, to understand the current breakthroughs and best practices in a field, and the Midwest Chapter Medical Library Association’s annual meeting was no exception. What is more rare at a conference, however, is the experience of certainty, the sense of having found one’s community, that was my privilege at the meeting.

Conferences, unfortunately, are often cynical affairs, with presenters seeking to pad their CVs and attendees trying to make strategic connections. The Midwest Chapter meeting, on the other hand, was nothing of the sort. Instead, it was a gathering of passionate medical librarians, looking to share insights, welcome newcomers, and encourage one another for the betterment of the field. Nearly every librarian I met offered insight, guidance and mentorship, from my assigned mentor, Kacy Allgood, to the OSF Health librarians manning the registration desk to the folks I broke bread with. The conference’s intangible value was immense; this is a field peopled with passionate, dedicated, welcoming professionals who understand and want to increase their field’s value proposition.

In terms of tangible value, the conference was no less impressive. I began my stay with a Continuing Education on “Planning, Conducting and Publishing Research” taught by Nancy Allee and Jo Dorsch. From this CE, my vague ideas about a project regarding patient literacy amongst parents of autistic children developed into a fully developed research plan. In addition to the class, the presenters both generously and enthusiastically shared their time and insight to help me further develop both my specific research plan and my general professional plans within medical librarianship.

The Mentor-Mentee meet-and-greet was a wonderful welcome into the fold. My mentor, Kacy Allgood, was one of the disaster planning presenters as “The Ambulance Librarian”. Her support was both realistic and helpful, and gave me a renewed sense of optimism about this new profession (while her presentation was simply wonderful for a self-confessed emergency planning junkie!).

I loved the paper presentations I was able to attend. Melinda Orebaugh and Melissa Heintz’s presentation, “Mark twain! Navigating a River of Patient Engagement”, stood out as a particularly effective example of collaborative, well-designed research with immediate applicability in a health care setting, and highlighted the important contributions that medical librarians have to make to their institutions. Amongst the posters, I found the presentation from the team at St. Cloud Hospital on wikis and EBP particularly fascinating, and again an excellent illustration of how medical librarians are important part of evidence based practice in medicine.

If I had to sum up my response to the experience in one word, it would be grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to learn and be immersed in this field, and to feel welcomed into it!

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